So I'm going to come right out and say it... I am not a fan of grass. That perfectly manicured lawn look is not for me. First of all, it wouldn't look perfect because I have oodles of animals and animals poop. I live on a small subsistence farm, and the last thing that I have time for is mowing grass. And for what? For looks? Sure, it can be fed out to the animals, but they don't eat it all so it ends up being a waste. A waste of time, and a waste of space. I don't want to spend hours mowing, or use what could be valuable garden space to feed my family on an aesthetic monoculture.
Last year I came across a French style of gardening that I wasn't all that familiar with. Potager Gardens, also known as kitchen gardens consist of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers woven into a beautiful yet functional space. I was immediately intrigued, and began googling my heart out. Results yielded photos of beautiful raised beds made of wood and rocks, with natural walkways woven in between bursts of pollinator loving colors. This was the solution I was searching for to transform the grassy area out my back door and kitchen (it was meant to be) into a useful and beautiful space.
Just like with any garden design, layout and forethought are key. Consideration of the sun's path, amount of sunlight requirements for different plants, as well as mature plant heights all need to be taken into account. You don't want to accidentally create shade for a full sun plant by planting something taller in front of it. With a traditional garden where everything is planted in rows, this is very easy to plan and lay out. However, with a Potager, where "organized chaos" aka not rows is what you're after, it proves to be a little more challenging. Not only do you want to maximize space and have a pretty mix of colorful flowers and vegetables, but you the plants to actually thrive and produce as well! The pressure was on.
My first step was to focus on the actual beds first. Where they should go and how they should be laid out within the given space. Because this whole area is currently under a blanket of snow and ice, I haven't actually gone out to measure any exact dimensions of what the raised beds will be. Hence my horrible out of scale drawing seen below. I can easily figure that all out later in early spring, and my main focus now is the shape of the beds for aesthetic and functional purposes, and what will go where.
Because the space in phase 1 is oddly shaped (the left side in the photo below follows the curve of our driveway and the right side is bordered by the walkway to the house) I knew I wanted a mixture of colorful and pollinator attracting flowers to follow the natural outer left curve along what will be a split rail fence. I also don't want to build a curve shaped raised bed, so this will easily be able to be lined with small rocks (we have tons of those!) to create a natural boundary for the flowers. The sun also follows that curve throughout the day as due south is the left side of my drawing and west is the top. I want to make sure I don't plant any annuals that will get crazy tall and potentially cast shade on the vegetable beds behind them.
Since the potager is being built this year and we likely won't be able to start until sometime in April weather permitting, I won't be able to plant any of my cold crops in it this year. Those will go in my traditional garden, so the potager will house various other crops that I can't plant until Memorial Day weekend. This area of the potager also receives full sun, so all of the plants that I am planning on growing here require such. I do not want to create shade, and made sure to position my taller vegetables like cherry tomatoes and potatoes close to the bottom of the drawing (back of the house) so they don't block any sunlight. I then just worked my way away from the house (towards the top of the sheet) where the plants get shorter as I go.
This is my first pass at planning this out, and it will likely change a bit before we even start building the beds, and then again when my hands are actually in the dirt. I also still have to figure out the width of the walkways, what I want to use to create a walkway, the exact size of the beds, and the various potted plants that I will likely stick in various spots throughout the area. I have a good start though, and I can't wait to get out there in a few months and start making this dream a reality!
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