April is the perfect time to plan your garden, plant seeds, gather pots, and build raised beds.
Don’t have much space, time or energy but want to grow just a little food? A 4X8 raised bed is a wonderful place for a few tomato plants, zucchini and squash, herbs, lettuce, spinach and other favorite vegetables. Even a cluster of pots on a patio can create beauty while providing food for the kitchen.
In recent years, potager gardens have become popular in the garden design world. Designing one is easy if you know just a few things about them. A potager is basically an ornamental vegetable garden. Plants are chosen for both their edible and ornamental natures and are combined in such a way that it looks pretty while providing food for the household.
If you are free this weekend, join me for a workshop at the Hudson Public Library focusing on how to build and prepare this type garden at your home. It will include information about the importance of compost and soil in growing healthy food and impacting how it tastes. It also will include ideas for utilizing the produce and provide recipes for cooking some of the most commonly grown vegetables in our region. Cherry tomatoes are excellent for light Italian cooking and flavoring soups and sauces. They freeze well whole in plastic bags, ready to pull out for year-round cooking. Zucchini soup and zucchini fritters are two great recipes for enjoying this easy-to-grow vegetable. This workshop will inspire you to get started.
Potager/Kitchen Gardening Workshop
Saturday, April 6, 11:30-12:30
Hudson Public Library
100 South Beech St.
Call 303 536-4550 to sign up (it’s free!)
After a later winter and blizzard in February, spring is arriving at last. Soon, back yards in Colorado will be filled with greening perennials and shrubs and the planting of annuals and vegetables happens in May. We may not live in southern France where potagers, small scale gardens originated, but they make sense for practical as well as aesthetic reasons.
Potagers are designed to be both beautiful as well as productive. They are planted in blocks rather than rows where foliage color, texture and structure become an integral part of the overall design pattern. Flowers and herbs are incorporated with vegetables.
Though vegetables are the heart of the potager, cascades of flowers such as sweet alyssum and nasturtiums create color and interest and, as an extra benefit (lagniappe as they say in Louisiana, chere!), nasturtium flowers add edible beauty to salads. Pink, orange, and red zinnias make wonderful cutting flowers and attract butterflies and hummingbirds; golden calendula and marigolds are cheerful, and marigolds are noted for keeping certain insects away especially from tomatoes. It is easy to clip fresh basil, chives, parsley, and rosemary for cooking as traditionally, potagers are located right outside or not far from the kitchen door for convenience.
Small well-defined garden spaces are easy to tend. Block style garden layout increases yields five-fold compared to the traditional row-style garden layout. The compact design reduces weeding and is ideal for raised bed gardening.
Because the basic technique involves eliminating unnecessary walkways by planting in rectangular-shaped beds or blocks instead of single rows, soil compaction is controlled as the gardener can plant, weed, water, and harvest without stepping between rows.
Raised beds often used in potagers create a clearly defined area where the gardener can concentrate on soil improvement techniques such as the addition of organic matter. Soil amendment and proper watering are the biggest keys to a productive harvest. Raised beds also become an architectural feature of the landscape design.
Growing one’s own vegetables and herbs in the back yard and enhancing the soil with compost from the kitchen and back yard are not only rewarding but economical in today’s economy. Gardens are also an important step towards sustainability which keeps biological systems diverse and productive over time thereby preserving the natural world.
Potagers are a great example of responsible use of natural resources and they create an outlet for exercise and enjoying the outdoors. The best tasting food is locally grown and harvested in ways that are ecologically sound, by gardeners who take care of the land for future generations. Potagers foster eating fresh foods, in season. There may be nothing as fresh, healthy and satisfying as growing and eating vegetables from one’s own potager or kitchen garden.