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  • Elisa Brazell

HOW TO CREATE A POTAGER GARDEN

Updated: Jul 27, 2020

First of all, what is a Potager garden, you might ask? According to GrowVeg, "The traditional potager garden contains symmetrical geometrical garden beds with the vegetables planted in patterns or groups rather than in rows, often with flowers, fruit and herbs intermingled."




Why design a Potager garden?


From prior gardening experience in my old home's garden, I didn't want to step in a muddy weedy mess to gather veggies from the garden after a rainstorm. And so, I knew I wanted pathways.


I decided also from prior experience that too much soil area meant hours of weeding, which my lifestyle now doesn't lend much time for. So this understanding meant I needed less soil. And so I started to have visuals in my mind of doing more vertical gardening since I would have less soil. This would also make more space for pathways.


I love Pinterest as a tool in the idea phase. I found a garden style that had already been created that was close to what I was envisioning and needing based on my requirements and goals and decided to use it to guide my creation.

Year 1/Trial 1

As I moved from planning into the action phase, I actually got out in the tilled garden and made the shapes of the beds and moved the dirt so I could get a good visual. We were only able to till 1/2 the garden the year I had this garden idea come to me, because of a dirt hill in the way, so I eyeballed the shapes the first year and did half the design. I was so afraid of the weeds I knew were coming from our unfinished yard, so I threw down weed fabric in the pathways, covering most of the bed shapes and put a few pieces of flagstone and pavers we had laying around since I knew this was temporary.


It was pretty much an eye sore, with weed fabric free floating and exposed along the sides of my geometric shaped beds. After a one week vacation, we returned to a complete weed fest. Weeds were pushing up under the weed fabric, and crawling up the sides of my beds. We got squash bugs and the tomatoes got some weird fungus. It was beyond hope.


Year 2/Trial 2:


After much learning-the-hard-way with weed fabric and its capabilities (or lack thereof without a good covering) from our year 1 sad half-garden, I took what I gleaned from my failed creation and decided to carry on the good ideas and leave behind the bad.


This is how I created my Potager garden:


Step 1: Till the ground so the soil is easy to move around.

This time my husband was building a patio so the tilling responsibility fell on me. Through necessity, I learned how to operate the 200 lb 70+ year old tiller we inherited from my grandpa. The bright side was that I built pretty tight arm muscles within an hour.


Step 2: Use a measuring tape to get shapes even and mirrored on both sides.

My handy husband, Cody, came up with the bright idea of using a measuring tape and landscape spray paint to get it to his perfectionist standard...for which I'm so grateful in matters like this! I shaped the beds and made sure the garden mirrored itself.



Step 3: Trench drip lines so they are under pathways

We then put the drip lines in. Also grateful for my husband's great sprinkler and landscaping background when he suggested that we trench and bury the lines and bring them up to the center of each bed.


Step 4: Connect the drip lines and test watering.


Step 5: Time to put the borders in.

We went with a plastic landscape edging because it was mold-able, enabling me to make curves and corners.



Step 6: Lay weed fabric.


Step 7: Wheelbarrow in pathway material

Next we (mostly I, with help from the kids on filling up the wheelbarrow) dumped what seemed like at least 50 wheelbarrows full of chat (crushed travertine in our case) into the pathways. We found our chat at Black Butte Mining


Step 8: Rake and smooth out material

I then got down on my hands and knees and spread the chat around until it was even and raked it smooth.


Step 9: Wet and compact pathways with a hand or electric compactor

The last step for the pathways was to wet the chat down and compact it.


Finally I was able to plant my garden starts (very few of which actually made it??) and seeds and started to watch my garden grow and scope out the weeds.


So much Gratitude for my new Potager garden!


I felt so grateful when I was finally able to put a check mark by the hope I had written 2 years earlier on my hope list. ⤵


"Create a beautiful garden space with little maintenance and be able to eat food we grow in our yard" 


Every time I step outside and look across my yard, my heart grows a few sizes and I am drawn to go walk my pathways, pick some peas, pull a few weeds and check on my plants. My Potager garden has become my little piece of heaven in my unfinished yard. 🥰


See how I related with this project with respect to our power to create: https://www.myjourneytobecome.com/post/we-are-creators



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