I started a simple kitchen garden years ago in the corner of my yard. It was not much larger than 10 feet by 10 feet. When we moved to our home we were all pretty busy and a simple kitchen garden was all we could manage with all our busy schedules. We use to frequent the Farmer’s Market in our local area many years ago until we decided we could grow most of our food, right out our door instead. We also found we wanted fresh food a bit earlier and later in the growing season. Our Farmer Market is only open from May 1st to October 1st.
We live in the city, and we did not want to tear up the entire lawn since most of our neighbors do not grow food in their yards. We have a small city lot in comparison to people that live in rural areas( no acreage!). We have a lot of tall trees that have been here for over 70+ years. We wanted to incorporate vegetables, fruits and herbs together in an attractive design that would provide a place to grow food and hang out with family, friends , and neighbors!
I loved the way cottage gardens look in England , but wanted to incorporate vegetables, herbs and flowers together. A French Potager ( or kitchen garden) would be a fabulous concept since you use those vegetables that are ornamental and attractive . For example, you might use purple pole beans on arbors since they are pretty to look at and easy to pick! You might also grow yellow, red or purple peppers and tomatoes with flowers and colorful Swiss chard. Some people describe a potager as an ornamental kitchen garden. What a great idea!
The elements of a cottage garden I implemented in our “Urban Potager“ were informal carefree self-seeding plants that pop up in unexpected places. Heirloom or “old-fashioned plants that your grandmother may of grown.
Well, we live in an urban area, so we have some of the obstacles typical of urban areas. I don’t have a lot of space for boxwood bushes( typical of formal potagers) edging my ornamental potager. I can’t use boxwood for edging since every inch of space is vital to growing more food. Also, we have to rotate crops from one season to keep down pests each year.
We also don’t have symmetry( typical of formal potager design) with a small lot that has to work around what sunny areas we have…so we had to design an asymmetrical potager. We had to throw out the idea of symmetry in our design.
I had to define several areas for crop rotation. I was able to provide a 3-4 year rotation within our small backyard. The beds for rotation would have to use annuals for attracting pollinators and companion planting for controlling pests. We use no chemicals in our urban potager.
Another problem is lack of space. We love to grow squash, cucumbers , and pole beans ( bush beans sometimes work if we have room in our rotation). We use vertical structures to grow most of our vining vegetables. Part of an urban growing area is lack of space, so vertical and containerare great solutions.
Well, there have been a lot of mistakes here and there throughout the past 8 yrs developing the “urban potager design”. Our concept of urban potager is an ‘informal” cottage garden with a French ornamental potager integrated together. We are still working on it each year. We are adding two new dwarf pear trees this year.
The “urban” is that we are in a city and have some of the design problems of growing in the city. One of our problems is neighbors right out your backdoor( we enjoy our neighbors!But if you don’t that might be a problem), lack of privacy, small gardens, sharing property lines( neighbors that do not like what you are doing, and may take out bushes without telling you-which did happen), utility lines up off the ground, and others that come upas you put in your potager.
I felt “Urban Potager” was what we created in our backyard. My definition of an “Urban Potager” is a French Potager integrated with English Cottage garden design for urban areas. It is ornamental , informal or formal, place to gather and enjoy vegetables, herbs and flowers daily in the heart of the city!