Designing a Potager Garden or a Small Kitchen Garden

When designing a potager garden there are a few things to keep in mind. Color, texture, and depth are details which go into designing a kitchen garden. Flower, edible and medicinal, play a strong part of a potager garden design. Easy kitchen garden ideas consist of vegetables which contain color, trellises for depth, and textures from vegetation of various sizes.

designing a potager garden

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In 1982 I toured my first potager at Plymouth Plantation, and it was at that moment I fell in love with the concept of gardening. Walking out the back door of the thatched cottages into a full garden was a memory I’ve never forgotten.

The wicker fence and trellises made from branches, was more than my child mind could handle. I fell in love with the concept of stepping outside to gather what was needed from the garden and preparing it in the stone fireplace.

I remember thinking, I could live here and I would survive. Little did I know then that I would one day live a life similar to those who crossed the Atlantic to settle in an unknown land.

I catch myself gazing at the newly completed potager garden much like my 11 year old self once looked at the gardens found at Plymouth plantation. Except, I am no longer dreaming of a beautiful space outside the kitchen, I now have a potager garden of my own.

View the YouTube video at the end of this article showcasing the construction and completion of our potager garden. With each growing season the garden space will change, make sure to hit subscribe to stay up to date as the garden evolves.

Kitchen Garden Ideas and Concept

A potager garden, or kitchen garden, has not changed much since the French Renaissance. That is, other than the scale of this particular garden space.

Once upon a time kitchen gardens and market gardens were a necessity in homes world wide. With the arrival of the first supermarkets these garden spaces became almost obsolete. However, the farming and homesteading movement has created a surge in being able to grow and raise our own food.

The allocated space near the kitchen will determine the size of the potager. Many homeowners utilized the kitchen garden to grow everything necessary to squirrel food away for the winter months. Whereas others will grow staples such as herbs, onions, cabbage, or potatoes while relying on the main garden for larger produce.

potager garden

With that said, very little has changed over the years in regards to the designing a potager garden. Today, many potagers represent the individuals which designed it. Whether your garden space is whimsical with antique pieces and flowers or designed to house produce there is one thing for certain, it is, and always will be, a kitchen garden.

Our Potager Garden Design

Designing a kitchen garden, or any garden space, is a dream. There are no boundaries as to what can be achieved, well, other than the amount of space which is available. But even then, there is quite a bit which can be grown in a small space!

As I designed our potager garden there were a few things which needed to happen:

  • The construction of the space must be in true homesteading lifestyle. Meaning, 75% of the material used must be free and recycled.
  • Even the simplest of designs must meet the concept of what makes-up a potager – color, texture, and depth
  • The kitchen garden must be able to flow through each season seamlessly.

Luckily, the points mentioned above were quite easy to achieve.

designing a kitchen garden

The Material

There were treasures to be found under the rotted deck, a lot of beautiful treasures waiting to be used. Broken concrete pieces of all sizes, brick, cement pavers, and quite a bit of river rock waiting for someone to come along and give it a home.

The previous owners demolished their concrete deck and built a wood deck in its place. However, instead of hauling everything off they left it there, and lucky for us, we knew how to use it. As a matter of fact, 80% of the discarded material has been used around the property.

The broken concrete pieces became the walkway in the kitchen garden and the river rock filled in the gap between the concrete. All salvageable red brick pieces went to line the garden’s walkway. The pavers were utilized throughout in the main garden and barnyard.

The best part, anything and everything which could be salvaged was.

  • To prevent land erosion around the property, the pier blocks were used to brace fallen trees, creating multiple berms.
  • Smaller, broken concrete rock acted as crushed rock in the heavy equipment area.
  • Boarders were created around various garden beds using the smaller concrete pieces.
potager garden design

Utilizing material which is readily available offers character to any garden space.

Designing a Potager Garden

There are a plethora of kitchen garden ideas and designs available online, however, not all of them will fit your vision or the space available. Unlike a market garden, designing a potager garden will require you to take pen to paper and create the layout.

A potager is a garden which is close to the kitchen. The foods grown in this type of garden. As a matter of fact, the potager on our homestead is 10 steps from the kitchen’s backdoor.

Having a space which was beautiful to view and edible was a requirement when designing the garden. Because of this vegetables, herbs, and medical plants were selected based on color and use.

Perennials

Plant perennials throughout the raised beds and in containers.These are items which we will harvest and consume throughout the growing season.

Echinacea purpurea is planted for medicinal purposes as well as a natural food source for our rabbit herd.

  • tri-color, purple, and common sage
  • variegated oregano
  • echinacea purpurea
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • bay laurel
  • chives – onion and garlic variety
kitchen garden ideas

Planting by the Season

Strategically plant perennials, leaving room for seasonal vegetables to be planted. Many of the spring and fall items we plant will roll into the next season due to our growing zone.

Prior to planting take a look at your space and know your growing zone.

Spring & FallSummer
sugar and snap peasGerkin cucumbers
spinachbasil
rainbow chard & kaleCipollini onions
carrotspole beans
beetsbell peppers (colored)
bunching onionsbunching onions
lettucebanana peppers
cabbagespicy peppers
kolhrabiwinter squash
SUGGESTED ITEMS TO GROW

Flowers

Flowers add the aesthetic appeal to a potager garden. In addition to providing beauty, flowers also draw in pollinators. Planting flowers for edible and medicinal reasons allow you to design a beautiful garden space. However, it is not necessary to plant flowers with a purpose. Zinnias provide color, texture, and depth to a garden space and make wonderful cutting flowers.

  • nasturtiums – bush variety
  • calendula
  • cosmos
  • zinnia
  • Johnny jump-up pansies
  • snapdragons

There is no set rule as to the type of flower to plant. Grow what makes you happy!

A Potager Garden Design

Permaculture and potager, is there anything more beautiful and diverse?

A potager is a free flowing garden space. It is not designed to grow vegetation in rows. Nor is it the main garden where beds grow specific items.

What makes a potager special is that all vegetation, herbs, flowers, and root vegetables are intertwined to create an edible and medicinal masterpiece.

Traditionally, a potager garden design allowed plants to grow directly in the soil. However, there is no rule stating raised beds or containers cannot be used. In fact, it is now common to find a kitchen garden utilizing multiple methods for growing food.

  • directly in the ground
  • in raised beds
  • containers and pots of all sizes

Permaculture gardening is ideal for such a garden space. The ability to allow different plant species to intermingle creates biodiversity while creating a strong ecosystem. This style of gardening, permaculture gardening, attracts good bugs while repelling bad bugs and pests.

Permaculture gardening is known to provide for larger, healthier yields.

designing a potager garden

Trellises

Utilize every space available when designing a potager garden, this means growing vertically. Trellises are not only functional they add demension and depth to the space.

Trellises can be made out of natural material from the property or salvaged material. The teepee trellis made out of Alderwood branches will house sugar peas in the spring and fall and Gerkin cucumbers in the summer.

In addition to natural material a salvaged handrail is used to house sugar peas and pole beans. Create arches made of thin and limber branches or purchase cattle panel.

Kitchen garden ideas for the type of trellis to utilize are endless.

kitchen garden ideas

Mulch

Typically, a permaculture garden utilizes wood chips to keep weeds at bay and to retain water. However, mulch is not your only option. Crushed rock, pavers, and even cut grass, burdock leaves, and pine needles make for excellent mulch options.

Pollinators

Pollinators are necessary in establishing a prolific garden. Honey bees provide not only pollination, but also honey. With that said, not all properties are capable of incorporating honey bees.

Incorporating non-stinging bees such as mason and leaf cutter bees ensures that the spring and summer garden to be pollinated. During the spring months mason bees work hard to pollinate fruit trees and early spring vegetation. Leaf cutter bees work hard to pollinate the summer and early fall garden.

Learn more about leaf cutter bees and incorporating a small hive onto your property. Kind Bee Farm is offering our friends a 10% discount off your total purchase with this code, INSTABEE.

(I do not receive a commission for suggesting this product)

kitchen garden ideas

The Garden

The most important tip I can provide is this: create a garden space you do not want to leave. Adding color through flowers, height through trellises, and texture through various plants, while intermingling vegetation to allow for a true concept of a permaculture potager.

The kitchen garden ideas in this article are examples of growing in a small space. Dream big and enjoy the space you have.

May this article and video motivate you in designing a kitchen garden of your own. This is a space you will come to love and enjoy for many years to come.

Designing a Potager Garden or a Small Kitchen Garden
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