Potager (Kitchen Garden)

Thank you for joining me in my garden in the making.

The Potager, kitchen/vegetable garden, was the second area of my garden I began making in the Spring of 2009. Our lot is an L-shape leading straight from the back of the house, then branching off to the left behind our garage/work shop. This is the view from the kitchen window straight back to our property line in the first Spring we lived in our house in 2008 followed by the view behind our garage/workshop.

This was the spot I chose for the Potager. Although not ideal – close to the kitchen – it is the best spot in the yard for growing vegetables as it receives the most sun. The plan was to build compost bins in the far back corner and a shed opposite. The potager was to be "sandwiched" between the shed and compost bins.

Here are the compost bins in the Summer of 2008 built from lattice that was left by the previous owners of the house. We (meaning myself and my favorite brute force aka husband), simply made three open bins. I use the center for mixing, and the two on the ends to store green and brown material.

Since we use our garage for work we needed storage for garden tools and the necessary evil lawnmower (until I get rid of the lawn). My husband built the garden shed for me – true romance. Here is the completed shed as viewed from the kitchen window in the Fall of 2008.

In the Spring of 2009 we made three simple raised bed frames. Eventually I would like to side these with stacked stone. I used the sod from digging out the Bird & Butterfly Garden the previous year as a base to fill them in. Then topped them with a mixture of purchased soil and compost. I dug out a couple of flat beds to the right of the raised ones, and also made a thin bed along the back edge of the property line that backs up to the neighbors. Existing wild grape vines grow along the chain link fence. (Click here to read my post about wild grapes.)

Here is the Potager towards harvest time in the summer of 2009. We harvested quite a few tomatoes in spite of a bad year, some beans, lettuce and cabbage. In the fall I planted some garlic for the first time. I had not been a vegetable gardener until now, in spite of growing up with a large vegetable garden in WI as a little girl.

In the spring of 2010 we lopped off a large box elder that was leaning precariously over the back of our house. I kept the wood chips and added paths to the potager, expanding the bed along the back fence as well as digging out more flat bed areas. (Click here to read my post on how I created these paths.) The bed along the back fence now includes two dwarf Alberta Spruce for winter interest as well as a mix of herbs and flowers that are pollinator-friendly. I also added an edible green grape vine which should be easy to distinguish from the wild grapes once it begins bearing fruit.

Here is the expanded Potager in the Spring 2010. My husband built the trellis attached to the bed the previous season, and I tried to make some tee-pees with bamboo and chicken wire but have since replaced these with rustic oblisks. (Click here to read my post on making a rustic oblisk.) Also added, a tomato cage built from old tiki torches that my brother-in-law gave me. Aside from supporting vegetable plants, I wanted to add some structure to the Potager that could withstand the winter.

Here is the Potager in Summer of 2010 looking down the pathways toward the compost and toward the shed, and viewed from around the corner of the garage/workshop. I am amazed at the amount of insect and bird activity in this section of my garden from butterflies, moths, spiders, bees to beetles and assassin bugs! One afternoon during a sprinkling I watched a hummingbird fly through the water spray repeatedly and perch on one of the tee-pees. Chickadees hid sunflower seeds among my brussel sprouts.

We are really beginning to harvest a lot of food now: radishes, garlic, tomatoes, swiss chard, beets. Each year I plan to add more variety and try new things. Each year we learn to preserve more of our harvest.

The last thing added by Fall of 2010 was this rustic arbor entryway to the Potager. I hope it will be draped in Scarlet Runner Beans – tasty as well as attractive, especially to humming birds. (Click here to see how this arbor was built in my previous post.) The arbor adds some permanence to the Potager which I feel my young garden needs.

In the Spring of 2011, the Potager was expanded yet again this time squaring off the edges so that it is now an even larger rectangle. Here, the new expansion in the Spring, and the Potager in August of 2011.

A blueberry bush now defines one corner. Two rustic oblisks were constructed sans chicken wire, replacing the structures used in 2010. (Read my previous post on how I constructed the oblisks by clicking here.) The oblisks and other trellises were draped with biodegradable twine.

The rustic arbor was adorned with Scarlet Runner Beans just as I imagined. On the other side of the arbor I planted annual Exotic Love Vine. It bloomed very late in the season and if it weren't for a long Indian Summer, I'm not sure it would have bloomed at all. Beautiful blooms – I was lucky at love, but too late for the hummingbirds to enjoy. I planted a native trumpet vine for next year. A hardy perennial vine in our zone 4 that I hope will bloom earlier in the season and benefit pollinators including the hummingbirds.

We enjoyed some new crops in 2011 including blueberries, broccoli rabe, rhubarb, perilla, peppers, soybeans and tomatillos. I have not had luck with peppers until now. This year I really tried to focus on growing peppers and it paid off. We had an abundant crop of jalapeƱos, cayenne and sweet peppers. The tomatillos were also surprisingly abundant. Flea beetles shared our lettuces and the squash vine borer squashed our squash. Next year lettuces will be arranged in between the rows of garlic planted in the Fall of 2011 to deter the beetles. The squash will be more closely monitored.

What's on the menu for next year? More kale and possibly artichokes and baby eggplants!

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Reliable (and Beautiful) Performers in the Potager

These plants have become staples in my potager. They grow well for me with minimal effort.

Broccoli Rabe
Calendula (edible flower, herbal properties, reseeds itself)
Chives (common and garlic)
Hardneck Garlic Varieties
Marigold (attracts beneficials, deters rabbits)
Swiss Chard


  1. Your potager is gorgeous! I love the rustic oblisks and arbour... lots of love has obviously gone into it's creation.

    1. Why thank you! Yes, lots of obsessive love. I will enjoy checking in on your garden. I can't wait to get out there and start planting! I guess I am a pyjama gardener, too.

  2. Gorgeous. I love potagers. I think artists make the best gardeners.


Thank you for joining me in my garden in the making!

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