Why Potager Gardens

May 5

Traditional rustic potager gardens date back to the monasteries of the Middle Ages where monks grew fruits and vegetables mixed with herbs and flowers.

The raison d'être (reason for being) was utility.

And these hard-working gardens produced abundantly for their communities -- year round.

What is a potager garden?

A potager garden, or "soup garden," -- more commonly known in America as a kitchen garden -- is a year-round garden designed to supply fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs on a daily basis.

Potagers often follow some of the best gardening practices: seasonal planting, crop rotation; and companion planting, all grown organically.

Why grow a kitchen garden?

Unlike the gardens we typically think of in America, a potager garden's purpose is to supply fresh food all year. Rather than focus on starting in the spring and wrapping up at the end of summer, a kitchen garden is planned by growing seasons that are cyclical rather than linear, with continual succession planting practiced to ensure constant utility. With many different growing seasons in the United States, the need for food preservation prevails, but that doesn't mean that a garden cannot produce even in the coldest months with some planning and growing aids, like greenhouses or a crop hoop house.

And it's because of that need for better utility in today's era - that need for more nutritious food, grown locally, by organic methods - that I believe every aspiring gardener can grow an abundant potager garden with a little planning and education.

The best potager gardens - large or small - start with the belief that you have enough time, money and resources to tend to your garden. And that's my life's goal: to help gardeners grow what they want in the space they have so they can love what they produce.

The Modern Potager

Today's Modern Potager gardens may not be designed as they would have been even 50 years ago. With less space available, the Modern Potager incorporates raised beds and container gardening into the existing outdoor landscape . A kitchen garden doesn't have to consume hundreds of square feed to be beautiful and productive.

Old-world traditional potagers also focused entirely on function, whereas the kitchen gardens of today blend form and function, following the principles of companion planting to enhance the garden's natural abilities to produce delicious food, but also heighten the garden's beauty.

Modern kitchen gardens also typically include fruit and vegetables, rather than separate the fruit into a verger, or home orchard. Incorporating fruit trees into the garden brings new life and beauty as well as makes the most of limited space. Modern potagers also include many varieties of edibles and non-edible flowers and culinary herbs to attract beneficial wildlife into the garden.

These garden designs work well, even for the busiest of home gardeners, to produce good harvests (as long as there is enough water and good soil). The goal of a modern kitchen garden is to produce the food and flora varieties that are most important to the gardener while making the most of the growing seasons.

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