Potager garden design ideas – plans, layout and tips for beginners

Written by Kremena Ruseva

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What is a potager garden and how it is different from a vegetable garden? How to design it? What is the best layout? We will give you useful ideas which will help you choose the right plants and create your own kitchen garden in the backyard.

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The term potager garden comes from French and describes a garden which is separated from the main outdoor area, lawn and decorative plants. What is the difference between a vegetable and a potager garden? On the first place, it is the history as well as the design. Like vegetable gardens, potager gardens are designed so that you can grow vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowers but they offer the visual appeal of Baroque and Renaissance ornamented gardens. Over the last decade potager designs have become very popular and many people are attracted to the idea of growing their own kitchen garden.

A short history of potager garden designs

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Kitchen gardens were popular for hundreds of years and among all classes in Europe and every house had a small piece of land where vegetables and herbs were grown. A great attention was given to violets and lavender, for example, as they were used for spreading on the floor of the home and released their scent when people walked over them. During the Renaissance and Baroque periods in France, potager garden plans became more formal and resembled the ornamented gardens of the chateaux. The ordinary kitchen garden was transformed to be not only a useful piece of land providing food, but to combine form and function and look in the same beautiful, graceful and pleasing way like the pleasure gardens of the rich an noble. Edged beds appeared, designed in geometric patterns and lined with paths, flower bed edging stones were used as decoration. Lavender and boxwood hedges appeared as a separation between the garden beds and the beds became narrower to ease the planting, care and harvesting.

Enhance the beauty of your backyard

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When discussing potager garden design ideas we have to start with the main goal of it. It has to combine an aesthetic appeal and the right vegetables, herbs and flowers. Some people describe potager gardens as an ornamental vegetable garden and this is quite true. The design is created in a way to provide food for the household but the plants are chosen and arranged with regard to the visual appeal, color and form. A well designed kitchen garden will look beautiful all year round and you can include perennials or blooming shrubs to enhance the visual effect. Modern potager design ideas combine the beauty of a formal garden with the simplicity of a vegetable one and it is not so difficult to create a beautiful plan if you followed some simple rules and steps.

Potager garden plans and layout ideas

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Usually a potager garden is located near the kitchen. It is best if you start your plans star with a piece of paper. Measure the area that you want to plant and draw your ideas on the paper to see how they will look. Remember that a potager layout is always based on symmetry and if you are a beginner, stick to a simple design and a smaller space. For example you can arrange square or rectangular beds in the corners of the area and beautiful brick or gravel paths which lead to the beds.

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The center can be designed with a round or tiered bed which will be the focal point of your design or a fruit tree, planted in the center. The paths should be wide enough for you to walk around the beds and carry tools with you, possibly push a wheelbarrow. Although a traditional potager garden design is based on symmetry, there are many options and styles. If you are a more experienced gardener, the style of knot gardens will be a good idea. You may opt for a design that repeats geometric patterns or for the less formal design of a cottage garden.

How to choose the plants for a beautiful potager garden?

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Many people wonder what the traditional plants for a potager garden are. Back in the old times, plants were chosen mostly for their look. Nowadays, you can grow anything that you love and mix blooming flowers, herbs and vegetables as long as you follow some basic rules. There are many fruit display ideas for different holidays and you can use your own vegetables, fruits and herbs, as long as you provide suitable growing conditions. Plants require enough sun light as well as watering. Consider the ornamental and decorative appearance of the plants, the color of the plants, the shape and think how they will work with the other plants. You can combine green broccoli with purple cabbage for example to achieve a beautiful color combinations and contrasts. Tomatoes also offer a great number of varieties – red, yellow, purple, black. Plant spices and herbs that you use for cooking – basil, mint, oregano, sage, lavender – as they add a fresh green color and additional texture to the overall design as well as a lovely scent. Edible flowers will also add to the colors and textures of your potager garden design. Borage, Calendula (also called Marigolds), Cornflower, edible viola, etc. Use chamomiles or sweet woodruff or other ground creepers which will help you not to have weeds.

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A good idea for bordering the potager beds will be mini basil, chives, nasturtiums, even the jewel-like Alpine strawberries which will add to the beauty of the garden. Plants that grow vertically, like vines for example, are especially suitable to add height to the overall appearance. Although a kitchen garden is your source of herbs, fruits and vegetables, you should not be afraid to experiment with different color schemes, exotic spices and flowers. You can add plant containers as they are a convenient way to change the look of your space. Remember that most vegetables, herbs and flowers – tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, beans, lettuces, chard, have different varieties and you can match them in size, shape and color to create the perfect potager garden design.

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