We are an urban homestead based on natural, holistic and sustainable principles. Our livestock includes chickens & honey bees and we cultivate fruits, vegetables and kitchen herbs.
“A potager is a French term for an ornamental vegetable or kitchen garden. The historical design precedent is from the Gardens of the French Renaissance and Baroque Garden à la française eras. Often flowers (edible and non-edible) and herbs are planted with the vegetables to enhance the garden’s beauty. The goal is to make the function of providing food aesthetically pleasing.
Plants are chosen as much for their functionality as for their color and form. Many are trained to grow upward. A well-designed potager can provide food, as well as cut flowers and herbs for the home with very little maintenance. Potagers can disguise their function of providing for a home in a wide array of forms—from the carefree style of the cottage garden to the formality of a knot garden.” ~From Wikipedia
Growing herbs, vegetables and flowers in our potager at 7HH-G was extremely successful this past year for a variety of reasons. We grew cold season and warm season vegetables that our family eats on a regular basis. Several culinary herbs were grown and a variety of flowers were also included (Zinnias were our favorite flower). Several vegetables were grown for the first time – that was exciting to see them grow and do so well in our raised beds. Broccoli, lettuce, swiss chard and egg plant were a few of the first time vegetables we tried growing. Other more traditional ones which we have grown before were tomatoes, basil, zucchini and marigolds. Besides looking beautiful with herbs, flowers and vegetables all together in one area, this approach provides for companion planting for pest management . Basil and tomatoes are one example of two plants helping each other out. Marigolds are an overall good pest deterrent in the potager. Our Warre bee hive is close to the raised beds which guarantees plant pollination. The rich diversity of plant life attracted so many other pollinators in the form of leaf bugs, lady bugs, butterflies, hummingbirds as well as some small bats ! Imagine that.
The basic format and approach of the potager consists of raised beds for intensively grown vegetables, herbs and flowers. Our space is very limited here at our urban farm so the Square Foot gardening method is used to maximize the space we do have . Some people refer to SFG as amateur or basic gardening but having had gardens and growing up with them in my past, I still believe they are the way to go with limited space available. The raised beds are made from wood and filled with a mix of compost, vermiculite and peat moss.
Mulching the surface of the beds once the hot, dry weather of summer arrives with wood chips, grass or straw helps to retain moisture. Eventually the mulching material gets composted into the beds.
Drip hoses are used to water the plants so that even watering can be achieved. One goal for 2016 is to invest in a timer for more controlled, consistent watering to be provided throughout the day. After the end of the growing season, the beds are topped off with a layer of compost for them to overwinter on and be ready for spring planting.
For this coming growing season, we will have many of the crops from last year and we plan to introduce a few new ones. One goal for us will be to increase production of a few popular varieties of vegetables we hear people like and sell from our front yard when the local Farmers Market is happening a block away – lots of foot traffic in front of our home could be possible sales for our produce surplus (what better way for teaching our children the art of selling their goods).
In previous years, we have grown vegetables in straw bales as well as in simple raised beds with only a few varieties of vegetables at a time. The simple raised beds were set up to grow in a row format which limited the amount of plants to be grown; our current raised beds use the SFG approach and intensively grow plants based on their space needs. The straw bale method we tried used and wasted so much water to prep the bales and to water them – water here in the arid southwest is too limited for that method. Also, the surface area of the straw bales did not allow for the intensive approach we currently use. We know these methods work for others in different climates but they don’t for us here. We’re looking forward to more success with our potager here at 7HH-G.
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