Pretty potagers

Combine the colours and textures of vegetables with herbs and flowers to create a beautiful ornamental edible garden.

An ornamental vegetable garden or potager has its origins in the traditional kitchen garden. It is practical, productive and visually pleasing; a garden that tempts the taste buds with fresh vegetables and herbs, and with colourful flowers to attract bees and butterflies.

The modern potager is suitable for any size garden, and encourages the gardener to be creative by blending and weaving the colours and textures of vegetables with flowers and herbs within a structured landscape.

Design tips

Choose a sunny location; one that gets at least five hours of sunshine a day. Keep the design simple, with geometric beds divided by gravel or paved paths and edged with low, clipped hedges. One metre is a good width for beds as this allows easy access from both sides. Raised beds are another option, especially for anyone who finds it difficult to bend.

Add vertical interest in some beds and a place to grow tomatoes, beans and other climbers over trellis, obelisks or wigwams. A raised pond, a sundial, or a scarecrow would create a focal point and unify the design.

Planting tips

When planting your landscaped vegetable garden, dig over the beds, removing weeds and stones and breaking down any lumps. Incorporate generous amounts of compost and a general fertiliser, rake, and then water thoroughly before planting. Avoid using manure when growing root crops (carrots, beetroot), as they dislike freshly manured ground.

The increase in interest in edible landscaping has coincided with the introduction of colourful new varieties of vegetables, as well as the rediscovery of heirloom plants, making possible many beautiful and interesting plant combinations. Life is a garden planted with ornamental and nutritious vegetables to provide a feast of flavour, colour, texture and fragrance.

Vegetable and flower colour

If you are planting up a kitchen garden this March, consider planting up this colour scheme:

  • Pink/purple - beetroot, chives, pansy, primula, scented pelargonium, sage, strawberry 'Pink Panda', thyme.
  • Red - beetroot, chilli, lettuce, radish, scarlet runner bean, strawberry, Swiss chard 'Ruby', Swiss chard 'Bright Lights'.
  • Orange - calendula, carrot.  
  • Yellow or green - lettuce, Swiss chard, day lily, fennel, nasturtium, golden oregano, pansy, parsley, pea, lemon thyme, spinach, viola.
  • Blue or grey - artichoke, borage, cabbage, cornflower, lavender, pansy, viola.

Right plant, right place

Alternatively you can slip your herbs into existing borders. Here is a seasonal selection of plants you can use:

  • For edging - chives, lavender, dwarf nasturtium, parsley, oregano, sage, santolina, strawberry, thyme, violet.
  • In borders as medium size plants - Bean (bush), calendula, pea, cabbage, cauliflower, chervil, pelargonium, onion, summer savory, rosemary, Swiss chard, leek, spinach and celery. 
  • Tall growers for the back of borders - Artichoke, dill and fennel.

Viola

Calendula

Tips for a successful potager

  • Choose a level area that gets at least five hours of sun a day.
  • There should be no competition from roots.
  • The chosen site should be convenient sited near a water source.
  • Soil must have good drainage and be well composted.
  • Lay out paths and beds in the chosen design.
  • Add a focal point.
  • Position wigwams, trellis and obelisks for climbers.
  • Fruiting strawberries are available at local garden centres now and will perk up your kitchen garden.
  • Harvest leaves off veg such as Swiss chard and lettuce throughout the winter months to extend the life of your crop.
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