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A potager garden is a vegetable garden which is designed to be attractive as well as functional. Such gardens are designed to strike people with their beauty first, rather than being relentlessly practical, and they can fit in a wide variety of spaces and climates. When well-designed, a potager garden can satisfy a lot of the vegetable needs for a household, as well as pleasing the eye.
The concept of the potager garden is French. In France, there is a long tradition of laying out practical gardens in a way which is also aesthetically pleasing. Along the way, gardeners often increase the yield of their gardens, and they may utilize advantageous plant pairings which help deter pests and enrich the soil. By contrast, the traditional English or American kitchen garden tends to be more stark, laid out with a purely practical eye.
While the focus of a potager garden is vegetables, these gardens can also include herbs and edible flowers. The garden design can be incredibly varied as well, with some gardeners making ornate knot gardens, while others prefer a more casual layout. A potager garden can have all of the features associated with a purely ornamental garden, such as vines on trellises, patches of bright color, and water features. The primary difference between a potager garden and a purely ornamental one is that guests are encouraged to eat the landscaping.
When setting up a potager garden, there are a few considerations. The first is the size of matured plants, and the ease of harvesting specific vegetables. For example, cucumbers grow quite well on trellises, but they might be hard to harvest if a trellis is mounted in the middle of a big bed of carrots. A potager garden should include lots of spaces to walk and work, and gardeners should be aware of which plants will mature and when as they plan.
A potager garden also provides a prime opportunity to showcase unusual plants. For example, chard comes in a range of colors and leaf-types, and you could combine several types for a more interesting visual effect, rather than just using one. Gardeners can also do things like lay out patterns with lettuces and other greens, or hiding ornamental edible flowers in beds of vegetables so that as the vegetables die back, the flowers will still bloom, keeping the area attractive.
This style of garden can be laid out anywhere, from the back porch to a large plot. It pays to think about what you want to grow ahead of time, and to take the time to sit down and map the garden out before purchasing seeds or starts. You should also be aware of which plants thrive in your climate, and you may want to consider mingling annuals and perennials so that the garden doesn't look ragged after harvest time.
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