A series of articles presented by Candy Horton, OSU Extension Clermont County, Master Gardener Volunteer
In duplicating a French Potager Garden there are several things that I must consider. The potager garden is a garden that is created to provide food, medicine, enjoyment, and beauty all year round. They are considered an extension of the home, inviting me to come and explore all the different “rooms “in it and to see the vegetable garden, medicinal or herb garden, the orchard, and nut trees. I would find flower beds of all sorts, most likely a water feature, or a maze. To top all of those things off, architectural elements such as statues, arbors, and sitting spaces are all along the pathway.
With all of this in mind, my first consideration has to be the location of my garden. This will determine how successful my garden will be. If I have several acres then I will be able to have the garden as large or as small as I would like it to be and have several options for location. If I have a smaller plot, then I might be limited in the size and where I can build my garden. The next thing when considering a site is the soil quality, and for most vegetables, fruits, and flowers, I will need a spot that is well-drained with fertile soil. How do I know what the soil quality is? I will take samples of the soil to my local extension office for testing. The importance of knowing the soil quality tells me what I can easily grow in my garden and what I need to do to amend the soil for healthy plant growth. For me, healthy soil means healthy plants, which in turn, through the produce means better-tasting fruits and vegetables and a healthier me. I will need to remember that healthy soil will be different for flowers than it will be for vegetables or even fruits. I will need to let my extension office know to test for everything that I want to grow. They all need something different and the soil test is what gives me that knowledge.
The next thing that I need to think about in deciding my spot is how level is the space. I want an area that is south or southeastern-oriented and mostly level with a slight bit of sloping. A little bit of sloping will drain away excess water and helps to dry my garden faster. Too much of a slope will cause erosion and could wash away my garden. A slight bit of sloping can also help the heavy colder air to flow away from my garden affecting how quickly my garden warms up. The quicker my garden warms up, the earlier I can start planting. Sunlight is another important factor in my garden. At a minimum, I need 6 hours of direct sunlight. This is very crucial for the colder months if I am trying to harvest plants during those months. The most optimal amount of sunlight is between 8 and 10 hours of direct sunlight per day. My sun-loving plants may need a bit more during the summer months and the cool-loving plants might appreciate less. The last thing I want to think about when deciding my garden location is where my water source is located at. How far away that is determines if I am using a watering system of some sort, or if I am carrying bucket loads of water to help my plants survive.
I find that in order to locate the perfect spot, I need to observe my garden at different times of the day, different times of the month, and different times of the year. This allows me to see what is happening in my garden all year long and to journal that knowledge to be able to make the best decision possible all year long. The next question in my Potager Dream is how to plan my garden.