To be fair it was my husband that actually created my dream Potager garden, I just planned it and gave a helping hand, like shifting 3 square metres of compost into the garden. However I still can`t believe that I am finally starting to plant out my beautiful new Potager garden. Since moving into our home 5 years ago I have been running a large vegetable garden for the family, essentially three large garden beds. They were not ideal to work in as they were on a sloping site and at ground level. Becoming empty nesters meant that we didn't need the as much vegetable garden, so I thought this is the perfect opportunity for me to finally get my Potager garden...OMG so excited as I've always wanted one.
Good things do take time! It was important to me to take my time to design and plan this out properly, thinking about how I want to use the garden in the future. I shared my thinkings, design and plans for my Potager garden in a previous post which you can access here.
Designing is certainly the fun part....oh I'll put that there and have that over there ...ohh beautiful...then you have to actually work out how to make it happen and that's the hard part , the planning stage. The thing I love and hate about planning is the reality of what you actually need to do to achieve the goal. The time and cost it will take and therefore the changes that you may need to do because of finance or design constraints!.
For us the planning started with me handing Pete the design and saying....hey Baby can you build this for me ...pretty please!. Bless him as he said yes, but with my help of course. So I sat down and planned out what we needed to do. A long list evolved from that as below;
- Plan out the new beds in the existing garden
- Calculate the measurements needed for the wood
- Work out the lengths, size, type and quantity of wood
- Purchase and pick up of the wood
- Building of the raised garden beds - over two weekends with clear weather
- Create and fill the two garden paths
- Purchase and pick up compost mix for the garden beds
- Fill the beds with the compost mix
- Finalise the planting plan
- Purchase of plants
- Planting out the beds
- Sit back and relax
We had a budget of $2000 which we had to stick to.
The measurement and working out the actual foot print of the beds was not difficult, but did take a bit of "arranging" as each one of the beds had slightly different lengths and measurements.
We purchased the wood from the local Mitre 10, cost came out at $900 all up. It was a lot of wood and it's all H4-5 as it needs to be treated for outdoors so it does not rot. Word of warning that means it's heavy!.
The biggest challenge was getting a break in the weather. The spring in Auckland has been, well, rubbish!!! so the actual construction took place over about 3 weekends. I recall at one stage Pete trying to skill saw between rain showers and hoping not to electrocute himself.
Once that massive job was completed we wheelbarrowed 3 cubic square meters of compost, super rich organic vege compost from our local, Central Landscape & Garden Supplies around to the actual beds. This was backbreaking and expensive ($500). I was hoping that I could fill the beds up with my home made compost but there was no way that I could make that much compost!!!! I was pretty naive about that aspect of the job.
The key improvement for me in the new garden was to have paths in between the beds and also have a frame on the top edges. This meant that I can have much easier access to the gardens and actually sit comfortably on the edge and attend to the garden...this really helps to prevent the old "garden back pain". To avoid having more lawns to cut we used the left over white chip from the East garden landscaping job for the paths in between the beds. I have to say I am in love with these paths and it's great that they connect to the upper garden.
Whoop, Whoop the fun part!. I now have four lovely new garden beds. In the true style of a Potager garden I planned the planting to ensure that I achieved good companion planting so I could reduce the use of pest control and improve my crops. There are really good resources on companion planting, however it can be a bit overwhelming. So what I did was list out the vegtable crops that I knew we wanted to plant now and then slowly worked through the guides on what are the best companion plants for each. My main resource for this was my new book Companion Planting in New Zealand by Brenda Little. This book really helped me to plan out each garden bed.
The Berry Patch
Blueberries, Boysenberries and Raspberries
The Strawberry Patch
I moved all my strawberry plants from the wee garden that they were in into their very own patch. I have companion planted Borage for the bees and Sage for the berries.
The Lettuce Bed
A mix of spinach, cos , red and green leaf lettuce and Lebanese cucumber, surrounded by marigolds. Coriander herb planted in the corner.
The Potato Patch
My all time favourite Jersey Bennies , sweet peas, beans, capsicums , and zucchini. Nasturtiums to border them.
The Corn Fields
Sweetcorn, tomatoes, carrots, spring onions with basil companioned to the tomatoes and borders of marigolds.
Poor Pete still has a couple of build jobs to do, build permanent staking for the tomatoes and berry patch, similar to the illustration.
My to do list includes adding in more herbs into the garden, mint, parsley, rosemary and thyme. These are mainly for companion planting purposes. Herbs for cooking I grow in pots in the kitchen..that's another post for another day. Did you know that Basil is a great herb to have in the house to help keep flies away?
Developing more permanent hedging in the garden beds is longer term goal. Ideally I want to have a combination of lavender and Buxus or Mock Box.
I am so going to enjoy this spring and summer season in my new Potager garden...I just hope that the weather improves so I can actually get out into it without being rained on.
On a closing note I came across this planting journal for $7 at our local Warehouse Stationery store and I will be trying this out to help track my plantings and growth. I have always done this in my own ratty journal but thought hey why not have a pretty one!
Now I think Pete and I will have a wee sit down and just admire all our hard work.
Take care my friends and enjoy your gardens
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