How I created my dream Potager garden

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.

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The Design

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

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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!. 

The Plan

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 build

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.

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The Planting

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. 

To do

https://home.howstuffworks.com/staking-vegetables.htm

https://home.howstuffworks.com/staking-vegetables.htm

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.

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Take care my friends and enjoy your gardens

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How to prepare the seasonal vegetable garden


My very first vegetable garden was as a teenager …a long time ago. I had a little piece of dirt near the bike shed. I recall the poor quality of the dirt and the frustration with my limitations with access to good compost. However I did manage to produce a lot of raddish's and rhubarb. The raddish's were sweet, hot and yummy and the rhubarb got turned into fruit crumble with lots of sugar and cream to dull the tart taste.

Forward several years, actually decades and I'm still at it and still loving getting my fingers in the dirt.

It is spring here in New Zealand and I am just in the middle of getting my spring and summer vegetable garden planned and prepared. I love this time of year, fresh blossom scents in the air, followed by sneezing fits, dam the pollen.

Vege garden

2015/16 Summer Vege Garden

I thought that I would take you through how I prepare for each season. It is very much the same process, just different crops depending on the season.

Planning

It all starts with my notebook, it's my garden bible. In my notebook I write everything down about my garden, what I planted, where I planted, when I planted, quality of the crop, health issues, weather, everything that I experience in the garden for the season. 

I do this for each season. This gives me a really good view of how my garden works and what grows well and where. As I am currently planning for my spring and summer garden I look back at last years spring/summer garden notes as reference.

I decide, based on the success of last years crop, what I am going to plant, noting the variety to buy.

The garden planting plan is the next step. I do rotate my crops so, again checking on where I planted last year is important.

Once I have mapped out the planting plan, I then work out the timing.

Timing? Ok so to work out when you want your crops to be ready you have to work backwards to figure out when to plant. Simple example of that is new potatoes and baby peas for the Christmas dinner. To be able to harvest in time for Christmas day I must have the potatoes in by early September.

If you are not sure of the timeframes just check the information on your seed or plant packs. They normally describe how many weeks to harvest.

Gardening
Gardening

Preparing

This is where you realise that you are not garden fit, but don't worry you will be by the time you have finished. It is just a matter of hard manual labour, digging, turning soil over and composting. You can use your own compost or source some from the local garden centre. Just ensure that it is a good quality one as you don't want any bugs or foreign weeds in your patch. This is where I do a shout out for ZooDoo, yes that local zoo pooh that has been turned into rich organic matter. It's a bit smelly but pretty special.

You must have a lovely rich soil base to grow strong healthy vegetables, so this stage is really important.

Planting

This is my favourite bit, as once planted I sit back and watch my babies grow. 

You may be planting out over a couple of weeks depending on the timing of your harvest.

I do cover my seedlings initially to protect the from the birds. Do be careful not to cover for too long as they need full light to grow well.

I like to plant at the end of the day and water them well in the cool of the early evening.  I think this is the best time to water as it really soaks in.

Always read the planting guide just to ensure that you are planting them out appropriately.

As an example Corn needs to be planted in a square/block as opposed to a row.

Vegetable garden
Vegetable garden

Weed, feed and water

Growing vegetables need a lot of food and water. During the growing season I build up the soil by composting regularly.  

I do try and be as organic as I can be with my feed and compost as I believe it makes yummy vegetables. There are some good organic options that you can source from garden centres. However I do not think you can go past good old worm juice.

Over the years, I have noticed from my notes, that I don't get as much disease and bugs when  I have been consistent with good feed and compost.

And lastly don't forget to water, a lot. In Auckland we are blessed with rain, however even in summer it can get a bit dry so I do water the vegetables. A couple of times a week is good if it is very dry. I always water in the early evening as its the best time for the soil to absorb the moisture.

Vege harvest
Vege harvest

2015/16 first harvest of peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes.

I hope that you enjoyed this post and may be you got something useful from it.

Please let me know if you have any questions or any other aspects of  seasonal gardening that you want to know, such as composting, feeding, or crop varieties.

Enjoy the fruits of your labour!

Hugs and smiles

Tania