Planning a Potager Garden

I love to grow flowers but my real passion is the vegetable garden.

The taste of homegrown vegetables is incomparable to so much of what you get at the grocery store. I love being able to grow things that you can’t easily buy or if you can, costs an arm and a leg, but can be had by a gardener for a few dollars in seeds.

I love the way a vegetable garden looks, feels and tastes. It is sensory overload and it is wonderful. Whenever I get an opportunity to tour gardens, I appreciate the flowers but gravitate towards the vegetable garden.

I love the self sufficiency of growing ones own food.

It is one thing to protest or complain about the food industry, pesticides and GMO foods, but it’s another to take the power back into your own hands and simply decide to grow your own food. It’s empowering, satisfying and good for you, both mentally and physically, and for the world as a whole.

When we started looking for a house in town a big backyard that faced south-or at least west-was a no brainer for the enormous vegetable garden I planned to have.

After three years of searching it was still the one thing I refused to compromise on. After all, to have a garden again was the impetus for the move in the first place.

And yet, here we are in a house with a small front yard and an even smaller back yard that faces…north!

Turned out there were a lot of other things we wanted in a house as well.

This house had all of it; covered decks so I could sit outside in the rain (something I have always wanted to do but never have had before), an attached garage (another thing we have never had…attached or unattached), ground entry with an eye to aging and an annoying tendency of mine to fall down stairs at least once a year. I also wanted a main level master suite, laundry on the main floor, room for the boys when they came home to visit, a space to do art in the winter and a place that felt homey. All this and, of course, it had to fit into a strict budget and be in a quiet neighbourhood.

This house ticked all those boxes and felt like home from the moment we walked in. Which is the only explanation for how the number one most important thing on the list got compromised.

The yard.

We reasoned that the house-and those that surrounded it- were low enough that the backyard wouldn’t be that shady.

I recalled a lifelong resident of the Peace Country and an avid gardener telling my mother that the rules of directional planting for sun didn’t really apply up here because our summer days are so ridiculously long, all plants are bound to get the minimum requirement of six hours a day no matter where they are planted.

There is a pocket in our backyard that does get a lot of sun and that is where our two 4 x 16 foot raised vegetable beds are located. There is room for two or three smaller raised beds that should also get enough sun. And if we take out part of our wonky shaped deck, there should be enough space (and sun) for two more 4 x 16 vegetable beds.

Still, when your aim is food self sufficiency even that amount of growing space isn’t quite enough.

Plus it turns out there is no disputing that things grow better in the front yard than the back.

I went with a purple and orange colour scheme out front and put pretty vegetables in the front garden along with lots of flowers. I have egg plant, purple cabbage, a few potatoes (purple blossoms!), some Russian purple kale and for orange two pumpkin plants and some chard.

I also planted kale, potatoes, cabbage and chard in the back yard.

There is no comparison.

The cabbage in the backyard measures about eight inches across including leaves, while the three decorative ones out front have a spread of almost two feet!

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Front Yard Purple Cabbage

The potatoes in the back are already finishing up and dying back while the ones out front are a couple feet tall and still lush and green and (I assume) still producing more tubers. The Russian kale and chard out front are so gorgeous I can’t bring myself to start harvesting them, while we have been feasting on the backyard leaves of both for a few weeks now, so I can’t really make a fair comparison there.

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Pumpkin vine with Red Russian Kale in the background to the right.

Same with the pumpkins, since I don’t have any in the back, but my goodness! After stagnating and one almost flipping up its heels and expiring altogether, the two have almost taken over the entire front bed with their foliage in just the last two weeks.

pumpkin patch front yard potager

The pumpkin vine is already galloping towards the new front beds. They’ve gone rogue!

And so the expansion of garden beds continue, but now with an eye to growing more vegetables in the front yard next year.

Since it is the front yard, it is important to me that it has great curb appeal so no one has reason to complain. To many of us, any vegetable garden has curb appeal, but I know not everyone feels that way.

I am excited by the challenge of creating a potager garden out front that equals a straight-up flower garden for beauty while putting as much food on the table as possible.

On our evening walks around town I have seen some beautiful examples of others growing food and flowers in their front or side yards as well.

We will see how it goes!