Building A French Potager Garden

As everything in my life, it is a work in progress. I have been designing and working on my garden to be darn near maintenance free for several years. When I was a teenager, my mother concreted her garden pathways with raised beds in order to keep the weed control down. As I have been developing my own garden, I realize how brilliant this is. So much work to pour concrete, yes, but lots of work on the front end equals less work for long term, my motto I have adapted this year.

​I cannot tell you the times I am asked, how do you do it all. First, I don't feel like I do it all. I feel like life is a journey and my interests lead me. The farming and gardening I do is enjoyable. But then again, I do enjoy a bit of physical labor. But in the meantime I am trying to set my farm and gardening up for ease of daily work. The garden for example, concrete pavering in between aisles allows my feet and shoes not to get so muddy and messy. It also eliminates weeds between beds. Yep, eliminates. All the extra farm and gardening "work" enhancements, is to help my homestead to be time efficient, while also being very enjoyable. Therefore, the Potager Garden is perfect for me. Plus it is gorgeous. Double score.

​Phase One of my Potager Garden consisted of putting raised beds in. The first year we lived in our home, we tilled the ground for a garden without any raised beds. My garden did very well. But I wanted a more structured way to garden. So then I had Mr. Hunky build me raised beds, Phase Two. He and my dad built me 10- 4x10 raised beds one afternoon. That year, I planted in them and loved it. I taught myself a no till way to garden and how to harbor worms to do it for me! One small scoop in my beds now is full of worms. Best soil ever. However, my muddy feet and weeds were out of control. Yes, especially my feet. I wanted...needed a way to control this without spending hours each week weeding. Some people like to lay straw in the aisles, some grass, plastic etc. But

I wanted another pretty and more permanent asset to my garden. I started researching Potager gardens and the only ones I could find were really designed and developed in France. So I took to reading about why and how Potager gardens worked. Ideally, they are directly off the house easily accessible to the house kitchen. When I first started my garden, so many people would tell me to put it in the back yard. I would always question why? And the response was always because it is an eye sore in the front. On the contrary! I need it to be close to me, plus gardens are beautiful! Or at least a well kept garden is beautiful :)

​I am so glad I went with this philosophy. We made our garden about 20 feet from our house, 25ft X 45ft.
​Phase Three was the following year which consisted of leveling the aisles, weeding of course and laying pebble rock about 1/-4inch to 1/2 inch in size. This makes a good base for laying concrete pavers. I planted the garden that year with full expectations of laying the concrete soon after, Phase Four. Life got busy and it wasn't until fall when I had a chance to start Phase Four, lay concrete pavers. And by lay I mean, buy a form that looks like old world pavers, buy 80 lb bags of concrete hand lifted into a mixer, add some colorant and water, scoop concrete into the form and do it over and over and over and over.....again. This is strenuous hard work.

 ​Phase Four was nearly impossible to do by myself, trust me I tried. I did 8 bags by myself and was whipped. The overall amount of concrete was 185 - 80 lb bags. You will need a few people to help you accomplish this if your are going to paver a large area. I had my husband help with most of it and they other part my parents helped me. I am so thankful for the help!

​After pavering, I needed to fill the cracks with sand, Phase Five. I really didn't think this needed a "Phase" number but after sweeping 30 bags of heavy sand into cracks, I decided it most certainly needed a phase number! It took me 12 hours constant (with a lunch break and store run to get more bags) to finish it. I learned from my mother that not just any old sand will not do, I needed to get the no weed sand that sets up gently with water so the weeds don't grow through. When my mom made her garden, There wasn't a sand that set up like we have today so she continually gets weeds through the cracks of her pavers. I will chose to learn from her in this case. After sweeping all the sand into the cracks and off the pavers, I sprayed all of it with water two separate times, morning and evening to 'set' the sand. Done! Now I can enjoy weed free aisles and the beauty of old-world charm.

​Now that Phase 5 is completed I will be expanding the garden to twice it's current size and starting over with the Phases to complete the expansion. I currently have the garden fenced 7 feet for deer and another 3 feet up with chicken wire for pesky rabbits, but when the expansion is completed, we will be wrought iron or black steel fencing the garden to make a wonderfully beautiful complete Potager! This way I can grow super cool apple trees espaliered around the new fencing. I think the expansion will start this fall or next year because I currently cuss at every paver I now see ;)
Check out the pics below!