I often refer to my garden as a potager (pot a ghay) instead of a vegetable or kitchen garden. Some think I’m being pretentious but that’s not me, I just like being precise with language and there are differences in a traditional American vegetable garden and a French style potager.
In America, we tend to plow up a chunk of land and plant in rows. It is often sited far from the house. A potager is in raised beds and those beds are often in geometric shapes that form an overall pattern or parterre.
The other main difference between a vegetable garden and a potager is that potager include fruit trees, herbs, and flowers. A potager is an ornamental as well as a utilitarian garden and, generally speaking, you grow and harvest all year round.
In my garden, zone 8b, the main garden season is Fall/Winter which goes into Spring. Because we stay so hot for so long, the only time I can grow cabbage, collards, lettuce, broccoli, peas is the Fall and I can keep them alive all winter long, then plant again in early spring.
My garden has permanent trees and shrubs: boxwood, ivy, and fruit. I also have herbs like, mint, rosemary, bay, oregano, and chives. Flowers are everywhere in my garden. Fall through to Spring is snapdragon, mum, and pansy season with Zinnias, Cosmos, and Marigolds holding the spotlight all summer.
Though a beautiful place to relax and enjoy the birds, bees, and butterflies, the best thing about having a potager is the harvest. Planning your meals around what is in season is indescribable. You haven’t truly tasted peas until you harvest from your garden and home-grown cabbage? The texture is more like butterhead lettuce, and the flavor is mild and smooth.
Getting a garden established has been a chore; our soil is poor, and we faltered for two years before building raised beds and installing irrigation. We still have issues with bugs and nutrient deficiencies but for the most part the labor we expend gives us threefold reward.
Do you garden vegetables? Have a potager? Thinking about starting your own garden?