Potager gardening is a very old French system of growing fruit and vegetables, in an ornamental layout, protected by an abundance of flowers and herbs. Of course, being French, it’s a pretty stylish way to grow your own food!
Charlotte started The English Potager Garden to show people in the UK this attractive method of growing fresh, nutritious food, without using chemicals, and without sacrificing the beauty an ornamental garden provides.
The potager she created is at the heart of The Sustainable Garden smallholding in south Devon, where fruit and vegetables thrive among flowers and herbs that are not only attractive, but act as companion plants to nourish and protect the food.
The potager is in turn surrounded by orchards, wildflower meadows, grasslands, hedgerows and trees, which provide a species-rich ecological haven that supports a biodiverse mix of flora and fauna, including pollinating insects, birds and butterflies.
In The English Potager Garden we show you how you can grow wonderful veg in a beautiful way, by using companion planting to attract beneficial insects and repel unwanted pests and diseases.
We also show you how you can create your own wildlife-friendly areas to further increase your garden’s biodiversity and sustainability.
Even if you don’t have much space, we can teach you how to make the most of your natural resources to create a beautiful sustainable and productive garden, providing much-needed habitats and food for the birds and the bees, while nourishing body and soul along the way.
What is a Potager?
The ‘potager’ garden originated in France and refers to an ornamental kitchen garden which provided all the ingredients necessary to make a healthy ‘potage’ or soup, eaten at the start of the daily meal.
The potagers in French medieval monasteries were full of herbs growing alongside vegetables, used not only for adding flavour to the soup but for their healing and medicinal values, as well as their beauty and scent.
Unlike more utilitarian English vegetable gardens, where vegetables are grown in rows, a potager garden is more artistically designed, with beds laid out in attractive patterns, using symmetrical shapes.
The Renaissance potager at Villandry (below left) is the most well-known potager in France, but they don’t need to be so formal. Potagers can be relaxed and naturalistic, but they have common features that give structure and flow to the design.
Vegetables may be chosen for the colour or shape of their leaves, as well their taste, and are often placed in coordinated groupings, either contrasting or complimenting with other colours or shapes around them for better ornamental effect.
The flowers that are used in and around the vegetables and herbs in potager gardens not only look beautiful, but act as companion plants, bringing in beneficial insects for pollination, while repelling unwanted pests. This is important because it helps negate the need for pesticides, increasing the sustainability of your kitchen garden.
Imagine beautiful flowers surrounding your vegetable beds, attracting bees and other pollinators, and making your garden hum with life. As you stroll around the visual feast that is your garden, you pick your own home-grown fruit, vegetables and herbs to create a healthy home-made meal with no chemicals and no food miles. What could be more satisfying?
Creating your own potager garden not only provides ‘soup’ for your body, but food for your soul!
Growing your own to avoid the ‘Dirty Dozen’
With growing evidence that industrialised agriculture is significantly contributing to climate change it’s more important than ever to think about where your food comes from and how it is grown.
Pesticide use in farming and gardening is wide-spread and has a knock-on detrimental effect to many other species, including human health (see BBC’s Country File from 3.4.22)
The Pesticide Action Network recently compiled a list from government tests on fruit and veg which showed a cocktail of pesticides are being used on nearly 50% of fruit and vegetables in the UK. 67% of fruit contained multiple pesticides with 90% of strawberries showing up to 11 different pesticides and 67% of apples showing up to 13 different pesticides. More than 80% of prepacked salads showed up to 10 types of pesticides, with spinach, chilli peppers and tomatoes all high on the list entitled the ‘Dirty Dozen’.
No chemicals have been used in The English Potager Garden, nor the surrounding land since we arrived in 2015, and consequently natural biodiversity abounds, both in flora and fauna, including birds, butterflies and bees and a host of many other beneficial insects.
Come on our one-day course; The English Potager Garden; Growing Sustainable Food With Style to find out how you how can avoid the baddies and grow your own healthy food instead.
Find out more by CLICKING HERE.