Potager plans

Dear readers, it’s time to introduce you to the new potager. With all the plans swimming around my head for this little plot at the local allotments, I wonder how it will look this time next year. As you can see, right now it’s a very weedy patch. Sigh…

There are the bare bamboo bones of what was a makeshift greenhouse in the westerly corner. We’re not supposed to put up permanent structures, a rule which everyone seems to be openly ignoring (quite a Belgian characteristic!), but we hope to put up a replacement of some kind. Polycarbonate maybe? My husband fancies having a go at making it – if any one has any tips on this or words of warning, send them my way please!

So far, I’ve just had a quick clear up of the site, removing rubbish, trimming some hedging and raspberry canes, and taking a close look at all those weeds! Some are not weeds at all, some are welcome weeds and some might present a challenge.

In the ‘not weeds at all’ category, we have lemon balm, lovage and purple sage. ‘Welcome weeds’ include patches of comfrey which I will use to make nutritious mulch and liquid fertiliser galore (imagine not having to buy any plant feed – that’s the ultimate goal).

The dandelions, horsetail, and creeping buttercup are going to have to be controlled, but they are indicators of fertile and perhaps heavy soil. Horsetail apparently also makes an excellent fertiliser, as its roots delve deep to extract minerals from the soil, and its leaves are rich in silica. It’s been around since at least the time of the dinosaurs, so it may continue to be with me for a while too! There’s also a lot of couch grass, notorious for being difficult to remove due to its brittle, creeping rootstock. Yep, weeding is going to be my new full time job!

Pretty Dandelions

I’ve dug up a rectangle of soil that looks like a grave – I hope this isn’t psychologically significant in any way! Preliminary indications are a good, workable, crumbly soil – clay that has been worked and improved over the years – certainly an improvement on the heavy clay in my garden. The soil is the most important thing in all of this, so that’s really great news. The orientation is also good: the upper ground of a hill, a sunny plot with some shade in the evenings from the trees growing behind (photos were taken in the early evening).

Digging my own grave?!

The other job I’ve done is to dig up the many raspberry suckers that have spread from the easterly boundary into the plot. I do love raspberries but they could be a problem if I don’t contain them, and my allotment neighbours have already complained about them in our first encounter. The couch grass is growing enthusiastically among them, so I might just have to dig them all up and start again from scratch.

The first of many raspberry suckers

The ultimate vision is a potager: a productive but pretty plot, with an exuberant mix of mostly edible flowers and veg, with an emphasis on growing herbs and flowers to make teas and tisanes. Maybe I should call it the tea garden. When I worked as a volunteer at my local urban farm during summer 2020, I was inspired by their ‘aromatiques‘ section, which had bands of beautiful flowers, all for use in herbal teas. I remember one glorious combination in particular: a band of Malva (purple-flowered mallow) with feverfew alongside (chamomile-like flowers), a picture of vibrancy and health. I’ve already sown some Malva seeds, germinating now indoors, and I’ve got some feverfew in the garden that I might be able to propagate. Small steps….

Watch this space for more updates / design ideas / moans about weeding and backache! It’s going to be a slog. I’ll end with my ‘mood board’ from the farm.

34 thoughts on “Potager plans

  1. This is going to be a wonderful space and project for you though couch grass and horsetail are absolute curses and will occupy you for some years to come. Best wishes.

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  2. That is quite a serious project that you are about to start! There will be a lot of work, but once everything is done and you maintain it well, it is a source of riches. Lots of succes !!!

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    1. That’s fantastic, thank you, just the sort of thing I had in mind. Good idea with the removable shelves, that’s a nice space saver. So how did it stand the test of time? Are you happy with it? Anything you would change about the initial design?

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      1. Not really. We were limited for space so it couldn’t be deep or too long. The removable shelves work well as they are separate battens so can have them close together or spaced out for additional storage. We got polycarbon sheets that has UV protection coating on one side.

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      2. Can’t say I’ve noticed if it affects the plants as – until a few weeks ago – my neighbour’s trees shaded it completely for six months. But we’ve had non-protected polycarbonate on my Potting Shed in full sun for almost twenty years with no sign of yellowing or cracking.

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  3. Looks like you have definitely got yourself a project! Will there be any time to look after your garden? A tea garden sounds wonderful, herbs and edible flowers and maybe a tea rose or two?

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    1. Oh yes what a great idea to put in some tea roses, I like that. I think the garden might go into rest mode for a bit! I’m really excited about the prospect of gardening in more sunshine with better soil.

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  4. Lots of hard work ahead, but what a lovely spot it is, and your ideas sound great! I am expanding my small herb bed this year, so will follow closely. Good luck with the weeding. 😉

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  5. I watch with interest, just watching as I have as many weeds to deal with in the part I have in mind for more herbs. I beg mercy for some of the raspberry suckers as I have found mine so useful. I freeze them on a tray daily in season transferring them into a bag for longer storage. They freeze so well and are much easier to care for than strawberries. Amelia

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  6. Looks like a fun opportunity for you. Love the idea of a tea garden. Yes, lots of work, but you don’t have to tackle it all at once. We covered half of our allotment for the first year to suppress things while we worked on the rest.

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  7. How exciting!! You have a comprehensive selection of weeds but, as you say, horsetail can be useful. I made a large bucketful of liquid manure with it…….unfortunately, I knocked it over just as I was going to start using it!😒🤔🙄😬 I remember it smelled pretty awful,! I look forward to your next episode.

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  8. That is all very exciting. I’m just wondering if the bindweed hasn’t appeared yet! Yes raspberries do sucker but are quite easy to pull out. If you have a really sunny spot I would start an asparagus bed , it’s lovely to have one corner you don’t have to rotate! Artichokes likewise – and lovely flower heads. Potatoes are good to get in quick as well, digging for weeds then planting potatoes feels like an achievement. So excited for you and your plans.

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    1. Oh thank you for these nice ideas! An asparagus bed would be lovely, I can only imagine how amazing it would be to harvest my own after 3 years. Artichokes are on my list – they will help hide the neighbour’s ugly collection of plastic rubbish!

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  9. What fun! Looks like a great site, ripe with potential! I feel a great urge to volunteer to help with the weeds, if only I wasn’t an ocean and continent away. 😉 I’m so glad to hear of your interest in the ‘aromatiques‘. Maybe it will inspire me to actually make tea from some of my plants. I seem to love growing them, but rarely actually use them. ha. I have some lemon verbena shrubs which I absolutely adore the scent of, but never use. What’s wrong with me?! That malva in your photo is so beautiful! Do you know the variety and have tips for using as tea? Best of luck and thanks for your inspiring share!

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    1. Ooh verbena makes a lovely tea, great for a refreshing pick me up. Add mint to temper it slightly. Try it! Malva sylvestris is the variety, the species, the flowers are used in tea to add colour and they have some benefits too but will need to read up on that later 😉

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