Planning a Potager

You may be asking yourself when you read the title of this blog–what is a potager? Potager is french for kitchen garden. When I plant my garden I always include herbs and pretty flowers. In a sense that is the concept behind a potager. A kitchen garden is usually right outside your kitchen door where you can easily access it to pick flowers or vegetables. Your kitchen garden should contain, at the very least, ingredients from which you can put together a pot of soup or stew.  This link will teach you how to properly say potager. It took me a couple of tries but I finally pronounce it correctly. This year my potager, which will actually be grown in containers on my porch, will contain red geraniums on the outer edges,  a potato plant, 5 tomato plants (different heirloom varieties), a pepper plant,  beet root, nasturtiums, borage, lavender, rosemary, thyme, and lemon balm. I have one decorative pot I will be planting with a lime green leaf coleus and three dahlia plants.  Among all of my plants I plant companion plants like sugar snap peas, chives, and mint this year. I am going to try cucumbers and mini pumpkins as late crops in containers once one of my tomato plants or the pepper plant is done producing–I’ve never had luck growing mini pumpkins so fingers crossed this year. On my deck I can only have so much weight, and my space is limited to 10′ x 5′ so as soon as one plant is done producing another plant will take its place in a pot. All of my plants are bought from Bauer’s Market Place in La Crescent, Minnesota. I’ve tried a lot of other places throughout the years, and even though Bauer’s is over an hours drive from home–it’s worth the trip. The prices and quality of their plants cannot be beat.

The soil I will be using is Purple Cow Organic soil along with their bio-active fertilizer. I had such a wonderful container garden  last year thanks to their gardener’s product line.


It’s hard to believe that this is what it looked like 9 days ago here!

Here’s a gardening tip that has proven invaluable to me as a tomato lover and tomato plant grower- never ever let the leaves of your tomato plant get wet. I trim off all bottom leaves –the little suckers and leaves that grow on bottom. These leaves when wet can rot the plant and can deliver a fungus to your plant and cause blight. Also–never ever water tomato or potato plants from above. Always stick the hose or watering can by base of plant to water. Cucumbers and melons also don’t like to be watered from above, their leaves will develop a fungus on them that is a white powdery substance. To produce tomatoes keep the soil warm, and to produce potatoes keep the soil cool.

A reader prompted me to look into more information regarding bottom watering–because as we know Mother Nature doesn’t water from the bottom. I also pondered this when I began to water from the bottom. Garden documentary after garden doc I saw bottom watering, drip watering, and self-watering. Most urged gardeners not to get the plant or fruit wet before the sun hit because the water can then burn your plant and fruit. Why Mother Nature can water your plant and fruit and not cause burn? That may forever remain a mystery, but, if you water at dusk or dawn no worries. Watering and then letting the sun hit=worries. Many gardeners deal with blight. Just two years ago I was the only one among many gardeners in my area not hit with blight. Some asked me what I did different. I never let my leaves or fruit get wet, I watered from the bottom, and I pinched off all the suckers on my plant including the ones at the base. My tomato plants have nice clean stalks up to the main branches, and I use soil that drains well, and I cover the soil with an environmentally safe weed barrier (that helps to keep my soil warm). Here are two sources I gleaned information from regarding bottom watering.

Houzz

Dengarden

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My love affair with heirloom tomatoes

To be truly honest with you when I was growing up I’m not sure what kind of tomato we were growing. I suppose they could have been heirloom? Maybe they were started from seeds grandma saved? There was no Walmart’s or Home Depot’s back in those days, so our only source besides seed saving was purchasing plants from local greenhouses.

I’ve loved tomatoes since I was eight years old and never throughout the last forty-five years has my appetite for them waned. Up until a few years ago, I’d never had a home garden. Which meant any tomatoes I would be eating would either come from a grocery store or a Farmer’s Market. I never enjoyed grocery store tomatoes, but I ate them nonetheless. Because (ahem) I love tomatoes.

In the last three years, I started seeing Heirloom tomatoes pop up at the farm stand and a time or two at the Dane County Farmer’s Market. When I say pop up I mean scarce and rare, but it happened. I remember buying one for $4.00 about three years ago and thinking “boy that was worth every penny I spent.” But that’s a lot of money. The last two years I’ve waited patiently for the farm stand we visit every week to have them. Usually, right at the end of the season, they’ll have a half dozen heirlooms sitting at check out waiting just for me. I pay about a $1.00 a pound for these. This year the farmer saved just one big red one–the nicest one he could find just for me. I’ll take them bruised, soft, and overripe. It doesn’t matter to me. While eating the heirloom this year I vowed never to eat another tomato for the rest of my life unless it was homegrown and an heirloom tomato. No more store bought ever again.

Until you’ve tasted an heirloom tomato you have no idea what you are missing. Their taste is more than just sun-kissed, or warm and fleshy. Heirloom’s taste like the very best homemade pasta sauce you’ve ever tasted –authentic and flavorful. Nothing sold in grocery stores for the last thirty years can compare.  There are also taste differences between the different colors of heirloom tomatoes. I prefer the red ones which are quite acidic, whereas the yellow ones are very mild.

For tomatoes to qualify as Heirloom tomatoes there seed must be at least 50 years old.  I found out a lot of information here about heirloom tomatoes.

I’ve found a place online that I am going to order heirloom plants and seeds from and I am going to try to grow my own. If successful I will be delighted, and if not well–I’ll wait for the farm stand to save me a few precious tomatoes at the end of their growing season. It’s a small price to pay to be able to eat a real tomato.

Here’s an almost current picture of my container garden all wrapped up for winter!

We bungee strapped a couple more blankets around the middle of each tree hoping to keep the roots from getting cold. I read that keeping the roots from freezing is the secret to over-wintering container shrubs and trees. Fingers crossed. I brought both the rosemary bush and the last geranium inside to overwinter because both plants performed better than any flowers or herbs I’ve grown yet and I’d like them to have another chance next spring.

I’ll be sharing this post over at the lovely blog A Stroll Thru Life for Marty’s 398th Inspire Me Tuesday!