Friday, 18 February 2011

Stages of a potager

Hi again! I hadn't intended to be away for so long, in fact I had plenty of posts thought out. But when it came to actually writing them, I found I would rather be sitting in the sun, or reading a book, or working some crochet. The garden has been overwhelming me a bit too as it's growing like mad and seems like an overgrown jungle. The potatoes are manky and the tomatoes are gigantic flopsy triffids. Anyway, I decided it's time to pull together all the photos of the potager over the past year as it's developed, so at least I can remind myself that I have accomplished something, even if there's a lot more work still ahead.

January 2010 - This is how it looked before I started. Scruffy shrubs, dead grass, oxalis and a weedy vege patch were what I had to work with.

January 2010 - First I laid out stakes and planks and scraps of wood to work out the pattern and how things would fit. I laid out some bricks to work out the width of the path. Then it was dig, dig, dig.

28 March 2010 - I dug trenches for the paths and lined them with planks of wood for the edging. Then I laid down weed mat, and coarse builder's mix for the base. Then I laid the bricks, knocking them into place with a rubber hammer. Finally I brushed Pavelock sand between the bricks - this sand turns hard when sprinkled with water, so the weeds shouldn't grow through. My paths aren't perfect, and the width fluctuated a bit. In some parts I had to chip away at the bricks to get them to fit, and in other parts I had to pack extra sand around them. I just remind myself that the rustic look is what I am going for here!

23 May 2010 - Two months later and I've managed to finish the cross paths, work out the positioning of the bricks for the curved path and dig over most of the beds. You would not believe how much rubbish was under the top layer of dirt... bricks, broken glass, whole glass bottles, shards of pottery, coal, rusted metal and even a pair of rotted boots!

13 June 2010 - I wanted to plant my garlic, but I couldn't plant up that bed until the circle path was laid (or I'd just end up trampling on the bed while I did it). The circle path was the most important element of the design to me - I love the symmetry and strength of the lines. I'd have preferred not to have the straight paths crossing right through the centre - it would be nice if they stopped at the edge of the centre and I could have a sundial or something in the middle of a round bed. But that was not going to work for several reasons... firstly, I'm a building novice learning on the job, and it was just too damn hard for me to work out how to connect the paths at that stage. Secondly, I like to be able to dash in and out, bring the wheelbarrow through etc and though pretty, that layout would not have been especially practical. And thirdly, I like having my four little "quarter" beds - they are a great manageable size and good for planting with "little" crops such as lettuces.

3 October 2010 - I delayed laying the rest of the circle paths for as long as I could because believe me, I was well and truly over bricklaying by then! But I wanted to plant my spuds, so I needed to move onto the next quarter. I used recycled black plastic garden edging to line these paths, because it was the only thing I could think of that would curve. It worked, but presented its own set of problems, mostly because it would warp and buckle when I hammered the bricks in. So most of these curved paths do have wonky fluted edges if you look too closely... which is why I've since grown lettuces along the edges to hide all that!

5 November 2010 - the circle paths are finally finished! I just have to do the outer curved path, before it gets completely overgrown with grass.

10 January 2011 - One year later, and all the bricks are finally in! Not that you can see much because of all the monstrous vegetables, but I'm planning some more traditional potager style plantings for winter that might highlight it a bit better. I also want more flowers in there amongst the greenery! In the meantime, the harvest is coming in. This week I've brought in spuds, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, rocket, rosemary, thyme, spring onions, red onions, zucchini, chilli peppers (glasshouse), runner beans and strawberries.

Well, I've come a long way baby, but there's always more to do. It's taken me three nights to organise the photos and write this post, so maybe in a week I'll have another for you! In the meantime I'm going to browse through my folder of inspirational potager images and dream about next season's layout.


  1. Looks really great, you've done a fantastic job!

  2. I think I first started reading your blog when you started making your potager, and I have followed its progress with great interest. I've been a very poor commenter, though, but want to tell you now (better late than never) how much I have loved seeing your potager develop. I agree with the above - you have done a fantastic job and I am in awe of your brick-path-laying.

  3. Lovely work Ruth!!
    And yes I'll teach you how to make a paper corset :)


  4. Well it was worth the wait. You've transformed a rather nondescript wasteland into a really interesting and beautiful little garden. I love the curves within the staighter lines of the space and the partitions seem like a good way to organise planting. Very inspiring.

  5. Thanks you guys, your comments are so encouraging! I'm looking forward to sharing more with you as the garden evolves.

  6. Compared to what gardens look like coming into a glorious warm early summer.. (green and bushy) they do start looking a little worn out towards the end.. "manky" might be the term, or going to seed, or leggy... any way you look at it though plants cannot always look tidy... jungly is my preferred more endearing term! Yay for a bit of space. and lovely garden paths! We have just brought a house so my buckets of veges and herbs will soon have more space to grow! Wo hoo!

  7. Jungle is right, and manky is also applicable :) Congrats on your new house - how exciting!

  8. Did you do that yourself...? How exciting....!



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