How to Plant a Potager Garden

Lead Image
What You'll Need
Cedar fence panels (8 feet by 3.5 feet)
Cedar posts (4 inch by 4inch by 8 feet)
Gate and gate hardware
Chicken wire
Staple gun
Post digger or shovel
Crushed stone or cement
Exterior wood screws
Hand saw
Landscape fabric
Landscape fabric pins
A variety of vegetable, herb, and flowering plants and seeds

Potager is a French term used to describe an ornamental or kitchen garden. Potager gardens are filled with edible (and sometimes non-edible) plants, herbs, and vegetables. The goal of a potager garden is to enhance the yard's beauty while also providing food.

This article will cover how to build a small, fenced-in potager garden that is perfect for any home chef.

Step 1 – Plan Your Garden

Determine the size of your garden based on the available space you have. Vegetable gardens thrive in full sun, so be sure to find a flat space that receives six to eight hours of sunlight a day.

Keep in mind that the number of posts and panels you'll need will depend upon the size of your garden. Most preassembled fence panels are 8-feet wide. While fence panels can be cut to size, it's easier to plan your space based on the width of the panels.

You'll also need to take into consideration the size and style of your gate. A minimum of 4-feet wide is a good start. You can place a gate on each side of the garden for symmetry and easy access, or cut a fence panel down to size for the opposite side of your garden.

Step 2 – Prep Your Site

Remove any grass, plants, and debris from your site. You can do this by using a flat shovel to scrape underneath any grassy areas. Larger weeds, plants, and shrubs will need to be dug up.

If the soil is compacted, turn it over with a shovel and then rake smooth.

When you're finished prepping your site, you should be left with a square or rectangle-shaped patch of level dirt.

Step 3 – Set Your Posts

Posts are the main support for your fencing panels. Use a post digger or shovel to dig the holes for your posts. The posts should be spaced 8 feet on center for 8-foot wide panels. You'll also need to dig holes to support your gate.

In areas where the ground freezes, holes should be approximately 4-feet deep to accommodate for ground movement.

You can use cement or crushed stone to hold your posts in place. If using cement, follow the manufacturer's instructions. If using crushed stone, pour a small amount of stone into each hole. This layer helps to keep the post bottoms from sitting in standing water and rotting out.

With a partner, place a post in your first hole, making sure the post is level and straight. Fill the hole around the post with crushed stone up to 2 inches from the top of the hole. Fill the rest of the hole with soil. Repeat with the remaining posts.

Don't worry if the posts move slightly when pushed. The fence panels will help to keep everything rigid and in place.

Step 4 – Attach Your Fence Panels and Gate

Attach a fence panel with exterior wood screws between each set of posts. The fence panels should be 4 to 6 inches above the ground to prevent the bottoms from rotting.

Attach your gate using the gate hardware you purchased, following the instructions provided.

Step 5 – Attach Chicken Wire for Pest Prevention

If you're using a fence panel that has gaps between the boards, you'll need a method to keep critters out. Chicken wire is a flexible material that's easy to work with.

Start by digging a 10 to 12-inch trench along the inside perimeter of your fence, omitting the gate. Unroll and cut the chicken wire in widths you feel comfortable working with. 8-foot sections, matching the width of the fence panels, work best.

Place the chicken wire upright against the inside of the fence panel and bend the bottom 6 inches in an "L," facing out and under the fence. Bury the bottom of this "L" in the trench you dug and staple the rest of the chicken wire to the inside of your fence panel. Make sure the chicken wire is buried and pushed up close to the fence panel without any slack.

The buried portion of the chicken wire will keep out critters that like to dig under fences, while the top part will prevent animals from sneaking through the gaps in the fence panels.

Step 6 – Lay Out and Prep Your Garden Beds

Now that the frame of your garden is completed, it's time to lay out your beds. Raised beds, with or without frames, are great for a potager garden.

You can lay your beds out in any shape or design -- just make sure that you leave a 2-foot minimum walking path between garden beds.

To maximize your space, consider creating a 2-foot deep bed along the interior perimeter of your fence. 2-feet deep is enough to grow a variety of plants, and the fence panels and chicken wire can be used to support climbing plants such as cucumbers and peas. In the middle of your garden you can fit 2 to 3 rectangular beds depending upon the size of your garden.

When you've determined where your garden beds will go, turn the soil deeply in those areas and add 6 inches of compost.

Step 7 – Prepare Your Paths

Paths between your garden beds are important for getting in and out of your garden, and for harvesting. To prevent weeds from growing on your paths, line them with landscape fabric and top with 3 to 4 inches of mulch. Not only is this aesthetically pleasing, but it allows more time for gardening and less time weeding.

Step 8 – Plant Your Garden

Your garden fence is up and you've prepped your beds and prepared your paths. We've finally come to the best part of building a potager garden: planting vegetables, herbs, and flowers.

There are no rules when it comes to planting a potager garden. Simply think about what vegetables you and your family like to eat. Basic vegetable plants include tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, beans, zucchini, spinach, and lettuce. Herbs might include basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, chives, and parsley. Edible flowers include lavender, some marigolds, and nasturtium, among several others.

You can purchase many of the above listed plants and seeds at any home improvement or garden center.

Additional Tips

Plant the outside perimeter of your fence as well. Consider herbs, garlic, and other plants from the onion family. These plants will help to keep garden-eating pests away.

Rotate your crops. Each year make sure that you rotate where you plant your vegetables. This helps to keep the soil healthy and pest-free.