If you have any questions about this class feel free to leave a comment…all questions will be answered in my comment box unless you send me a private email.  I love to help any way that I can!
For today’s class you will need:
Sticks (something to stake in the ground of snow to rope off your area)
Measuring tape
Graff paper
A notebook
A bit of imagination
Here is what I am going to promise you… you don’t have to be artistic or a garden designer to fashion your own Potager.
This is a 101 Classe so we will try to keep it very simple and hopefully this spring many new, lovely Potagers will grace the American backyard.  However, I am throwing a lot out here in this post and you may want to refer back to it in the future.
Let’s assume most of you will be starting with plain, flat… yard.
The first thing you will want to do is measure.  Yes, even out in the snow if you can’t stand to wait… though you might want to.  Plant your stakes in the ground/snow tie a string around them as you create your shape then measure the entire space.  This is just a rough draft – you will want to do this again as you get closer to digging ground.  Then…


Let’s keep this very simple-
To the best of your ability, sketch out on paper what you might like your Potager to look like… you will most likely tweak this so don’t panic.  Plus, you will transfer it to graph paper later.
Some questions to ask yourself:
What will you be growing? 
 As you read the “recommended reading” list you will develop this answer because of the knowledge you will be gaining but what I want  you to do, is as best you can be mindful of space.  For example, if you are dreaming of a summer full of watermelon from your Potager you are going to need a lot of space as Watermelons are a vining, spreading plant… if you want to grow a hundred pounds of green beans… well, those can grow up towards the sky.
Many a nostalgic gardener has thought, “Oh I will grow my own pumpkins for the kids this fall!”  only to have them completely overtake house, garden and home and a manner that would frighten any Fairy Godmother.
How much space is hubby going to let you have?  
You would not believe the amount of emails I have received wondering how to get hubby on board… Why on earth husbands would FIGHT their wife wanting to learn to grow food is really beyond me.  I have some ideas on coercion … do you really want to know?
Now ask yourself…
Do you like squares, rectangles, pie shapes?
What is your budget?
We will can cover this in more depth if you think we need to but consider you will need money for the following:
Sod removal 
 You can rent a manual remover ($15ish a day), use a square, flat shovel or rent a gas powered remover ($65-95ish a day).  Sod removal – it’s a horrible job, there is no way around it.  But once it’s done, it’s done.  (We are big D.I.Y-ers but I am sure for a reasonable price a landscaping crew can remove the sod for you too – just be kind and offer them plenty of water!)
Border creators
Again, it’s personal taste.  How will you keep the shape of your beds?  1×4’s, bricks, rocks, railroad ties?  There are many options for many different budgets.  A girl savvy with a power drill can make some pretty basic raised beds or hopefully by this point hubby is on board and wants to wow you with his carpenter prowess.  I chose cobblestones for mine.  Half I went and bought and half I took from my Grandpa’s farm fields.  Be sure to ask first but spring is coming and most farmers would welcome you removing large rocks from their fields.  You can also find piles of them at the end of farmers fields too – again, ask first unless you have a black ski mask and are really brave.
Path Material
There are many options for your pathways.  The cheapest being sod.  Keep in mind this requires upkeep and you will want to own a power edger to keep everything looking trim and clean.
I am a sucker for pea gravel.  Not driveway gravel but rounded, multi colored pea gravel. It’s about $3 a bag at home depot or $35 a yard from your local landscape source.  It sounds delightful beneath your feet.
There is also a very French looking red gravel that I have seen in this area.  Oh, it looks so French, but alas red is not for me.
You will want to factor in the price of landscape fabric under anything you use (except grass of course).
Soil and Soil Amenders
I am blessed with gorgeous, old, topsoil that has been practically untouched however soil quality varies around the country.  Some will have more clay… some in new construction areas may be very poor.  Again, this is something you can buy.  Either in tedious bags from Home Depot or by the yard from your local landscape supplier.  They will even deliver it if you don’t have a truck.
Soil Ame-what?  Amenders.  Read: poop.
You can amend/boost your soil with a variety of nutrients.  Each spring I revitalize mine with manure and mushroom compost.  This spring I will be using my chicken poop!  As you become more and more “into” gardening you may want to start your own compost pile with kitchen scraps and grass clippings.  This is a great way to save money.  But really, there is nothing like manure.  Talk to a local farmer or buy it pre-baged form Home Depot.  Amending your soil DOES make a difference in Veggie size and nutritional quality.  I am not trying to overwhelm you in a 101 class but it is something you will want to learn more about.
Back to sketching things out on paper…
Once you have an idea of the size you have to work with, google “graph paper” and print some off.  I assign 1 square foot to each square on the paper and I just start tinkering around with ideas.
Now you will be able to get an aerial view of your backyard, decide how much space you really want to assign to Potager, how much room your mower will have to maneuver around your new project, if you paths will line up with any architectural features on your house (more on that later)… keep in mind your daily activity.  For example, do you want to be able to pull a wagon or wheel barrel into your Potager when you work?  Then you will want a three foot wide path.  If you are just making a tiny little herb garden off your kitchen then maybe a 24″ path will do for you.
I find that I go back and forth from the yard to the graph paper, changing, tweaking, re-measuring… before I dig my first shovel full.  I hope this doesn’t have you totally freaked out.  I am anxious to see some of your sketches (I’d show you mine that I drew for this post but my scanner kept chopping them in half)  If you would like me to include them with your without your name in my next post I would love to.  Email me at:
Our next class will be on Design and Focal Point.
all images: google images “potager layout” – except the little layout drawing – that’s the ONE that survived my crazy scanner!