A kitchen garden is a wonderful addition to a garden repertoire and if you have no other gardens, it’s a perfect one to have as the only garden or as the beginning to many others. A traditional kitchen garden is known as a potager in French. The word potager originates from “something in or from a pot”. Literally the word potager is a thick meatless, vegetable soup. Today it is often used to refer to a kitchen garden.
The kitchen garden is traditionally separate from the regular vegetable garden ideally near to your door so you can literally eat from your garden! It serves as an ornamental all-season landscape, a source of herbs, vegetables and fruits. It can be structured space based on geometric patterns or more free flowing. The garden might have year-round visual appeal with perennials, shrubs in and among the annual plants that offer a gardenscape covered by the snow.
When I and my four daughters moved from the city to the farm in Pontypool in 2006, there were no gardens. The acreage hadn’t been tended as a farm in earnest for many years and both house and field had literally begun to melt into the earth. After settling in, we put our first vegetable garden in the field to the west of the house and in the first two years, we worked that patch tirelessly trying to grow as many of our own vegetables as possible. The next addition to the farm were laying hens and they lived in a small coop near the garden. They loved the weeds we threw over the fence. A perfect Sunday morning was fried green tomatoes (and ripe ones when they came into season), fried eggs, topped with fresh chives, homemade sourdough toast and jam. Everything was as a result of our own efforts and was so satisfying!
Any opportunity to grow your own food is a good thing. We benefit in so many ways by growing what we eat. It’s healthy, great exercise, saves money, encourages recycling and composting. Hildegard von Bingen, a nun living in 1100’s is an inspiration to me both in her music and her life. Hildegard also forged a new path in mid-life – then mid-life being much younger than today. She constructed the framework of an abbey built on her many visions, one of them using herbs for healing and spiritual guidance. Her writings and practices of healing and tending her gardens formed the basis of her belief in good health.
Over the years, I have added more and more gardens (and moving things around within them too). A kitchen garden doesn’t have to be in a plot of earth. It can be in pots on the patio or along the walkway. I came from the city where we did not have an actual garden but I did have pots of salad greens, herbs, climbing peas and tomatoes. I brought everything with me and arranged them in a sunny spot and was grateful to have some fresh vegetables on our plates. The garden can be hanging from planters like strawberries and cherry tomatoes. The very first year we lived here, I put in stones for a path up to the front porch of the house. I added some herbs and flowers especially mints so that I would catch a whiff of them on my way by. It was so handy to cut a handful while cooking. I soon learned that the mints would take over, which they did and every year, I seem to move another clump out from entrenched roots.
Our gardens are always changing and I think that is a good thing. One year, when new piglets arrived, we put them in with the goats in the pen behind the kitchen. They completely dug up the soil and depleted any grass for the goats. So both pigs and goats were moved to another location (Shawn is ripping the little hair he has left out!) and that location, near the house, behind the kitchen became our “potager”, our kitchen garden. It’s only a few years old and still a work in progress but it is a feature to the farm. We hope to conduct workshops there, use everything that is grown in our menus, and remember to sit and contemplate, reveling in the satisfaction of all that is growing around us.
Danielle’s kitchen garden workshop is being held April 20th. Her workshop on March 30 is sold out. For information visit southpondfarms.ca