Thursday, July 26, 2007

Grow Your Own Food

Every time I write about my potager I get a lot of comments on my blog. Growing your own veggies, herbs and fruit appeals to a lot of gardeners it seems, but many think that they don't have the space for it.

Quite a few fellow garden bloggers have asked how big my potager is, as I have a lot of produce from my kitchen garden. The answer is: not all that big actually. It's roughly 8 by 11 meters = 88 square meters, including my Victorian greenhouse.
The thing is, you don't need all that much space to grow your own food and you don't need a potager either. Many veggies, fruit and herbs can be grown in containers and even in borders. There is no law against growing food among your flowers, far from it!
Take a look at this part of my potager in Spring in the pic above. See the bed with the orange tulips? Take a good look at what's in the middle of that bed. No, it's not a rose standard, it is a gooseberry grafted on a standard. Wonderful isn't it? When you grow gooseberries that way, they don't take up all that much space and they are easy to pick too, no bending down at all. And you haven't heard the best bit yet, you can grow almost any kind of berry or currant that way. Thus leaving you with lots of space to grow lettuces, cabbages, herbs or what have you underneath.

And how about putting a few berries on standards in your border? Wouldn't they look great, adding structure and instant height to the border? Be a bit creative and think outside the potager err box. ;-)

You love fruit, but think you don't have enough space to grow your own? How's this for an idea? In my potager I have a few arches and I train raspberries, blackberries and tayberries up them. That way they don't take up all that much space and look good at the same time.
And of course, you can also grow veggies up arches such as peas, sugar snaps, climbing beans etc.

This is what I planted in early spring this year. Any idea what they are? They are apple trees, ballerina apple trees. A ballerina tree is a tree that has a trunk with many very short branches so it doesn't take up much space at all.
I've planted my 2 apple trees alongside one of the arches in my potager, because I want to train the apple trees in an arch shape. Ballerina's get to be 2.5 to 3 meters high. Of course you don't have to grow them in arches and you don't have to put them in the earth either. Growing them in big pots is fine, that way you can even grow your own apples on a balcony. Isn't that just wonderful?
Although I've planted both apple trees in Spring this year, both are bearing fruit already! And they are not the only ones, my new plum tree had lovely fruit too. I bought a fan shaped plum tree last autumn and, like the ballerina's, it doesn't take up much space either. You can put fan shaped trees up against a wall or fence or even turn them into a hedge on stilts if you use more than one tree.

Last April a close friend of mine gave me some purple potatoes. My potato bed for this year was already planted up, so I decided to put these potatoes in some big containers I had lying around.
As soon as they sprouted leaves, I topped the soil up thus making sure that the tatties were well covered with soil. If they're not covered completely the potatoes will turn green and poisonous.
The potato plants have finished flowering now, so it is almost time to harvest the tatties. I don't know if they will retain their purple colour after being boiled, so we'll have to wait and see about that.

Strawberries can be grown in pots too. You won't get a very big crop but it is worth your while to grow your own. Nothing tastes better than your own homegrown and sun kissed strawberries. In my strawberry pot I've also put a few other plants to add a bit of colour and interest.

You can grow a succession of crops on a very small bed. Here I've grown 2 kinds of lettuce and once they have been harvested, the courgette will take over. For fun I've sown some nasturtiums too. They add a bit of colour to my potager and the leaves and flowers will jazz up any kind of salad.

If you have a pergola, why not grow a grape up it, instead of roses and clematis? Just think of all the fun you will have harvesting and eating your own bunches of grapes in autumn. The leaves of the grape are pretty too, so it's visually pleasing as well.
So there you have it, you really don't need all that much space to grow a few veggies, herbs and fruit. Often a container or two will do the trick. Or just bung them in your border, train them up a wall, arch or pergola. The possibilities are almost endless. So what are you waiting for, get cracking!

My garden is the place to be
Peace to dream
Plant or read
Potter leisurely.
Glen Philips, My Garden


Pam/Digging said...

Very nice post, YE. I like your ideas for mixing fruit and vegetable plants into the ornamental borders. But I'm still fondest of the potager, probably because the pictures of yours are so appealing.

Hannele said...

Own food, so nice.

Andrea's Garden said...

Great ideas! I bought gooseberries and red currants like you did and placed them along side the right fence with a blueberry bush. I have a question about gooseberies. Do your gooseberries loose all there leaves like mine did? Greetings, Andrea

Kris at Blithewold said...

(sigh) You make it look so blissfully easy! (and it is!)

Dirty Fingernails said...

Can anyone tell me more about currants and how well they grow in a warm climate.. Currant is one of my favorite jam and not very easily obtained here.

Carol said...

Yolanda... great post, you've provided some great ideas here on how to grow fruits and vegetables without a lot of space.

I attempted to turn your 88 square meters into square feet and come up with about 950 sq. ft. which I assume includes paths, too. My own vegetable garden (potager!) has 380 sq. ft. of planting area, but by the time you add in for the paths and all, I would guess it is only slightly smaller than your potager.

There is a feeling of great satisfaction when you grow some of your own food, I agree. I want to plant more fruit, as all I have now are grapes and one apple tree.

And I really want a trug like the one you have!

Carol at May Dreams Gardens

Layanee said...

YE: So creative in your planting and thinking! Food for thought!

Libbys Blog said...

As always an inspiring read. Thank you!!!

Yolanda Elizabet said...

Hi all and welcome to Bliss!

Pam: perhaps that has to do with the fact that providing food for oneself and ones family is such a fundamental human thing to do; food = life

Hannele: of course. ;-)

Andrea: my gooseberries still have all their leaves.

Kris: as you know, rocket science it ain't! ;-)

Dirty Fingernails: Annie (from the Transplantable Rose) wrote in a comment before that currants do not do well in warm climates. I garden in a very temperate climate which has its advantages.

Carol: you're right I think that (judging from the pics of your potager) that ours are similar in size.

Well go for it Carol, make yourself happy and plant a lot more fruit in the autumn. I've given you some space saving ideas. ;-)

It seems that most gardenbloggers would like a trug like mine. :-)

Layanee: food for thought indeed! ;-)

Libby: you're welcome my dear!

Anita said...

Wow Yolanda, that was such an interesting post about your potager! Yes, I am a big fan of your kitchen garden, too! And I admire your Victorian green house!

How lucky we are to be able to grow our own vegetables! But I am not yet able to harvest that much! My frist crop this year are tomatoes and carrots, the rest still needs some time!

Groetjes, Anita

A wildlife gardener said...

I've said it before, and I have to re-iterate the same compliment...a veritable cornucopia of home-grown produce, yolanda! Well done to you :) I'm slobbering like a big hungry dog again...

Bert said...

Hi Yolanda,
Love to see all those fresh produce from your kitchen garden.
I love eating it all. Very tasteful, healthy and organic.
I can recommend it to everybody, to eat your own grown veggies and fruits. They just taste better.

Crafty Gardener said...

I have really enjoyed seeing your potager and that is something I would love to do with part of my garden. On your green arbour ... was the screening attached when you bought it or did you attach it yourself? I have a couple of the same arbours and I'm always stringing garden twine in a criss cross fashion to encourage the vines to climb. Also is a netting or a screening? Thanks.

Tyra in Vaxholm said...

It looks great! Ill take the basket, yummie

marl1 said...

Helemaal waar, je hoeft geen hectares te hebben om lekker te eten uit de tuin....'Sun kissed strawberries'....wat poëtisch...:-)

Annie in Austin said...

Yolanda, the amount of productive plants you have worked into your garden design is amazing - and it all looks good together.

The heat and humidity might be too much for the currants, and in addition, currants and gooseberries are a host for a rust fungus that causes white pine blister rust so some places in the US have laws against growing them. Bummer!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Marian said...

Leuk dat je kruisbessen ( wij noemden ze vroeger klapbessen) op een stammetje hebt!
In onze vorige tuin hadden we een druif tegen het tuinhuisje gezet, het eerste jaar hebben we heel veel druiven geoogst, daarna is het nooit meer wat geworden, allerlei enge ziektes er in, dan is de lol er gauw van af.
Een zomer zoals nu werkt ook niet echt mee aan een "rijke oogst"!
Geef mij dan maar de Akebia, blauwe regen en Clematis op de pergola, die doen het prima, ondanks het prutweer en die druiven. . . die koop ik straks wel weer!
Prettig weekend, groeten, Marian

shirl said...

Hi there Yolanda,

Spookily there, I was looking at your post as you commented on mine!!

Yes, perhaps the beach is out for this weekend 

To the Potager – this always brings back memories for me. A good few years ago now I was part of a committee for a community garden Potager in my small town. School children came along during the last school summer term (after sowing seed in the classrooms) to plant their seedlings and watch them grow. I think most of all they enjoyed being out of the classroom! So many had no idea where the veg came from when they went to the supermarket.

I remember now the definition of a Potager (please correct me if I’m wrong). A Potager garden is a garden in which flowers fruit and vegetables are grown together in a geometric design. I now remember the fund raising Fun Day’s with Balloon Races and plant sales.

Yolanda, enjoy your produce and your weekend :-)

SchneiderHein said...

Hallo Yolanda, so hatten wir uns das im Anfang auch mal vorgestellt: Einen interessanten Mix aus Kräutern, Gemüsen und Blumen. Schön, dass Du es in Deinem Garten verwirklichen kannst!
Aber bei uns hat die Invasion der Schnecken das leider verhindert. Sie fraßen die gerade aufgelaufene Saat, machten sich sofort über die gesetzten Jungpflanzen her oder vernichteten sogar große Kräutertöpfe auf dem Hochbeet. Tomaten litten unter den feuchten Sommern, Kartoffeln waren sehr klein, der grüne Spargel blieb nur ein wenige Jahre und im Erdbeerfeld hat sich der Waldmeister breit gemacht. Darum verwandelte sich unser Garten im Laufe der Zeit immer mehr zum Wohngarten. Allerdings möchte ich unsere Obstbäume und Beerensträucher nicht missen. Denn es ist herrlich durch den Garten zu gehen und von der Hand in den Mund zu leben! Mehr bleibt für uns jedoch auch nicht übrig, da sich die Vögel sofort die reifen Früchte einverleiben oder ihre Kinder damit füttern...
Nach all' dem Regen wünsche ich Dir ein schönes und sonniges Wochenende.
Liebe Grüße Silke

Bev said...

Fabulous Yolanda - and very creative. You are an inspiration.

Kylee said...

Yolanda, you sure make good use of your space!! And it looks beautiful, too.

Yes, nothing better than to go out and pick your dinner.

Green thumb said...

Ingenious and very very appetising indeed!
Dear Yolanda it is such a great idea to grow potatoes in those containers.
Apples look luscious.

Lis said...

Es ist schon erstaunlich welche Vielfalt an Obst und Gemüse du in deinem Garten hast. Es sieht auch alles so herrlich gesund aus und man möchste am liebsten sofort in alles reinbeißen. Ich sage schon mal: Guten Appetit, lasst es euch schmecken!:-)

marga said...

Lijkt me heerlijk zo'n groentetuintje. Als we de plaats hadden zou ik er ook eentje maken.

Naturegirl said...

Ok Yolanda you have made a believer out of me! I think this winter I will have to redesign my garden and use some of these suggetions..Oh my how exciting grapes up my archway to the garden instead of clematis..but what about the birds?? All my cherries disappeared!You have given us all ~food for thought!~ It is always a delight to stop by your garden! Thank you for sharing.. NG

LostRoses said...

Yolanda, I'm fascinated by your posts on veggies because I like the word "potager." It sounds so quaint and looks so charming and it's not a word you commonly hear in the States. I don't have enough sun in my garden for veggies, but if I did, I'd want it to look like yours!

lisa said...

Terrific post, I like all your ideas for incorporating food and flowers. I'm tryng this to an extent, mostly with fruits and flowers. I already love flowers, so there are plenty to bring in pollinators for fruit. Nice to have so much attraction for the bees, since they do all the work, anyway.

kate said...

So I realise now that I can grow veggies even though my space is limited. There were so many good bits of advice here, that I will spend time this winter figuring out how I can have a kitchen garden too... now that I have expanded my garden by getting rid of the back driveway.

Betty said...

What a green thumb you have, well a green hand. Your vegetables look yummy and everything is so pleasing to the eye....

Yolanda Elizabet said...

Hi all and welcome once again!

Anita: well, you will still be able to harvest something. It is not about vast quantities but about the joy home grown food brings.

WG: Good doggie! ;-)

Bert: not only does it taste better, there is a real sense of accomplishment too.

Crafty Gardener: I put plastic coated, small-mess wire netting on the climbing arches to give support to the climbers. It works a treat!

Tyra: the contents of the basket were yummie! ;-)

Marl1: ach ja, er zit een poeet in menig tuinier verborgen. ;-)

Annie: what a pity you can't grow currants and gooseberries. They are so easy to grow and very low maintenance!

Marian: niet alles lukt natuurlijk, soms zit het een beetje tegen. Maar ondanks het niet zulk geweldige weer van de laatste tijd, heb ik al heel wat kunnen oogsten.

Shirl: that sounds like a really fun project ! And yes, your definition is correct.

Silke: our gardens are forever changing, nothing stays exactly the same. Sometimes we cannot have our wishes, the garden will tell us it is not to be.

Bev: glad you liked it!

Kylee: that's one of the things I enjoy most; going into my potager, looking around and thinking about what I'll harvest for dinner or lunch this time.

Green Thumb: we can grow vegetables and fruits in the most unexpected places.

Lis: we have enjoyed all the gifts from our garden so far, and it all tasted great! :-)

Marga: zelf s als je geen plaats hebt kan je toch wat groenten, fruit en kruiden verbouwen in potten of gewoon in je border.

NatureGirl: the birds will eat some of the fruits (cherries are very popular) but certainly not all.

Lostroses: years ago I went to France and visited many beautiful gardens there but the ones I loved most were the potagers. After I'd seen a few of those I promised myself that one day I would have my own potager. Sometimes dreams do come true!

Lisa: like you I like to mix flowers, veggies, herbs and fruit and as you have found, they do best that way!

Kate: what a wonderful idea! I'm looking forward to see yours and Naturegirl's kitchen garden develop!

Betty: I do not have much of a green thumb, let alone a complete green hand but I can promise you that growing your own food is really not that difficult and the rewards are very tasty. ;-)

Crafty Gardener said...

Thanks Yolanda Elizabet, I've got some similar sort of mesh and plan to do that with my arbour next year.

Leslie said...

What a wealth of ideas...and everything looks so much food for thought so to speak! With my new garden bed I've got a total of 203 square feet for seemed like a lot this I'm jealous!