If you want to see change, around you, then you have to be the first to step out of the box! I can remember when my oldest daughter was attending a preschool class the teacher came up to me and said, ” Your daughter is a free-spirit” in a negative tone! I made a mental note about this but ignored it since I wanted my daughter to get to know the other children and did not want my opinion of this negative woman to hinder that opportunity.The next week, I was sitting outside the classroom with another mother + overheard the teacher say,”Don’t mix the colors”….really? Well, two words stuck in my head, “Free Spirit” and “Don’t mix the Colors” that in my opinion were right up there with “don’t color outside the lines.” I have been a creative thinker all my life, so I pulled my daughter out of that class and never looked back. My oldest daughter survived the brief exposure to this “in the box their whole life” attitude. It was an experience, I never forgot and eventually inspired me to design a program (with a friend in graduate school ) for parents+ their children to attend. It was taught by one of us, for many years to educate parents, on the importance of play and how young children learned best by mixing colors in life!
I am constantly experimenting each season and my gardens are colored “outside the lines,” flowing over the sides where vegetables, herbs and flowers mingle together… Won’t it look messy?How does one make it look right?Simply put, grow the most beautiful edible plants you can find and combine them with the most attractive herbs and flowers. Problem solved.
If you cannot find what you want locally, grow them yourself from seed, which I do every season. The options are endless, when you start searching for beautiful vegetables! If I find a beautiful vegetable, I want to grow, I trial it for a year and figure out which flowers and herbs look best with it in the garden. If you practice “natural pest control” or “companion planting” that is something, you must consider, for example, I grow borage,marigolds, petunias, and calendula to help with natural pest control in my nightshades/tomato + pepper bed. My choices for these flowers are endless, This year I grew the herb borage ( takes care of tomato hornworms) and edged it with purple petunias, french marigolds, dwarf calendula, lemon gem signet marigolds, candytuft and whatever else I may want to trial. Since I have been mixing my beds, I have had very few if any pest problems in Palm Rae Potager.
I love to experiment, and the possibilities are endless, as to what you can grow together.This year, I planted two Heirloom Swiss Chard, started them from seed inside under lights and “mixed them” in the spring with corn salad( mache’),historical pansies, arugula,calendula, and marigolds. As the pansies were being challenged, by the heat, corn salad and arugula went to seed. Calendula Pacific Beauty Mix overran their space, which I allowed to take over the space left vacant by spring flowers.
I grew a hard to find,rare, Scottish Heirloom Swiss Chard MacGregor, which was much shorter than my Golden French Swiss Chard, and more tender. Visually, I like the contrast of these two Swiss Chard in the urban potager. I found MacGregor Swiss Chard made an excellent edging plant, but in pots it was hidden by taller plants. I started these chards at the same time,but the size difference was significant which surprised me since they were both a chard. I also found the Larger Chard ( Golden) leaves are better for individual dishes and, the shorter chard was a bit more tender that I use in dishes where a large center rib would be too much. Next year I plan on growing these two together and also using MacGregor for microgreens in the winter under lights. The MacGregor Swiss Chard is filled with anthocyanins that are good for your health. Just like planting a living medicine in your garden! Perfect size for indoor growing. Experiment 2014 a success, I have found two great Swiss Chards to use in our urban potager!
Succession planting is part of the “cycle’ of a potager. As one plant disappears or is no longer viable or usable in the kitchen, you seed, plant or allow more room for those that need to shine.As the summer was coming to a close, I decided to prepare for late fall + early winter harvesting. I removed all the flowers that would succumb to cool weather and planted beets in between the Swiss Chard.Golden French Swiss Chard is one of the few to handle the cold temperatures in our area. I have had my Golden Chard last until December if I cover it in the potager.I have found Golden Chard to be one of the few to return in my zone 5 garden the next year. I wonder if MacGregor Chard will behave like Golden since it becomes more “red” as the weather cools..will it return?
A vegetable plant is considered a keeper if it is “beautiful” and ” tastes great.” Part of the fun, tasting and learning to cook with these beautiful vegetables. Just getting started trying to figure out what you like is part of the fun of growing your own organic urban potager.The basics of “potager” design is to find beautiful ornamental vegetables, herbs and flowers to mix on your city lot. There is no ” right way” to achieve this for you can edge the garden bed with flowers, throw the flowers in with the vegetables, or use pots for the flowers near the potager bed..Today you see many people miniaturize the “formal” potager from days gone by,which is perfectly fine, but you do not have to do it that way! You can mix and match whatever you want and don’t be afraid to experiment….
……the choices are endless and letting things just happen, serendipitously can be part of the fun. Be a Free Spirit…let it flow and watch the magic happen!