French gardeners are masters at getting the most from a little in their potager or garden. Often, it fills most of a side yard; it is so tightly packed with various vegetables in various stages that one must do a balancing act to get in to tend. Every spare space is used. Most are so well cared for that you wonder if Monet was inspired by them!
4′x8′ boxes are perfect for easy-care gardening. In only 32 square feet, you can raise a highly productive garden. All you need is a little fore-thought.
Here is a list (given to me by my husband) of needed materials to build ONE box:
— 7 (2′x8′) 8′ers of treated AC2 (arsenic free) lumber.
– scrap 2′x2′s or 2′x4′s for leveling stakes, 20-24″ long. They will anchor the box, so drive them in once the box is where you want it and screw to these stakes.
– 3 “-long exterior screws. (Galvanized is best, but we couldn’t find them.) ‘Exterior’ so they won’t rust. Screw the box together and screw to the leveling stakes so it won’t shift when filling.
Your soil should contain 1/3 vermiculite (or perlite), 1/3 the best soil or seasoned compost you can find, and 1/3 peat moss. You can get peat moss and vermiculite at many of the garden centers (Lowe’s, Menard’s, Home Depot, etc.) or your local nursery may order it for you. For the total amount to add to the box, you can use calculations found here. You can find big bags of vermiculite at Menard’s in the insulation aisle (4 cu yd for around $12.00).
Would you appreciate weed-free gardening? If you’re like me, you are looking to create more time. I will always garden as long as the Lord allows me the strength, but give me low maintenance, if possible. Because of the tightly packed vegetables, the plant’s leaves canopy fast and the germination of weed seed is at a minimum.
The average French gardener would be incredulous at the ‘recommended’ spacing used by the American gardener. Due to space limitations in many areas in Europe, over the centuries they have learned ways to maximize production, allowing creativity and a free spirit to flow into their potager.
It is not unusual for a very small space to produce enough for a family of four. By inter-planting (having another plant ready to stick into the ground the moment that one is harvested) you keep the space filled. You can tuck in onion sets (save some back from your spring planting) and have more green onion tops coming in early fall.
Also, succession planting is practiced. In reading about this years ago, I have learned that once my early crops of cool weather plants (beets, cabbage, spinach, lettuces, turnips, and early onions) are harvested, I can them plant the lovers of hot weather and use the same space twice!!! Peppers, tomatilloes, tomatoes, potatoes, another cabbage or two…
And as you harvest (or thin) your hot weather crops, you might be able to squeeze in the seed or seedlings for a cool weather crop repeat. In this way gardening is not boring, but can be a satisfying creative adventure.
The secret is composting. If you haven’t seen the Back To Eden Movie, you are missing something very special that will revolutionize the way you think about gardening!