French Potager Garden

Three tips for establishing a successful French kitchen garden.

gby1701_3_formal_French-Garden1

The French are known for their celebrated formal gardens, such as those at Versailles and Villandry. However, a French potager has a completely different look and purpose.

The French are known for their celebrated formal gardens, such as those at Versailles and Villandry. However, a French potager has a completely different look and purpose.

Usually when one thinks of French gardens, what comes to mind are boxwood parterres, fleur-de-lis accents and espaliered fences. However, French kitchen gardens are more informal and serve to provide fresh produce for the table for as long as possible.

Otherwise called a potager, the French kitchen garden is different from an American harvest garden. The American garden is generally planted every spring and harvested during the summer, while the potager is continually being planted and harvested for fresh produce all year long.

Seasonality is key to a French kitchen garden. Whatever is in season today is what you harvest and eat tonight. Summer isn't the only season of the year during which we can enjoy fresh harvest. Plant in summer in order to harvest in fall or even winter. In a potager, even though you are eating this season's crop now, you are constantly planning and thinking ahead about next season's crop.

As in any successful garden, fertile, workable soil is important in producing a bountiful crop. Veggie gardener Georgeanne Brenner offers three tips for maintaining a successful French kitchen garden:

gby1701_3_pepper_on_plant

Time management. Because the potager is cyclical in nature — meaning that plants are continually being changed out throughout the year — it's important to know what to plant and when. A few weeks ago, Brenner had onions and garlic growing in her garden. Now, in midsummer, she has peppers and will soon be planting leeks. This will be followed by cauliflower and cabbage a few weeks later. 

gby1701_3b_soaker_hose_on_plants

Water management. Where possible, install drip irrigation next to the vegetables and other plants in the potager. If you deliver water directly to the veggies — and not to the surrounding soil — you can reduce the amount of weed growth. 

gby1701_3_Potager1

Space management. Succession planting is a good method to practice. Here, new crops are planted in the empty space left by old crops. So crops at different growth stages are planted next to each other.

There's an exception to the constant rotation of crops in a potager. Perennial veggies, such as asparagus and artichokes, can be left in the garden year after year. After the plants have finished producing and have died back for the year, Brenner cuts hers back to the ground. Then she allows them to flush back out next year so she can harvest again.

Next Up

Why Are My Tomato Leaves Turning Yellow?

Tomato leaf discoloration can be caused by a number of factors, including nutrient deficiencies, plant diseases and cultural problems. We’ll help you narrow down the cause of yellowing leaves on your tomato plants and find solutions to help.

What to Plant in August

It's not too late to plant, even in late summer. You can still grow short-season veggies, herbs and flowers in August from seeds or transplants.

How to Stop Tomato Blossom End Rot

Got an ugly black spot on the bottom of your tomatoes? Never fear. It's a common problem that's easier to fix than you might think. HGTV expert Gayla Trail, of YouGrowGirl.com, offers advice.

How to Plant, Grow, Harvest + Store Garlic

Get expert advice on when to plant garlic, growing tips, types of garlic, the right time to harvest garlic and the best way to cure and store it.

Do Plant Seeds Go Bad?

Will last year’s flower and veggie seeds grow? Learn what you need to know about seed package dates, germination tests and seed storage.

How to Grow Sweet Potatoes in Containers

Short on garden space? You'll be happy to know sweet potatoes can be grown in flower pots.

How to Start a Fall Garden

Plant these fall vegetables in the summer to enjoy a haul of fresh produce when the temperatures cool.

How to Plan a Vegetable Garden

HGTV can make vegetable garden planning less intimidating with tips on garden design and suggestions on how to choose vegetables to grow.

All About Square Foot Gardening

Learn the pros, cons and tips for exploring this beginner-friendly gardening method.

Learn How to Grow Potatoes and When to Harvest Them

Follow our guide on how to grow potatoes and discover how easy and satisfying it is to raise a homegrown crop, plus learn about the many types and varieties available for your garden.

Go Shopping

Get product recommendations from HGTV editors, plus can’t-miss sales and deals.

On TV

Zillow Gone Wild

11:30am | 10:30c

Zillow Gone Wild

12:30pm | 11:30c

Zillow Gone Wild

1:30pm | 12:30c

House Hunters

2:30pm | 1:30c

House Hunters

3:30pm | 2:30c

House Hunters

4:30pm | 3:30c

House Hunters

5:30pm | 4:30c

House Hunters

6:30pm | 5:30c

House Hunters

7:30pm | 6:30c
On Tonight
On Tonight

Vacation House Rules

8pm | 7c

Zillow Gone Wild

9:31pm | 8:31c

House Hunters

10pm | 9c

House Hunters

10:31pm | 9:31c

House Hunters

11pm | 10c

House Hunters

11:30pm | 10:30c

Zillow Gone Wild

12:30am | 11:30c

House Hunters

1am | 12c

House Hunters

1:30am | 12:30c

Vacation House Rules

2:59am | 1:59c

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.