There is nothing simpler, nor more beautiful, than a kitchen garden. It is not enough to cultivate vegetables with care. You have the duty to arrange them according to their colors, and to frame them with flowers, so they appear like a well laid table.”
St. Ignatius (found in Creative Vegetable Gardening)
I have always found traditional rowed vegetable gardens to be quite lovely. There’s just something about those neat straight rows, as if all the vegetables are soldiers in uniform lining up. Spending some of my childhood in rural Ohio, this is the kind of vegetable garden I was exposed to (and the kind we cultivated in our back yard). In these kinds of gardens, the main focus is food production. Little thought is given to the beauty of the plants. That’s what makes these gardens so lovely, they’re utilitarian, yet there’s something so wonderfully beautiful about the orderliness of them.
As I started adding more and more vegetables to my garden I started reading a lot of books about traditional cottage vegetable gardens and European potagers. In these types of gardens often form and beauty were the main goal and vegetables were used to achieve this goal. Now that I have a nice space to put in a large edible garden, I’m trying to decide what kind of garden I’m going to grow. While I love the traditional rural rowed garden, I’m leaning toward a more formal potager with espaliered fruit trees, beech and hawthorne hedges and hopefully a greenhouse. I’m going to dedicate a portion of it as a Winter Potager to bring beauty and vegetables during the cold winter months. This also helps with garden planning, I won’t have to worry as much about when summer crops are harvested, I’ll have dedicated space for winter. That also means that the other other areas can be planted in cover crops for overwintering to help improve the soil.
Here’s the photo that I’m going to draw inspiration from for my new garden design. Of course there’s still lots of work to do since the lot is covered in saplings and a few large trees, but hopefully in 5 years my garden will be this lovely. If you want to see a larger size of the image above: click on the image to go to my Flickr.
What kind of vegetable garden do you have? What kind do you dream of having?
Books I’m referencing for design ideas and for incorporating permaculture elements in my garden:
Gaia’s Garden, Second Edition: A Guide To Home-Scale Permaculture
Cottage Garden (DK Living)
Creative Vegetable Gardening
Designing the New Kitchen Garden: An American Potager Handbook
Smith & Hawken Garden Structures
The Wild Garden: Expanded Edition
Fences and Hedges: And Other Garden Dividers (Step-By-Step Project Workbook)