Inspire Me: Vegetable Garden Design

Photo of garden plans and seed packetsSearch the Web for “free garden design plans,” and you’re likely to get a mass of flower garden designs that will bore the small-space vegetable gardener straight out of her gourd. To find real inspiration, I’ve turned to the blogosphere — and to Europe, actually. In France, growing gorgeous edible gardens is a much more popular pursuit, thanks to the tradition of the potager, or “kitchen garden,” and to the monasteries that originally made vegetable and herb gardening an art form.

The kitchen garden of Chateau de Villandry:  The potager of potagers! Their website has a plethora of panoramic photos — just enough to make me wish that I were actually there to see what’s what. But I guess the entire point is to appreciate it for the form and colors. Go do that.

The gardens of Prieuré d’Orsan: More gorgeous potager photos, and there might just be a lot of information there for you, if you read French better than I do.

“Potager Progress” on the Art of Gardening blog: A great post on adapting the potager style for a cramped side-yard.

Focal Points in a Formal Setting: Some first-hand advice for designing a compact, attractive vegetable garden similar to a potager.

Home Vegetable Gardening, Parts I & II: Two video lectures from botanist, professor, and avid vegetable grower Robert Norris, with excellent general tips and slide shows. (Particularly good if you grow in California.)

But if you’re aching for detailed schemata — you know, the attractively abstracted view-from-above, usually on graph paper — or you just want someone to tell you exactly what to plant, and where, then look to classic books like Barbara Damrosch’s Garden Primer, or John Jeavon’s How to Grow More Vegetables than you ever thought possible on less land than you can imagine (actually, imagine about as much land space as the full title takes up). You can also find vegetable garden plans from Better Homes & Gardens right now. (Register with them for free to access PDF’s.) Don’t waste time with their “small space vegetable garden,” but check out the Heritage Vegetable, Asian-Inspired Vegetable, and Eye-Catching Kitchen Garden designs, which are even better suited to maximizing limited space.

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