Try a potager for easy vegetable garden

Long before America was a country the French had their potagers - landscaped areas combining vegetables, flowers, fruits, herbs and shrubs in lovely design.

The potager, with function and beauty, survives. There is no equivalent American term for potager. American landscapes are divided, into the vegetable garden and the landscape.

Small potagers are easily navigated with busy lives. Vegetables with groundcovers, herbs and flowers are less maintenance than vegetables alone. Groundcovers help keep weeds away, lavender and marigolds repel bugs. Mulch with shredded or composted leaves to resist weeds naturally and retain moisture. In addition composted leaves feed the soil nutrients that mycorrhizal fungi need, creating better soil, stronger roots and vigorous plants.

Start a potager in your imagination. Where should you place it? A potager needs a minimum of six hours of sunlight each day. Easy access is a must for a potager. Walking, weeding, watering and harvesting should be simple. How large should a potager be? There is no right answer. If your property is small a potager can be planted in a 20-inch diameter pot.

Creating a potager in a pot is great for a child's garden or a loved one unable to garden easily due to health issues. A potted potager is a great holiday gift. Place rosemary in the center, thyme at the rim and vegetables between them. Use good potting soil for a container potager. Fafard and Brown Earth are two of the best. Rotted compost from your own pile would be perfection.

An entire potager can be in containers. Use four or five pots and place them close to your backdoor, as close as the correct sunlight allows. Use the same pots throughout and minor repetition within each pot, an evergreen, for a beautiful effect.

Planting a potager in the ground includes tilling the soil with amendments. Use a 2-inch layer of granite grit and a 2-inch layer of rotted compost. Till to a depth of 6-8 inches. Keep the soil alive in perpetuity by adding a 1-inch layer of rotted compost each January.

Evergreen shrubs and groundcovers make a potager look good all year, even as vegetable crops end their lifecycle and look messy. Consider rosemary, Carissa holly, dwarf Indian hawthorn, thyme, dianthus and thrift to embrace the vegetables and fruits. Each is low maintenance and drought tolerant.

Watering a potager during bans and restrictions is allowed. Food crops are not subject to the stringent rules of ornamental landscapes. I planted my potager years ago because it was pretty and easy to maintain not because of water restrictions.