By Linda Brooks
Summer is a perfect time to putter in your garden while you enjoy the fruits of your springtime labor and prepare for your fall planting, and Pasadena has the perfect microclimate for a potager.
A potager is a French kitchen garden where you eat and cook with everything you grow—herbs, vegetables, berries, and citrus—all conveniently accessible in one place near your house. Pathways with ornamental and edible flowers enhance the beauty. Not only can this centuries-old garden concept be adapted to the smallest spaces for today’s home gardener, but it also has become a popular alternative to thirsty lawns.
Limited space when designing your potager will benefit from raised beds, containers, vertical planters, or a border of edible plants and flowers that will help define the space and control the soil. Soaker hoses and “companion planting”—plants that complement each other, including similar fertilization and water needs—control disease and pests while enriching the soil. A trellis, oblique, or DIY garden tower can provide support for beans, peas, berries, and flowering vines as well as adding height and interest. You might consider wind chimes on a shepherd’s hook. The key is not to be overwhelmed. Start small with good soil and add as you grow along.
Plant your seasonal favorites. Fall’s crops, like carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, leeks, chard, onions, peas, radishes, shallots, spinach, lettuce, chives, garlic, cilantro, chervil, dill, and parsley, require a cooler temperature soil. Explore a few unusual varieties of these everyday favorites not commonly found in your local grocery store, such as napa or red dragon hybrid cabbage, or romanesco cauliflower. Staggering your planting will ensure that you’ll always have something to enjoy.
-Consider incorporating a dwarf/miniature fruit or citrus tree in a decorative container.
-Remember that many Mediterranean and native plants do well in Southern California and can be drought tolerant, reducing their water needs.
-Use your imagination to incorporate a theme, such as a cuisine you enjoy. For instance, fans of Italian cooking could plant thyme, cilantro, and sage, while Francophiles might lean toward lavender, chervil, and chives.
-Create a salad garden with your favorite herbs and editable flowers, like nasturtiums, which add a peppery flavor and have flowers that can be filled with a soft cheese; a children’s garden with their favorites; and flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
Potagers around town:
-The Huntington’s experimental Ranch Garden showcases simple but effective ideas using edible plant materials suitable for a kitchen garden. “What’s Blooming” is a monthly pictorial calendar on Huntington.com featuring its flowering plants.
-Parkway Grill on South Arroyo Parkway offers tours of its organic garden behind the restaurant.
– “My Plant Finder” on Monrovia.com offers a searchable database of various categories such as kitchen garden, water needs, Mediterranean plants, and native plants.