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California Homestead & Potager: Key Learnings from Joy Larkcom’s “Creative Vegetable Gardening”

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In this post we share key learnings from In this post we share key learnings from Joy Larkcom’s “Creative Vegetable Gardening”, a book that provides valuable insights, inspiration, and practical advice for creating a beautiful and productive kitchen garden or potager.

Larkcom’s requirements for a kitchen garden: be decorative, everything must be virtually edible, and have some sort of practical use.

Core question: how can we create a garden that transitions from summer to winter? How do we group and make a feature out of vegetables that retain color and form in the winter?

What is a potager? How is this different than a kitchen garden? Is it different than a kitchen garden?

There are two meanings: 1) kitchen garden; 2) formal, designed, ornamental kitchen garden.

Potager inspiration comes from all over the world and has roots in Europe.


  1. Château Villandry at Loire Valley, France
  2. Rosemary Verey – Barsley House in Gloucestershire, England
  3. 16th century château gardens
  4. Abbey community in the 10th + 11th centuries; monks tending to their gardens
  5. Saint Ignatius “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.”
  6. William Lawson: practical gardening books
    • The Country Housewife’s Garden
    • A New Orchard and Garden
    • Core ideas: network of paths into patterns of small and narrow beds “so the weeder did not need to tread the soil” but “division need not be too severe” between flowers and vegetables

Edible landscaping

  • Robert Kourik consciously incorporated useful plants into the garden landscape.
  • Rosalind Creasy is an excellent practitioner of Kourik’s designs.

Things to consider in portager design: colors, patterns, shape and height

What are the elements of design in a portager?

There are four design stages:

  1. Surveying (measuring) the site and preparing a sketch
  2. Making a scale drawing
  3. Designing a garden on the scale of the plan
  4. Setting out the design on the site

Different kinds of portager plans:

  1. Formal potager
  2. Informal potager
  3. Small urban potager
  4. Low maintenance potager
  5. Winter potager

Patterns and bed shapes:

  1. Squares
  2. Diamonds and triangles
  3. Circles
  4. Unconventional patterns
  5. Minimal patterns

Other elements to consider incorporating:

  • Boundaries
  • Hedges
  • Paths

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