To Plant a Garden…

…is to believe in tomorrow. 

Since we’re starting the potager from scratch, it’s hard to reign in all of our ideas. But the practical side and the creative side have combined to come up with a solution that will be great for us. We don’t want to grow TOO much—we are only two, after all. But we also don’t want have to expand it anytime soon.

Placement. Even though we have 2 and 3/4 acres, there aren’t many areas that get nice sun and are appropriate for planting. Below is a site plan of our lot. We were instructed to not build any garden over the septic system—and that takes an enormous chunk out of the available candidate areas. We didn’t want it behind the guest house since we’ve started more fruit trees there and the rest has large shade trees. And so we’re putting it down in the corner of the lot (top right-hand corner in photo). It’s flat. It’s sunny. It’s a little walk from the house, but think it’ll be perfect.

Layout. Since we plan to age in place on this property, and because our back/knees/hands aren’t getting stronger with age, we decided to make high raised beds. This will not only be ergonomically viable in our golden years, it will discourage certain ground diseases and certainly help keep the rabbits and snails out. We’ll be incorporating our own spin of ‘square foot gardening’ techniques and the ‘no-dig’ method, with beds no wider than 120 cm (4 feet) so we can reach the middle of each bed without ever stepping on the soil. Our plan is to mix vegetables, berries, and flowers for a cornucopia of delicious and beautiful things to pick.

Raised Beds. We’re excited to start from scratch using leftover rock from the property to build the ‘walls’ of the beds. The plan at this point is to bring in a mason to stack the stones using mortar between, trying to keep the walls as thin as is practical. The beds will be 75 cm tall (30″) for ease of access.

Our current pile of rocks.

Another completely different concept of a raised bed, but I love the idea of keeping lettuces in easy reach and being able to relocate the growing table as needed for shade and access.

Inside the Beds. We plan to implement our own version of the Hugelkultur technique: old logs and branches on the bottom of the beds (above gopher wire, of course), then a layer of upturned sod (from the making of the garden paths), then layers of wood ash, mulched leaves, composted chicken manure from a local farmer, hay, grass clippings, and end with rich topsoil mixed with as much of our homegrown compost as we can muster. This technique is purported to cut down drastically on watering, although the raised bed idea may negate this philosophy somewhat. It is all a big research project. Isn’t gardening always a wonderful little science experiment? That’s what I love—have an idea, make notes, and adjust according to the successes and failures.

Oh, to find a VINTAGE obelisk. Sigh!!!

We’ll use these in the corners of the beds for vining plants.

Follies. We wanted a tall obelisk-y something-or-another in the middle of the layout for architectural interest. Just because. Then we’ll use other more down-to-earth teepees made from bamboo poles from our ‘bamboo forest’  in the corners of the long beds.

Forgot about this idea I had tucked away. Beautiful AND practical!

Water. We do not have a water tap down there yet, but have a couple of ideas on creative water usage. One is to install a water storage tank to collect rainwater from the garage (it will be mostly out of site). The lot slopes down from where the tank would be to the garden area. We will need to see if the pressure created by the drop in altitude will be enough to rig up a drip irrigation system. The other possibility is to use the existing well on the property. We need to borrow a pump, empty it and see if it’s viable. Several neighbors have very healthy wells, so we’re optimistic about using this water to fill the tank in the dryer summer months.

Great way to integrate rainwater tank into the landscape.

Deer. Because we hear and see many deer in the neighboring fields and forest, we fear that they will jump over our 1 meter fence and munch away on all our proudest achievements. We’ve asked around and some gardeners say they’re a problem, but most say they don’t bother their veggie gardens (although ours promises to have some really yummy flowers as well). So the jury’s still out on the fence. Perhaps we’ll proceed with building the raised beds, see what happens, and consider a tall deer fence later if needed.

For those of you who know that Cindy’s a closet bunny lover, you’ll just understand this photo…

Walkways. Still undecided what to use for the walkways between beds, but we know we don’t want to fight weeds. The aisles will mostly be a meter wide, so there’s plenty of room for the cart. We plan to put down cardboard to kill what’s there and add either straw or wood chips, which can then be recycled in the compost pile.

And now, to leave you with something silly…

This entry was posted in American Expats in France, Expat Blog, Gardening in the Dordogne, Renovating a Home in France, Southwest France American Expat Blog. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to To Plant a Garden…

  1. Kim Meuli Brown says:

    Great ideas. Thanks for sharing.

    • Kim Meuli Brown says:

      What program did you use for planning out the garden design ?

      • says:

        Hi Kim. I bought a little program called Grow Veg (, because they have all the microclimates for Europe. You could go to for your use. It is extremely easy to use and quite flexible. Now I need to plan out my front flower beds, as they’re now turned over and almost ready to plant!!! Yeah, I LOVE spring!!!

  2. Maria and David Hayes says:

    Hi- Will you guys try calling. We don’t have your number
    Love, Love, Love your garden plans

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