Kitchen Garden Design
My first kitchen garden design, began with the four square system, which is one of the oldest and most practical methods that goes back seven centuries. The design has evolved through the ages, and in its best form, combines classic design with the principles of organic gardening. A four square garden simplifies the process of figuring out where to place your plants every year, since you are grouping plants based on plant family, while naturally building the soil to improve productivity.
When plants are grown in the same location year after year they can be weakened by soil borne diseases. In the four square garden, you are creating a garden that will be self sustaining as well as self improving every year. You are working with nature to constantly upgrade the natural balance in your vegetable garden. Start by dividing your garden into four equal squares, and designate each bed marked by the plant type and what they need nutritionally.
Lettuce and other leafy greens, are grown in the bed marked “Nitrogen”. Mark another bed “Potassium” for the root crops, to sow the carrots, beets, and onion family. Another bed will contain the “Phosphorus” loving crops, or anything that forms a fruit such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Finally, you will have “Soil Builders” which represent the legume family, including beans and peas, which release nitrogen back into the soil. At the end of the season, rotate the crops so the leafy greens will be planted where the legumes had grown, and the legumes where the root crops had grown, etc.
A four square garden does not have to be square. Look for examples of how to integrate the four square method into a classic, kitchen garden design, and draw inspiration from this artful interpretation from Chateau de Villandry, and the simple, compact monastery potager below. To see more examples of potagers design, visit my pinterest site.