How to Design a Kitchen Garden: French Potager

Is a new kitchen garden on your list of things to add to your garden this year? A French potager is a beautiful way to add edibles to your garden. In this article, gardening expert Jill Drago will share her tips on how to design a French potager kitchen garden.

View of the potager kitchen garden. The garden features a wooden raised bed with growing tomatoes, carrots, onions, basil and strawberries. Behind the raised bed are vertical trellises along which a red climbing rose climbs. Dwarf fruit trees grow next to the garden bed.


Kitchen gardens are always a hit with novice and experienced gardeners alike. Whether small or grand, a kitchen garden can beautify your yard, patio, or deck while also giving you the satisfaction of growing your own food! 

A French potager is an elevated kitchen garden. That does not mean they are higher maintenance. Instead, they are intentionally planned for beauty as well as utility. 

If you would like to bump up the beauty of your kitchen garden, follow these simple steps. I hope you love your new French potager and all of its beauty. 

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What is a French Potager Garden?

Close-up of potager kitchen garden. The garden features rectangular sized wooden raised beds with a variety of herbs growing. On the raised bed is a blue sign with the words "Potager des enfants" in bright yellow. Rosemary and lavender plants grow in the garden bed.
French potagers offer a blend of beauty and utility.

French potager may sound fancy, but it is just a fancy way to say French kitchen garden. This style of kitchen garden allows herbs, fruits, vegetables, and flowers to all grow amongst each other for a truly beautiful and useful outcome. 

This style of kitchen garden has been around since the medieval times. Gardeners would plant them with ingredients needed for a soup called potage. The beds originally would be planted in the shape of a cross, with four beds each holding different plants

These gardens took off and became much more formal, and even found themselves planted in a Potager du Roi (kitchen garden of the King) at Versailles. Now you can find potagers in every shape, size, and style, from formal to cottage and even container kitchen gardens

Step 1: Select Your Space

View of an herb garden with a raised bed and clay containers. The soil between the beds is covered with small beige pebbles. Rosmarinus officinalis 'Abraxas' and Peppermint are growing in two large containers. In the background there is a lot of mint and Hebe pinguifolia growing in a raised bed.
Create your French potager garden in any space available!

French potager gardens can be quite expansive, but they do not need to be! Find the best space in your yard for you!

Traditionally, French kitchen gardens are located near the kitchen for easy access. Most herbs and vegetables require full sun and fertile soil for the best outcome. Make sure that water is nearby as well, as these types of plants typically require lots of drinks throughout the summer months. 

If you do not have enough garden space, do not worry. Raised beds, such as birdies, can be grouped together in a formal fashion to replicate a French garden without the digging! You can also use containers and window boxes on your deck or patio and get the same beautiful result. 

Plot out your plan, with measurements and everything, before you purchase any pots or plants. This will give you the best chance for success. I recommend a journal so you can take thorough notes. 

Step 2: Select Your Containers

View of a garden with three rectangular wooden raised beds and a high modern fence. Various herbs such as rosemary, basil, thyme, mint and others grow in the beds. Next to the raised beds is a wooden stepped stand with containers that also hold herbs and flowering plants such as hydrangeas and petunias. Creepers with lush dark green leaves climb up the fence. A matte black watering can sits on soil completely covered with a layer of small pebbles of a beige-cream hue. A large white Labrador dog lies under one of the raised beds.
Prepare your containers and raised beds for your French potager.

If you are not going to plant your veggies straight into the ground, it is time to get shopping (or repurposing) containers. 

French potagers grow very nicely in raised beds. These beds keep the classic look of a neat, plotted-out garden but are moveable and easy to care for. You could use as many raised beds as you wish. This will depend on how much space you have and how much work you are willing to take on. Sometimes, it is best to start small. You can always add on next year!

If you do not have the space or time for a collection of raised beds, a cluster of different-sized terracotta pots or window boxes will work perfectly. 

If you are using pots or raised beds this is the time to clean them with soap and water, or vinegar. Fill them with a raised bed soil mix and some compost. Once this is done, you are ready to roll!

Step 3: Select Your Plants

This is the fun part! Try using unique varieties or heirloom varieties of plants for added beauty. Add local or native flowers to increase the amount of local pollinators while also being friendly to your local ecosystem. 

While selecting your plants, keep color and texture in mind. This will help to make your garden visually appealing, which is important in a potager. 


Close-up of Rosemary and Oregano plants in rustic flower pot in the garden. The Oregano plant presents a bushy growth habit with woody stems covered in small, oval-shaped leaves. The Rosemary plant features slender, needle-like leaves densely arranged on woody stems, giving it a bushy appearance. Two wooden signs with white inscriptions "Rosemary" and "Oregano" are inserted into the pot.
Incorporate herbs into your French potager for flavor and pollination!

Herbs are an excellent foundation for your potager kitchen garden. They provide added flavor to your culinary dishes and produce beautiful flowers that will help attract pollinators. These pollinators are needed in a kitchen garden to boost fruit productivity!


Tall lavender is just as lovely as shorter varieties. The blossoms are fragrant, but the stems are a bit longer and will blow in the breeze a bit. Use this flower in bouquets for aromatherapy, lemonade, or baked goods.


Broadleaf sage is a must-have in my herb garden. It is so beautiful. If you allow it to flower you will be treated with purple-blue flowers. This is a drought-tolerant herb that attracts pollinators. Use sage as a digestive aid in soups or vegetable and meat dishes.


Thyme is one of the most versatile herbs out there, both in the garden and in the kitchen. Thyme produces beautiful aromatic leaves. Plant this herb in the ground, in a container, in a window box, or a hanging basket. Use thyme in soups, meat dishes, veggie dishes, and sauces.


Oregano is a woody perennial that is beautiful when planted in containers or hanging baskets. Use this herb fresh or dried. Oregano compliments fish, and poultry dishes nicely as well as tomatoes and other vegetable dishes.


You are likely familiar with Genovese basil, but for added color in your potager, try purple petra basil. The flavor is similar, just a bit more mild and sweet. Use purple petra in the same way you would use classic basil: pestos, pasta, or with fresh slices of tomatoes for a yummy snack.


Mint is a staple in kitchen gardens. Pineapple mint adds a new fun pop of color and flavor that will accent your potager perfectly. The leaves are variegated, and the plant will produce mauve flowers if you allow this plant to blossom. The flavor is sweet and has a hint of apple flavor. Use mint in teas, on salads, in cocktails, or to help with upset stomachs.


Rosemary is a beautiful herb that can be grown indoors when the summer months end. Plant this herb in a container if you plan to do that. The leaves of this herb can be used in meat dishes as well as soups and sauces. The flowers are a lovely shade of purple, and pollinators love them!


Chives are fun and are a great herb to plant with kids. The long grasslike blades can easily be chopped and added to salads, potatoes, or any dish that could use a mild onion flavor. The flowers are beautiful and can be collected for a kitchen table bouquet.


View of a vegetable garden with wooden raised beds. Tomatoes, corn, eggplants, cucumbers and others grow in the beds. In the foreground there is a raised bed with growing lettuce plants. Lettuce plants exhibit a rosette growth habit with tender, wide and rounded leaves arranged in a loose, compact fashion. The leaves have a bright light green color.
Choose vegetables you love and visually pleasing varieties for potager.

When selecting vegetables for your kitchen garden, first select vegetables that you and your family like to eat. Next, select beautiful varieties. The French potager should be useful and pleasing to your eye.

Swiss Chard

The colorful stems and veins of this Swiss chard variety are the perfect pop of color for your potager. This leafy green is related to beets, but it does not produce an edible root. The leaves can be harvested for salads or sautees. Swiss chard is a cool-weather plant that can be grown in spring and again in the fall.

Blue Kale

Dazzling Blue Kale is a great green to grow in cool weather. You can wait for this kale to mature or you can pluck baby greens to use in salads. Mature leaves can be sauteed and added to other dishes. The leaves are a purple-blue hue and will add a softness to your potager.

Romaine Lettuce

Parris Island Cos Romaine lettuce is a quick-growing lettuce that is easy to harvest and easy to use. Romaine is the perfect salad green.

Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes such as ‘Chocolate Cherry’ are easy to grow, easy to harvest, and delicious right off of the vine. This variety will continue to produce gorgeous tomatoes all season long.

Mini Eggplant

Mini eggplants such as ‘Jewel Amethyst’ are a fun addition to a potager. These jewel-colored veggies grow nicely in containers. The more you harvest the more eggplant you will get!

Pole Beans

Pole beans offer height to your potager and are perfect for growing up a trellis or fence. Try ‘Trionfo Violetto’ for beautiful purple flowers as well as pods.


Cabbage is a classic potager plant. Cabbage is filling and can be used in soups as well as other savory dishes. Choose a red or green cabbage based on what colors you would like to add to your garden.


Close-up of a ripe strawberry plant on a white wooden raised bed in a sunny garden. The strawberry plant features glossy, dark green foliage arranged in clusters of three leaves, known as trifoliate leaves, which grow close to the ground. These leaves serve as a backdrop for the vibrant red, heart-shaped fruits that dangle from delicate stems. Each ripe strawberry boasts a glossy exterior, with seeds dotting its surface.
Berries are perfect additions, offering structure and delicious fruits.

Fruits may seem tricky to add to your kitchen garden, but they aren’t. In fact, in most areas, berries grow as perennial shrubs, meaning they would be doing double work in your garden, providing perennial structure and, of course, fruit. 

  • Strawberries are easy to find at local garden centers. These perennials do well in the ground or in a container such as a strawberry pot. 
  • Dwarf fruit trees such as citrus, fig, or apple are perfect for a potager. Depending on where you live, you can plant these trees in a large container and bring them indoors for the winter. 


Close-up of a tall wooden raised bed with Nasturtium vines in bloom in a sunny garden. The Nasturtium vine showcases a trailing growth habit with delicate, round leaves of bright green. Its slender stems produce a profusion of vibrant, trumpet-shaped flowers of bright orange-red color. Callirhoe digitata are blooming next to the raised bed.
Enhance your garden with ornamental flowers and edible blooms.

Adding ornaments is so fun. Intermingle these pretty flowers with your edibles, bonus if you plant edible flowers! Add plants that you would like to cut and use in bouquets, or that you would just like to enjoy out in your garden. 

  • Nasturtium is the perfect kitchen garden flower because it is beautiful and edible! The Alaska Variegated variety is stunning. 
  • Pansies are happy flowers that grow nicely in cool weather. Plant them in the spring and fall to keep pollinators buzzing around your garden. 
  • Perennial salvia produces dependable purple blossoms. Cut them back after the first round of blossoms, and you will be treated with more flowers later in the season. Pollinators love salvia.
  • Coneflowers, or echinacea, come in a variety of colors. These perennials love full sun, and the bees love them! Plant them in rows. Be sure to deadhead them if you do not want them to self-sow!
  • Cosmos are happy flowers that grow to about five feet tall. The foliage is lacey and the flowers are daisy-like. Classically cosmos are found in oranges, but the pinks of the sea shells blend are soft and pleasant. 
  • Zinnias come in a variety of colors. Try ‘Queeny Lime Orange’ for a unique shade of orange and green that would offset your beautiful vegetables. 
  • For a more formal floral addition, simply plant some roses. You could opt for larger shrubs or shorter rambling roses to line the border of your beds. 
  • Sunflowers can be used to define your space. If you plant these giant annuals in a row they will be the perfect fence. Or, you could use some smaller sunflowers for added color throughout your garden. 

Step 4: Define Your Space

View of the French potager garden with raised beds and vegetable garden fences. Raised beds are arranged in two rows of four. Crops such as cabbage, onions, tomatoes, Nasturtium, carrots and others grow in the beds.
Create an enclosure with tall plants, arbors, containers, and existing fences.

Defining the space is key regardless of your French potager garden size. These gardens are intended to give you a feeling of being enclosed — think secret garden. Now, of course, many of us do not have rolling acres of land where we can plant a boxwood border around our vegetable garden. But there are other ways around it.

  1. Plant taller plants in the back of the beds
  2. Use arbors to define entry and exit ways
  3. Employ large containers with tall plants such as hydrangeas to define the border of your garden.
  4. Use existing fences for one wall of your garden. Fences are excellent for vertical growing!

While defining the space is key, that doesn’t mean that it needs to be a stark difference from the rest of your landscape. 

Step 5: Plan for Pathways

Close-up of a vegetable garden with raised beds and pathways. The paths are made of small pebbles in beige-brown shades. Plants such as kale, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and radishes grow in raised wooden beds.
Create accessible pathways with bricks, pavers, or gravel.

When you are harvesting edibles, pathways are incredibly helpful. You could set your garden up in one straight row where you can reach from the front, or you could set it up in a more formal box style. Either way, make sure you can easily reach all of your plants

If you are in it for the long haul, there are many different surfaces you could use for a garden pathway

  • Bricks
  • Pavers
  • Gravel
  • Sea Shells
  • Mulch
  • Concrete

Choose a surface that works for your garden style as well as your budget. I love the idea of starting with mulch for a few seasons, and then making a permanent decision once you know what truly works for you. 

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Step 6: Add Ornamental Structures

Close-up of a birdbath with birds in a sunny garden. The birdbath is a shallow, bowl-shaped basin made of stone, supported by a pedestal and has decorative elements in the form of frills along the edges of the bowl. The basin is filled with water. Common starlings and American robin sitting on a birdbath. Two of them are flying in the air.
Enhance your French potager with ornamental structures like trellises and birdbaths.

This is optional but is traditional when it comes to French potager gardens. The ornamental structures you add to your kitchen garden should work for you. 

  • Often a water feature is lovely. The light trickle of water creates a tranquil experience while you work in the garden.
  • A birdbath is another option that will help bring birds and other pollinators to your kitchen garden.
  • Plant stakes count as well! Tomato cages and bean poles offer great height. You can find attractive versions of these basic garden tools on the market if you want to give your garden a boost.
  • Trellises, arbors, gateways, and other fencing can be extremely useful for defining space and giving taller plants support.

Step 7: Replant!

Close-up of a gardener's hands transplanting a young lettuce seedling into a raised bed. Onions and other young seedlings also grow in the raised bed. The lettuce seedling has a small root ball and a rosette of bright green, oblong leaves with slightly jagged edges.
Optimize yields with succession planting.

With many traditional vegetable gardens, we visualize the beginning and the end of one crop. With a French potager when one crop, or plant, has finished producing a bountiful harvest it is time to remove the plant, add fresh compost to the garden, and plant something new!

This method is referred to as succession planting. According to West Virginia University, succession planting helps to maximize your crop yields.

You may begin the season with cool-season crops such as lettuce, asparagus, or beets. When those plants begin to bolt, it is time to remove them and plant your warmer season crops such as cucumbers, tomatoes, and eggplant. Depending on how long your season is, you may be able to get in another round of salad greens in the fall before your frost rolls around. You could also replant the same type of plant over and over again throughout the year if it’s something you use frequently. 

Final Thoughts

Enjoy this entire process. The planning and planting can be extremely relaxing. If you feel yourself beginning to stress, dial the garden back a bit. Add more next year once you know what will work for your schedule and your garden. 

Of course, as with any garden, a French potager will require some maintenance. You will need to water, stake, fertilize, and harvest everything in your garden. 

Do not get too down on yourself if a plant or two don’t make it. There is always next year to try again. Take note and adjust as needed.

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