potager design

Each year I sketch the kitchen garden to picture what will live in the protected, somewhat rabbit-free potager and what can thrive outside it, integrated into the beautiful perennial garden along the lake. I learn more every year, happily. Last summer’s disaster of crashing tomato vines, at once productive (for the tomatoes) and destructive (for everything else) has led to this redesign.


After much gazing through images of arches, bamboo sculptures, wires tensioned like bridges, and obelisks, I’ve made a plan. I hope to build traditional trellises, the tuteur, out of cedar. The obelisk is such an old fashioned feature of an English garden, and should lend my funny veg patch some order. See the circles in my drawing? There they are. I can grow peas up them early in the year, and tomatoes later on, benefitting from the nitrogen they’ll set. They ought to be very strong and very tall, and in place well before the vines are planted, quite in contrast to last summer’s toppling bamboo frames. They might be quite pretty through the winter, too. I like that the pyramid-shape will keep the tomatoes from shading out too much of the garden, though a wall of tomatoes is quite tempting.

Below the drawings I’ve listed all the plants that might do best in the potager, with some vague ideas about the shelling pea bushes giving way to pepper plants, to be replaced later on by kales or purple-sprouting-broccolis. Spinach or lettuce might like to live in the center of the wide obelisks in spring, to be shaded out by vining tomatoes by summer to give them a little more time. Beans will enjoy growing up the bamboo that live at the north end, or along the fence. There. That’s the idea.

In one section I’ll swap out a cucumber frame for coldframes, after harvest-time. I hope to keep a series of seedlings at the ready to plant into this space throughout the summer, and leave us with some plants that can weather our maritime winter.

I’m quite fond of dotted-graph paper for its subtle order, in which 1 square: 1 foot, loosely measured off of our unruly garden space.

First I’ve laid out a hose across the land to get some idea of how the new path will run, with modifications for the irrigation system. Oh right. Later I’ll toss down some wood shavings, then wood chips to mark off the path. For now I must move slowly, recovering from an illness, yet compelled by tiny seedlings appearing under the coldframes. Wish me luck with the tuteur construction!

green tomato chutney

It feels very satisfying to use up the last of the homegrown green tomatoes. They went into a simple chutney, the first I’ve tried making.


Lots of chopped tomatoes, apples from our friend’s garden, raisins, shallots;


Some sugar, minced ginger, sea salt, cayenne and a couple of cups of apple cider vinegar. I would have liked to use cardamom.


I let it simmer for a couple of hours, then poured it into hot, sterile jars.


I’m rather pleased with the result, though it seems like for now green tomato chutney is not something the children want to eat. (Or smell while cooking!) More for us! Do you make chutney? What do you eat it with?


Planning for the holidays in October seems very wise. I might do this someday. For now the necessity to use up rather a lot of green tomatoes is our incentive, and the mince filling will age nicely for mince tarts, or pie, or a trifle.


This will be our first winter holiday in England, our first away from family in Canada, so the recipe my mother sent is needed to get us through any homesickness.

  • 6 green tomatoes
  • 6 tart apples, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups raisins
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmet
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 fruit juice
  • 1/2 cup citron peel, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange rind
  • 1/4 cup rum

Chop tomatoes, apples, and raisins.


Measure into preserving kettle and simmer
gently til thick. Pour into sterile jars and


Makes 3 quarts, to fill three 9″ pies or
dozens of tarts. Bake in 400 degree F oven
for 20 to 25 minutes.


I still have many green tomatoes after all this, so I shall try chutney next! Do you make your own mincemeat? Do you use a traditional recipe with suet?

green tomatoes

What shall I do with all of these green tomatoes? I harvested another bucketful yet. Better late than never. Our first glut…never mind that it’s green. Chutney? Mincemeat? There were a couple of cucumbers hiding behind the tomato wilderness, and a courgette.


And these carrots, which grew in a deep pot. I’m very pleased.