8 best crops for a potager

For a complete kitchen garden, here are the top crops to plant

An artful garden

Photo by Jacqueline Koch

An artful garden

“Gardening is all about making really good food a part of my life on a daily basis,” says Joan Caine, who used to teach cooking classes out of her home north of Seattle. That’s why—after years of gazing wistfully out her front window at the property’s only sunny patch and imagining a kitchen garden there—Joan hired landscape designer Cameron Scott to make the potager a reality.

Cameron dug up some lawn, put down gravel, then built bottomless raised beds of oxidized (and recycled) Cor-ten steel that look more like sculpture than planters. “I love working with it because you can build such sexy curves,” says Cameron. And the 1/4-inch-thick metal absorbs the sun’s heat, helping to warm the soil in cool weather.

Joan packs the beds with herbs and salad greens in spring, then beans, cucumbers, and zucchini in summer. “We pull our table right up by the raised beds,” she says, “and eat out there.”

For these raised beds, looks, growing speed, and happiness in tight quarters are the qualities you’re looking for. Most of these grow rapidly from seedlings—start beans and carrots from seed, though, since they don’t transplant well.

Design: Cameron Scott, Exteriorscapes, Seattle (exteriorscapes.com)

Chives

Photo by Thomas J. Story

Chives

The grasslike foliage forms neat mounding plants—perfect for clustering in the spiral bed. Showy rose-purple flowers are a bonus. Sunset climate zones 4–9, 14–24.

More: Growing chives

Mint

Photo by Thomas J. Story

Mint

If you have room to grow only one kind, go with spearmint (Mentha spicata); more recipes call for this mint than any other type. Zones A2, A3, 1–24.

More: Growing spearmint

Beans

Photo by Mark Turner

Beans

Bush-type snap beans bear their crops earlier, but pole types are more productive. Train them on trellises (insert poles 2 feet apart). Zones 3–6, 8–10, 14–17.

More: Growing beans

Cucumbers

Photo by Burpee

Cucumbers

To save space and encourage longer, straighter fruit, grow cukes in a cage or on a trellis. Zones 8–9, 11, 17.

More: Growing cucumbers

Carrots

Photo by Thomas J. Story

Carrots

Consider long-rooted ‘Envy’, half-long Nantes types, or colorful varieties such as ‘Purple Haze’ or ‘Red Samurai’. Zones 3, 6, 8–10, 14–16, 18–19.

More: Growing carrots

Zucchini

Photo by Kimberley Navabpour

Zucchini

Try a bush variety such as ‘Ronde de Nice’, a French heirloom, which bears round fruit on a tidy bush about 24 inches tall. Zones 7–11, 14–19.

More: Growing zucchini and summer squash

Arugula

Photo by Damien Scogin

Arugula

This compact plant packs a lot of flavor despite its size, and it grows quickly from seed. ‘Astro’ tolerates some heat. Zones 4–9.

More: Growing arugula

Lettuce

Photo by Damien Scogin

Lettuce

Loose-leaf types such as ‘Oak Leaf’ (green) and ‘Red Sails’ (red-tinged) are as pretty in raised beds as they are in salads. Zones 1–6.

More: Growing lettuce

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http://www.sunset.com/garden/fruits-veggies/potager-garden-00418000077737/