Cottagecore Garden: A 5- Step Guide
5-Step Guide to Creating a
Before we get into the 5 Step Guide to Creating Cottagecore Garden, I need you to stay calm about this area.
If "I have killed every plant I've owned" went through your mind, then you are in the same place as everyone new to gardening or house plants. I'm letting you in on a secret.
During my first two years of gardening, most of my seeds didn't even come up, I managed to kill every plant that did sprout, and one year I was overtaken so badly by weeds I just let them take over! But, honestly, I only had myself to blame. I needed to do the proper research and preparation for a successful garden. My failure is a gain for you because I will teach you everything I've learned and continue to learn in the Cottagecore Garden blog.
The Cottage Garden is an 18th-century garden that fits perfectly with my gardening style. So, let's go over the basic elements of this area and their connection to cottagecore.
Elements of Cottagecore Garden:
- Food Production
- Works with Nature
- Visually Pleasing
Element 1: Food Production
When most people hear the word garden, they think of food. And yes, that was the main focus of an 18th-century cottage garden. In the rural countryside, households produced their food right there at home.
Step 1: Food Producing Plants
The first step is to learn how to grow food-producing plants. Remember, I have blogs that cover this more deeply in my Cottagecore Garden blog section. So, continue reading here, and I will direct you there at the end!
The more I research and learn about cottage gardens, the more I see the similarities to the modern practice of permaculture, a technique we use on our homestead. One method in permaculture is having your garden accessible right outside your door.
As you can see in this photo, our annual garden is right off our front porch.
Step 2: Easy Access to Your Food
Easy access to your food brings the term "eat fresh" to a new level. When you have to walk through it on your way to your front door, you can see the everyday things you might not notice if your garden is away from your house.
Step 3: Abundance of Food in a Small Space
Not only do we want our food close for use, but the goal is to produce a lot of food in a small space. Most cottages in 18th-century English villages didn't have the massive yards we have today. They had to take advantage of every inch of space.
At this phase of the garden their are cow peas and lima beans growing on a arch, yellow neck squash, egg plants, edamame, bell peppers, okra, and zinnias
Today we call that intercropping, a technique I love to use! I get more bang for my time and garden space this way.
Step 4: Add Fruit Trees and Bushes
Cottage gardens also have fruit trees and bushes surrounding the outside areas. Trees and bushes create a natural windbreak and provide shelter for the critters, which is essential to doing less work for you. We will get more into this in the element of nature.
Food is our main priority, but so is healing. Healing can come from the nurturing veggies we grow, but we also want our gardens to blend food, herbs, and medicinal plants.
Element 2: Healing
Our goal is to mimic what a garden of the 18th century would have looked like and the functionality of a cottage garden. Rural folk had to be self-sufficient in producing food and herbal medicine. Most homes had a small cupboard that served as their home apothecary.
Medical plants and their uses are a broad, deep topic that is too much to cover here. I am in the learning stages and can make simple syrups and tonics. So, I've focused on growing medical plants at my disposal as I get deeper into their uses. So, for this blog, we will focus on herbs that are not just used to flavor our food but are commonly used to heal the body of ailments.
Most herbs are easy to grow and adaptable to different growing locations in and around your home. I have successfully raised herbs in pots, especially the ones that spread through their root systems. I love growing basil in pots next to my front door because of the pleasing aroma you get as you walk by. You can easily grow rosemary and mint in pots in your kitchen, which will also help you achieve the Cottagecore aesthetic
Having a separate section for an herb garden is also an excellent idea. I have a designated herb garden right outside my kitchen window. It helps me to track which herbs I have available for all my cottagecore kitchen and medical needs. A bonus you will get with a lot of medical plants is flowers! Flowers are essential in all our gardens because of their connection with nature.
Element 3: Nature in the Cottagecore Garden
As you've probably figured out by now, cottage gardens differ from your typical row after row of tomatoes and corn. We have a mixture of different vegetables, fruit trees and bushes, flowers, and herbs, providing the habitats for our beneficial critters. We often hear that bugs in the garden are bad news, and yes, some are, but your beneficial insects are worth their weight in food gold!
What are beneficial bugs? These are the bugs that help in the garden. Such as ladybugs that eat aphids, bees and butterflies that help to pollinate your plants and help with reproduction, dragonflies are your best bet against mosquitoes, and praying mantis are the assassins in the garden! Bugs aren't our only allies.
Spiders, lizards, and toads also eat their weight in bugs. Don't shoo them away because they can be out working on bug control while you are gone and even sleeping at night! Another nightly worker is bats. Bats are our night sky patrol, and birds are our day patrol for insects.
Birds will not only help with insects but can often help with pollination and spreading seeds. Birds' beautiful songs will fill the air in the morning and afternoon. They can even be a natural alarm system, as most have a call alerting all others that something isn't right.
We often have birds like this red bird hopping around the patio garden looking for a bug snack!
The gardens and fruit trees will provide most of the shelter and food, but we can add a few more things to help our cottage garden friends out.
- Toad houses
- Water features
- Bird baths
- Bird feeders for winter
- Lizard houses
- Bat houses
Element 4: Cottagecore Gardens = Visually Pleasing
As I mentioned before, your garden should be a place to sit and enjoy a good book and tea. You want to create an inviting space for yourself without destroying the nature around you.
Here are some ideas:
- Raised beds- can keep your garden looking organized while blending into nature. They are the easiest way to grow my plants. Raised beds can come in all different shapes and sizes.
- Vertical- think vertical! Add a trellis your plants can grow up, creating not only more space by going up, but they tend to enclose the space making it feel cozy.
- Layering- layering pots in different sizes and colors
- Sitting Areas - Add a comfortable place to sit and enjoy your coffee.
- Arches- They are not only visually pleasing but are a great way to grow vining plants. One of our favorite plants to grow on an arc is the luffa gourd, which creates an Alice in Wonderland feel as they hang from under the arch.
- Flowers of different heights will create a balance your eyes will love.
- Pergolas are also a way to add a shaded sitting area that can double for growing vining plants.
- Avoid grass- this seems odd, but grassy areas aren't a part of an 18th-century cottage garden. Paths lined with hay or woodchips are a more natural way to go, but frequently used routes with aesthetically pleasing stone walkways.
- Little Trinkets- You can add little trinkets throughout our garden areas. Most people pick something they like; for me, that is mushrooms. I have very visible mushrooms, but some I have hidden for a special surprise.
You can even focus heavily on flowers. Tradistional English Cottage gardens would provide whole areas for flowers. Here is a beautiful example of these classic gardens here at Garden Illustrated Tour of Sissinghurst
Element 5: Sustainability
Now that we have a beautiful garden, we want to keep it healthy and mimic nature as closely as possible. Here is where sustainability comes in.
We want to ensure that the things we do in our garden will have long-lasting effects, not short-term fixes. We don't use synthetic fertilizers or poisons, but instead find natural alternatives. Are we using practices and techniques that mimic what nature would do? Here are some examples that we use in our cottagedcore gardens.
- Composting is mixing plant matter and other organic elements to create a nutrient soil amendment. In other words, you take all the organic waste, such as kitchen scraps, grass clipping if you have them, and plant cuttings from your garden, then mix them and let them sit and decompose.
- You then place your compost into the garden to help fertilize your soil. You can make a special place in the back of your garden just for composting. Just be prepared to wait, it is a process that takes time, and you will see results in the next year. Follow my Composting 101 guide for all the details!
Worm Composting Bins
- Worm composting bins may be a better solution if you don't have space for a composting bin. You can buy or make your worm bin that can stay in a garage, mud room, or even outside if you find the right place.
- Like composting, you throw your kitchen scraps into the bin, but now you have worms that will eat up all the food and leave you with valuable worm castings. These worm castings are an excellent fertilizer!
Collecting Rain Water
- Collecting Rain Water was a standard, practical solution in cottage gardens during the 18th century. It was one of the only choices besides bringing water in from a village well or local river. But it's more than just practical. Rainwater is better for our plants than water out of the water hoes, and here is why:
- Rainwater naturally contains nitrogen. Plants need nitrogen to thrive and produce lush foliage. It is a form of nitrogen that plants can absorb.
- Rainwater is 100% soft water, free of salts, minerals, treatment chemicals, and pharmaceuticals found in municipal water, groundwater, and surface water.
- Rainwater is slightly acidic and, by nature's design, is the perfect pH level that plants need and love!
Cottagecore gardening focuses on slow gardening and works with a natural process of how the garden can grow and develop. It should be a pleasurable experience to work amongst the flowers and veggies. You also what to attract birds and butterflies to your yard. It should be a place to sit and enjoy a good book and tea. If this sounds like a fantastic place to be, then a cottagecore garden is for you!
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