Cottage Gardening Guide

22 March 2011 Around The Property

cottage gardening ideas

A cottage garden can be a great summer project and you can design it any way you like!

Cottage Gardening Tips

Cottage gardening involves battling the deer, bugs, sore knees, and a bad back. This might not sound like the best way to spend your time at the lake but planting a garden at the cabin can be very rewarding.

It can be immaculately landscaped, weeded and groomed, or even left completely wild. Regardless of how you set the garden up, the hummingbirds, butterflies, and honey bees will all benefit from your efforts.

Here are a few things to consider before embarking on the cottage garden adventure.

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Time for the garden
It is important to be honest about how much time you will realistically have to dedicate to the cottage garden.  If you are barely keeping up with the regular cabin maintenance, it might be a good idea to go small and simple with the garden.

Effort to maintain the garden
Gardening can be a physically exhausting hobby. If your knees and back are already giving you some troubles, consider digging a smaller area or using pots and planters.

Save your knees with this compact combo Garden Kneeler that doubles as a comfortable gardening seat. And check out this handy bucket!

Choose plants that will attract insects and birds, not deer and bears. This is a challenge all cottage gardeners face that is not often an issue in the city. You have to account for the wildlife neighbours in the woods.

Garden budget
Annuals can get expensive and are a lot of work.  Perennials will reseed themselves.  Wildflowers are cheap and maintenance-free.  Mix and match according to time and budget.

Rainfall can be unpredictable at the cottage.  If the garden is not close to the water source, consider setting up a rain barrel to collect water when you are away from the cabin.

Watch the sun move across the property for a day to see how much light hits the area you plan to turn into the cottage garden.

Have fun.  Experiment.  Plant whatever you want!

How to Extend Plant Flowering Time

To extend the flowering time of the plants you can remove the flowers before they start to go to seed.  Once the flower has fully bloomed and begins to droop or change colour, remove it with a pair of garden shears to encourage the plant to bloom again.  This process is called deadheading. 

The general rule is to cut back to the next developing bud or set of leaves.  Some flowers that bloom at the end of a long stem should be cut off right at the base of the stem.  It will take some trial and error to get the best results. However, don’t be afraid, most of the flowers are quite resilient to being aggressively trimmed.

How to Deer-Proof Plants

While a number of plants are considered deer-resistant, the truth is that the deer will eat different things in different seasons and even in different years. 

Availability of their preferred natural plants is the main determiner of what they will eat.  If the deer population around the cottage is high, and the growing conditions for their usual forage are weak, the cottage garden is likely to be the next stop on the food trail.  Trial and error is the only true way to find a happy medium between you and the deer when it comes to the cottage garden.

Some Deer-Resistant Plants

  • Snapdragon
  • Marigold
  • Iris
  • Chive
  • Sage

Plant a border of something the deer love to eat around the edge of the garden.  Hopefully they will be content to stay at the fringe.

Homemade Deer Repellent

It may be worth trying a homemade remedy to help keep white-tailed deer from the gardens and shrubs.

Hanging Repellent
Place some soap shavings from a strongly scented soap in a sachet and hang it in the area frequented by deer.

Area Repellent
A repellent spray can be used on shrubs, and plants that you don’t plan to eat.

  • 4 gallons water
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 1 tablespoon dish soap
  • ½ cup milk

Mix this in a five-gallon pail and place the lid loosely on top.  Allow the mixture to brew for two days and then pour it into a sprayer or watering can and spray the plants in the area that needs protection.

Contact Repellent
Make a water-based solution that uses hot sauce and dish detergent.

  • 1 teaspoon of liquid dish detergent
  • 1 ounce of hot sauce
  • 1 quart of water

Place the ingredients in a watering can and sprinkle the mixture on the vegetation the deer have sampled and any others that are likely to attract attention.  The detergent will help the hot sauce stick to the leaves.
Source: Government of Manitoba problem wildlife page

These homemade contact repellents are environmentally friendly and do not harm the deer. However, applications on vegetables should be stopped at least two weeks before they will be consumed.  Wash the vegetables thoroughly to remove any residual detergent.

How to Use Compost To Fertilize The Cottage Garden

Removing garbage from the cottage is one of those necessary headaches that comes with cottages living.

One way to reduce the number of trips to the landfill station is to compost the organic waste and use it in the cottage garden.  By simply chopping the organic waste up and using a simple cottage composter you can reduce the amount of rubbish and naturally fertilize the cottage garden at the same time.

Need more Cottage Gardening Tips?
Go to the Cottage Composting page.