How to properly lay out a cottage garden - tips on floor plan and planting plan

How to properly lay out a cottage garden - tips on floor plan and planting plan

Floor plan follows ancient traditions - overview of the basic elements

The splendid monastery gardens of the Middle Ages served the farmers as models for their own garden design. The traditional St. Gallen monastery plan from 826 shows a concept with four supporting pillars: fruit, herb and vegetable gardens are arranged around a large cloister. Since the rural population had less fertile land than the well-heeled monks, the elements of the monastery gardens unite in the cottage garden. The resulting floor plan with the following components is still valid today:

  • 4 square or rectangular beds with edging form the basic structure
  • 3 beds are reserved for vegetable plants, 1 bed accommodates crop plants and herbs that are true to their location
  • A crossroads serve as access to each bed
  • The centerpiece is a fruit tree, fountain, rose circle or pavilion

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A circumferential path and a fence mark the boundary to the outside. A distance of 60 to 100 cm between the path and the fence creates space for additional planting areas on which berry bushes traditionally thrive. If there is enough space, decorative elements made from natural materials give the cottage garden a true-to-original appearance. A bench made of natural stone or a fountain made of burnt bricks and path surfaces made of bark mulch or gravel fit perfectly into the historical concept.

Ideas for border and fencing

The mixed culture rules in a particularly pronounced form in the true-to-original cottage garden. The bed borders (€ 26.90 at Amazon *) and the fencing of the property ensure order in the colorful appearance. Natural materials and robust perennials do this job with flying colors. Browse through the following ideas to create your cottage garden true to the original:

Border borders

  • Bergilex (Ilex crenata)
  • Zwergliguster (Ligustrum vulgare)
  • Lavender (Lavender officinalis)
  • Thyme (thymus)
  • Tagetes (Tagetes)
  • Blue pillow (Aubrieta)
  • Alternatively: small wattle fence, upright wooden posts or low dry stone walls


  • Picket fence made of untreated chestnut wood
  • Wicker fence made of willow
  • Hunting fence made of unglazed spruce or pine wood
  • Wooden fence with fence sugars like hollyhocks, clematis or dahlias
  • Evergreen or deciduous hedge shrubs

The formal, geometric floor plan as well as the fences shown create an unobtrusive order in the lively appearance of the cottage garden. This opens up plenty of scope for designing the planting plan within the individual beds, as the following section explains in more detail.

Planting plan for the decorative cottage garden - recommended plants

If laid out correctly, a cottage garden benefits from the advantages of a mixed crop with crop rotation. Specifically, ornamental and useful plants are socialized here, which promote each other's growth and protect against diseases. The garden soil remains healthy because plants with similar nutrient requirements gather in the respective bed and change to the next bed every year. The following planting plan shows how the proven concept works:

Bed 1 (heavy eaters)

For the first year in your cottage garden, plan vegetable plants with a high nutritional requirement for bed 1. This includes all types of cabbage, such as cauliflower (Brassica oleracea var. Botrytis), Brussels sprouts (Brassica oleracea var. Gemmifera) or broccoli (Brassica oleracea). Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus), potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) and tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) also fall into this category. Foxglove (Digitalis), sunflowers (Helianthus) or delphinium (Consolida ajacis) make for beautiful flowers.


The art of planting in the cottage garden is to combine mixed culture and crop rotation in the right way. Potatoes and tomatoes are among the heavy eaters. The mixed culture forbids neighbors in the bed due to the high risk of infection from late blight and brown rot.

Bed 2 (central eater)

A wide range of medium-eating vegetables brings variety to the local menu. From crispy salads such as lettuce (Lactuca sativa) and endive (Cichorium endivia) to juicy beetroot (Beta vulgaris) to very healthy spinach (Spinacia oleracea) and hearty carrots (Daucus), you are spoiled for choice. Colorful flowers like to join in, like peonies (Paeonia), purple bells (Heuchera) and Columbines (Aquilegia vularis).

Bed 3 (low eater)

In the third bed you settle low-eating vegetable plants, which move into bed 1 of the heavy-eaters in the second year, because they are content with what nutrients potatoes and cabbage leave. Rockcress (Arabis caucasica) and pansy (Viola) harmonize wonderfully with peas (Pisum sativum), lentils (Lens culinaris) or purslane (Portulaca oleracea). Onion flowers such as snowdrops (Galanthus) or crocuses (Crocus) ensure a blooming start to the garden year. At the end of the gardening year, the autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale) saffron (Crocus sativus) shine in their bloom.

Bed 4 (location loyalty)

Beet 4 is predestined for long-lived, local vegetable plants such as rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum) or strawberries (Fragaria). Herbal plants of all kinds are also welcome here, such as sage (Salvia), wild garlic (Allium ursinum) and parsley (Petroselinum crispum). Symbolic cottage garden flowers adorn the bed with their pretty blossoms, such as Madonna lilies (Lilium candidum) or Mary's flowers, known as daisies (Bellis perennis).


Can't you decide between an English garden and a cottage garden? Then simply combine both garden concepts with each other, as is celebrated in the legendary Sissinghurst Castle. In addition to the world-famous White Garden and Rose Garden, another garden room is dedicated to the historical concept of the cottage garden.