Crofter Cottage

I live in a Victorian crofter’s cottage, or homesteading farm cottage, in a small town on the coast in the UK. The house was built in the 1870s, but not much of the vast land that once belonged to the old crofter’s cottage remains. Most of it has been sold off to build neighboring houses, but its secluded positioning remains quite special and I have tried to incorporate some of the ideas of homesteading into our life.

In the UK, homesteading is known as smallholding and our house would have been built as the farmhouse for an agricultural smallholding in the middle of the Victorian era.

We bought the crofter’s cottage three years ago from a family of builders. When they bought the house a few years prior,  the house had stood derelict for many years. Locals told us the old cottage slipped into disrepair after it had become too much for the previous owner, an elderly gentleman, to maintain on his own.

About ten years ago, the last part of the house’s extensive plot was finally sold by the previous owners: to their parents who are also builders. They then built a house next door.

Today, two separate houses, ours and theirs, stand on the plot. Both are secluded away from the main road and accessed by a private lane. We share a graveled front lot with them and on our side, there is space enough for two or three cars alongside my primary fruit and veg plot, the small cottage garden.

The property before, derelict, about 20 years ago and the property now – house drive and small veggie plot.
The property about 20 years ago, derelict, and the property now with a house drive and small veggie plot.

Old and New

What attracted us to the old crofter’s cottage was that it has a great mix of old and new features. It was built from traditional clay stone specific to the region. The garage was added only a few years ago in modern stone, but we liked that the brickwork is sympathetic to the features of the traditional construction.

The Kitchen Garden

My goal for my homestead has always been to grow a variety of food in a small space and in containers, to feed a small family of three for at least a year.

The crofter’s cottage faces a southwest aspect, so I decided to make use of the space at the front of the house and make this space my primary kitchen garden area. Here I grow some of my vegetables, fruit plants, as well as my rose and dahlia beds and potted flowers.

The veggie plot in summer.

No Dig

The basic No Dig Gardening Method is a method of gardening I use in my small kitchen garden plot that was pioneered by British gardener Charles Dowding, who I recently met on one of his demo days on a nearby farm. It is a regenerative gardening method that is efficient, accessible, and low maintenance, once you get the basic principles right.

The basic principle of No Dig is working with the active biomes in the soil. Rather than digging, turning, and disturbing the soil to prepare it for planting, you add nutrient-dense organic matter to your beds, such as well-rotted farmyard manure, homemade compost, or blood and bonemeal to your beds or plot around November, to be ready for planting in spring (where I am in the UK falls under the US Hardiness Zone 9A).

Square-Foot Gardening and Succession Planting

To maximize my yield for my efforts and limited space, I combine No Dig gardening with square foot divisions. My kitchen garden bed out front is 6ft x 4ft (approximately 1.80cm x 120cm). I divide the bed into square-foot divisions with twine. This enables me to grow a large variety of crops in a small space. How many of each crop is planted in each division is simply down to the size of the final plant.

To ensure that I am always harvesting food, I overwinter vegetable staples like hardy broccoli and kale in the raised garden bed. Things like kale, spinach, and carrots can be harvested throughout the year. Overwintered broccoli is usually ready to harvest by March. I then begin filling the bed around March with mid-summer crops like cut-and-come-again salad leaves, soft neck garlic, peas, and beans that I germinate in the unheated greenhouse from February and plant out a month later.

I then use up the rest of the grids with summer/fall crops such as beets, calendula, and cucumber. Once the early-sown broccoli and salad greens have been harvested, they are removed and composted, and they are replaced by whatever is ready to go in from the greenhouse. This means I am perpetually sowing and harvesting from late January to October or even November, when I sow winter salad for the greenhouse.

Starting the beds in Spring and my illustrated square foot gardening planting plans.

The Greenhouse

One of the first structures I added to my property was a white wooden Victorian greenhouse. I have lived in properties in the past which came with a greenhouse, so I was well-versed in the benefits of greenhouse gardening. Its main advantage is to lengthen the growing season by a few months on either side of spring and summer and the ability to add tender, tropical plants to my collection.

The structure stands on a concrete pad poured and laid by our neighbor and is 8×10 feet. I use the structure for seed germination and to grow and overwinter tender and tropical plant species, like some of my fruit trees. It is also a lovely, quiet space to sit, think, or knit. I love puttering about in the greenhouse.

The greenhouse in summer.

Container Gardening 

The house is set on about 700 square feet of land (65 square meters) but most of this land is not arable for one reason or another (ground cover, light, etc.) so to maximize yields, I choose to grow in containers. Over the years, I have had great success growing everything from corn, peanuts, carrots, and potatoes in containers. I tend to use heavy-duty 60- and 70-liter containers with handles, felt grow bags, large decorative planters for medicinal herbs and flowers, or smaller 40- or 50-liter for things like cucumber and eggplants. I can move them around my property or in and out of the greenhouse.

My floral containers are next to my vegetable plants for biodiversity and to attract pollinators to the garden.

Fruit and Nut Trees and Plants 

As well as annual and perennial vegetable crops grown in containers and on the kitchen garden plot, I love to grow a variety of fruit trees all in containers, except for the apple tree planted as an espalier against our garden fence. Currently, I am growing two orange trees, one blood orange tree, a lemon, a lime, blueberries, raspberries, three blackberry bushes grown in hanging baskets, an array of strawberries also in hanging baskets, kiwi fruit, two grape vines, and a dwarf variety of cherry.

I also plant peanuts which are fun to grow. I keep some nuts back from each crop to use as seed for the following year.

Growing a large variety of things, including shrubs and flowers in a small space is great for welcoming wildlife like beneficial insects and amphibians into the garden which is an asset for biodiversity because a healthy ecosystem helps to ensure a bountiful harvest year in and year out.


Being in the UK, we can get a lot of rain, so we use this to our advantage. Rainwater is collected from the drainpipes on the house, garage, and greenhouse and directed to large water butts where it is stored to be used to water both front and back gardens and plants in the greenhouse. I have four water butts on the property currently that amount to 620 liters of rainwater in total. Plants respond much better to rainwater than the heavily treated water that we get from the pipes.

One of the many water butts used to store rainwater on the property,


All organic garden and kitchen waste, untreated and unmarked cardboard, egg boxes, etc. is composted in our home compost bin and, after a year or so of breaking down together with some dendrobaena worms, gets used to add nutrients back to the soil in the raised garden bed, which saves us a fortune on bought in soil amendments, fertilizers, and potting mix. 

Other Homestead Projects: Tortoise Keeping

I keep a Mediterranean Hermann’s tortoise called Lenny for which I grow and forage a lot of food. The practice keeps me knowledgeable about native wild plants abundant in the local countryside.

Lenny snacking on some cucumber in her outdoor enclosure, enjoying the sun.

Knitting and Fiber Crafts

I am an avid knitter. I am in the process of creating a winter wardrobe to replace all my old store-bought sweaters with handmade, handknits made from wool and other natural fibers. I got into bartering and trading, specifically plants and hand knits, for skills or things I need for my family or the house. I hope to continue this in the future.

My handmade knits are the pride and joy of my wardrobe.

For work, I work from home writing, teaching, and tutoring. I also run a blog about our homesteading life at

homesteading in a crofter's cottage at night
The crofter’s cottage at night

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.