Jefferson loved Monticello as much as he loved his fledgling country. After years of public life, he retired
to his plantation, where he worked to improve his home and garden.
Monticello, the two acre vegetable garden fed the Jefferson family. Along with all of that bounty, there
were small fruits and 300 trees in the orchards.
the Thomas Jefferson Foundation oversees his home and garden. In the vegetable garden, some modern
tools have taken over garden tasks.
Heirloom seeds still grow plants that were popular in the 1800's.
Jefferson was an innovator and experimenter. He would not find fault with using modern tools, organics,
or even new varieties. His garden
has been reconstructed as closely as possible to allow the public to see the
bounty from a bygone era.
---Anne K Moore
July 17, 2009---
Thomas Jefferson's Vegetable Garden today
Thomas Jefferson Foundation / Monticello
re-creation of the Monticello Vegetable Garden began in 1979 with two years of
archaeological excavations that attempted to confirm details of the documentary
evidence. Archaeologists uncovered the remnants of the stone wall, robbed in
the 20th century and covered by eroding soil, exposed the foundation
of the Garden Pavilion, and searched for the nature of garden walkways.
ensuing re-creation is especially accurate in detailing the structure of the
garden - the location of the garden squares, the site and character of the
wall, and the appearance of the Garden Pavilion.
garden re-creation attempts to show, as best as possible, the garden as it
existed between 1807 and 1814, to reveal Jefferson's experiments in
horticulture and landscaping, and to serve as a site for the collection of both
Jefferson and 19th-century vegetable varieties. The garden today,
however, is only an interpretation of the original. Modern tools, such as
roto-tillers, are utilized to ease the maintenance of the garden. Organic
fertilizers, natural pesticides, and irrigation are used to preserve the
varietal collection. Techniques from the 1800s - the use of brush for the
staking of peas, the manuring of perennial vegetables, the construction of
composted hills for squashes, melons, and beans - are utilized when
a number of differences between the appearance of the original Jefferson garden
and the re-created one. In 1811, the most intensive planting year for
Jefferson, there were 85 plantings of vegetables throughout the year. Today,
the garden is planted much more intensively, partly for seed collection, partly
to present a fuller interpretive picture. The rows of vegetables Jefferson
planted were much closer together than they are portrayed today, the wider
spacing a maintenance necessity. Although Jefferson alluded to the "long,
grass walk," the nature of the internal pathways - whether turf, gravel,
tan bark, or more likely, packed earth - is a matter of conjecture. The low
locust railing along the edge of the garden serves as a safety barrier.
possible, however, to replant many of the perennials in the precise locations
that Jefferson had specified. The figs along the Submural Beds, the cherry
trees along the long grass walk, and the asparagus and artichoke squares
conform precisely to their locations in the original garden. Also, many of the
varieties Jefferson especially treasured, from the Marseilles fig to the Chile
strawberry to the Tennis-ball lettuce, have been replanted in today's garden.