-Thomas Jefferson, 1811
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello is hands down one of my favorite places on earth. When I first visited Monticello four years ago I had just started my gardening journey. Jefferson’s inspirational work with gardens and landscape definitely catapulted my interest and desire to make my small hobby into a large part of my life. This visit was such a joy because it was my first time visiting Monticello in the spring. The colors and smells were amazing and the gardens were already blooming. Spring in Zone 7 is a much different experience then spring in Zone 4b!
Thomas Jefferson’s garden served as a food source for his family table but also as a laboratory where he planted approximately 330 varieties of more then 70 species of vegetables. The garden evolved over many years and settled on its final design in 1809. The garden resembled a terraced shelf 80 feet wide and 1,000 feet long, cut into the hillside and supported by a massive stone wall. In the middle of the stone wall stands a pavilion that was used by Jefferson as his own personal retreat. The two acre garden included 24 growing beds, or “squares,” organized, at least in 1812, according to which part of the plant was harvested-“roots,” “leaves,” or “fruits”. Below the vegetable garden wall was a 6-acre orchard surrounding vineyards and berry squares. The fruit garden also included a nursery where Jefferson propagated special plants. Today the garden serves as a preservation seed bank of Jefferson-era and 19th-century vegetable varieties.
The Bean Arbor
The beauty and inspiration of Monticello gets me every time. I could have sat in his vegetable garden for hours, but little boys need to be fed and naptime is inevitable. I highly suggest to anyone who has a love of gardening, American history, sustainability or just loves beautiful scenery to visit Monticello. Thank goodness my sister lives in Charlottesville, VA because I can visit it every time I visit her. If you live close to Virginia check out Monticello's event calendar. They have an abundance of educational opportunities and events that sound amazing. In the next few years, I am making it my goal to attend their annual Harvest Festival. This years keynote speaker is Joel Salatin, from Polyface Farm.
I hope these pictures inspire you to get out and get your hands dirty. Even if your garden is just a couple pots on a window sill, or if it as big as Jefferson’s, there is something so beautiful and rewarding in growing your own food. Jefferson said it best “ No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.”