Once Upon a Time I Visited Monticello's Gardens

Thomas Jefferson -- Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia.

Monticello, Home of Thomas Jefferson
July 7, 2002

To celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, we spent spent three days in Charlottesville, Va. before going to the Homestead. One of the highlights was a trip to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home. We chose to join a tour of Thomas Jefferson's gardens, since we had toured the house on an earlier visit. 

July 7, 2002

Monticello, South Entrance

Surrounding Monticello are numerous flower, shrub, and vegetable gardens. Jefferson was both a practical farmer and a scientist as well who kept detail records of his plantings. 

The vegetable garden was a kind of laboratory where he experimented with squashes and broccoli from Italy, beans and salsify collected by the Lewis & Clark expedition, figs from France, and peppers from Mexico.

The daily details of sowing seeds, manuring asparagus, and harvesting peas between 1809 and 1826 are recorded in his Garden Kalendar, a part of his famous Garden Book.

View from Thomas Jefferson's Vegetable Garden

While Monticello was not entirely self sustained, Thomas Jefferson did raise most of the food he and his family and many guests consumed. In 1811, there were 85 plantings of vegetables throughout the year.

The extensive vegetable garden was located on a 1,000 foot long terrace on the south side of Monticello.



July 7, 2002

July 7, 2002

The Vegetable Garden

The main part of the 2-acre garden is divided into 24 squares, or growing lots, which were arranged according to which part of the plant was being harvested -- whether "fruits" (tomatoes, beans), "roots" (beets, carrots), or "leaves" (lettuce, cabbage). Jefferson was fond of English peas and grew 17 varieties.

Interestingly, he regularly purchased additional vegetables and other good from his slaves.

Monticello, West Lawn

A lifelong Francophile, Jefferson interestingly based his gardens on the informal English gardens of his day. In fact, he and his one time arch enemy John Adams spent a week together touring and studying gardens throughout the country. 

The spacious lawn in this picture was more of a pasture during Thomas Jefferson's time and was cut twice yearly. His grandchildren played here. 

Behind us as we look at Monticello are acres of trees of all varieties, including even an aspen.

July 7, 2002