March 18, 2017
So what did the early settlers grow in their gardens when they came to the New World?
I loved reading the "Vegetable Gardening the Colonial Williamsburg Way" to learn more about gardening in the 1700's Virginia. The author actually runs a "re-inactment" vegetable garden in Williamsburg, using old fashioned heirlooms and methods. What a great way to keep our agricultural history alive!
Read on for what was growing in colonial gardens. For each type is the variety name found in 1700's Virginia seed catalogs.
Beans and peas
Broad beans (Mazagan, Windsor, Long Podded, White Blossom, Lisbon, Sandwich, Toker, Nonpareil, Battersea, Hotspur),
Peas (Hotspur, Charlton Hotspur, Early Golden Hotspur, Ormand Hotspur, Master Hotspur, Reading Hotspur, Leadman's Dwarf, Early Frame, Six Weeks Pease, Nichol's Early, Green Rouncival, Dutch Admiral, Dwarf Marrowfat, Egg Pea, Spanish Morrotto, Sugar Dwarf),
Storage Beans (various yellow, scarlet, white and black beans, White Dwarf Kidney, Speckled French, Canterbury Dwarf Kidney, Goosecraw, Hominy),
Green beans (French, What Dutch, Scarlet Blossom),
Lima (Lima, Carolina White, Large Sugar).
Kale (Curled Green Kale, Siberian Borecole, Jersey),
Cabbage (White, Early Dutch, White Dutch, Large Winter, Scotch, Large Hollow, Sugar Loaf, Battersea, Early York, Yorkshire, Russia, Yellow Savoy, Green Savoy, Red, Madeira),
Cauliflower (Early Colliflower, Late Cauliflower),
Broccoli (Roman, Italien, Early Purple, Late Purple, Colliflower Broccoli, Green, Yellow),
Kohlrabi (Turnip Cabbage, Turnip Colewort)
Lettuce (Tennis Ball, Brown Dutch, White Cass, Black Cass, Egyptian Coss, Versailles Coss, Roman, Italian Loaf, Aleppo, Curled, Cabbage Lettuce, Ice, Imperial, Capuchin, Silesia, Nonpareil), Spinach (Summer, Broad leaf, Round, Winter, Prickly),
Endive (Curled, Broadleaf),
Parsley (Curled, Double, Common, Roman),
Chard (White Beet),
Cress (watercress-Scurvy Grass, winter/upland cress, garden cress-Double Peppergrass, Indian cress),
Mustard (White, Red),
Corn Salad/Lamb's Lettuce/Mache,
Carrots (white, orange-Short Orange, Early, Horn, Long Orange)
Radish (Scarlet, Salmon, Short-topped, Rose, Black Turnip, White Spanish, Black Spanish, Purple Turnip)
Turnip (Large English, Norfolk, Early Hanover, Large Field, Stewart's, Cambell's, Norway, Reynold's, Early Dutch, White-Round, Red Ring, Round Red, Purple (Purple Top), Early Green)
Potatoes (Irish-probably Northward, White Irish, Red, Blue)
Sweet Potato (Spanish, Bermuda)
Onions (White Spanish, Portugal, Silver Skin, Madeira, Deptford, Strasburg, Red)
Leeks (Leek, London Leek)
Welsh Onion (Welsh, Ciboule)
Cucumbers and melons
Cucumbers (Long Prickly, Short Prickly, White, Gerkin)
Melons (Fine, Italien, Orange and Green Streak, Zatta Mellon, Diarbeke Mellon, Early Musk-Melon, Orange Musk-Melon, Netted Wrought Mellon, White Netted Mellon, Green Netted Mellon, Green Fleshed Mellon, Pineapple Melon, Roman Melon, Sweet Smelling Mellon, Fragrant Melon, Portugal Melon, Pocket Melon, Turkey Cucumber)
Watermelon (Pistoia, Naples)
Squash, Pumpkins and Gourds
These are all indigenous to the Americas
Squash and Pumpkin (pumpkin-all kinds and colors, pattypan, cushaws, warted, crookneck, acorn, buttercup, Hubbard, turban, banana, butternut, golden cushaw, cheese pumpkin)
Gourds-many varieties, many uses
Tomatoes and peppers
Indigenous to the Americas
Tomatoes (no varieties listed in Virginia 18th century seed catalogs. Would have been many lobed.)
Peppers (Cayenne, Indian, Piperone)
Luxuries and oddities
Artichoke (Artichoke, Globe Artichoke)
Cardoon-not listed in a seed catalogs
Celery (Italien, Solid Celery)
Celeriac (Celleriack, Dwarf Celeriack)
Asparagus (Asparagus, White Asparagus)
Manure hotbed-Horse manure with straw bedding was used to keep the hotbed warm to get warm season crops seedlings started.
Bark bed heated with tankark a waste product from leather tanning. Used in stovehouses (greenhouses) for raising tropical fruits like pineapple.
Hotbeds were dug into the ground a couple of feet and lined with bricks to act as an insulator. Several inches of horse manure with straw bedding was placed in the bed, allowed to age a few days, then topped with soil and when the temperature is between 70-80 degrees, seeds are planted. Close attention has to be paid with opening and closing the window type lid so that the plants don't overheat on warm sunny days.
Of note, fresh manure can have the bad microbes like e. coli. It is recommended to fully compost any manure to eliminate the risk and to "cool" the manure so as not to burn the plants.
Cloches were not common as they had to be bought in Europe so were expensive. They were used to help overwinter cabbage and keep warm season crops protected early in the season. Like covered hotbeds, close attention has to be kept so plants don't overheat on hot days, venting and closing as needed.
Paper row covers
There were row covers that were made and used in kitchen gardens. They are similar to our row covers today with arched wood covered with paper. The paper was glued to the frame and overlapped between sheets. After constructed, it was covered with an oil like linseed. They were primarily used for protecting young melons in the spring.
Growing sticks (garden stakes)
Garden stakes were made from saplings that were cut to the ground and produced straight sucker re-growth which made great garden stakes.
Fertilizing and watering
Fertilizer in colonial times was mainly manure. The favorite for most was horse manure with wet straw bedding for hot beds or overwinter fertilizing. Fully dried manure was used by mixing into the soil. Other animal manures were also used. Poultry manure is more concentrated. Hog manure was not recommended.
This was the hardest part of the garden and the reason many kitchen gardens could not sustain a family. All water had to be hauled by hand. During the summer, it was hard if not impossible for one person to keep up with the water needs of a garden.
I enjoyed reading about colonial gardening. It was interesting that the gardens of yesteryear is not so different from the modern garden. Just a lot easier to care for!