Thomas Jefferson: America’s Third President and First Gardener

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In 1811, when Thomas Jefferson left the Presidency to return to his Virginia plantation home, Monticello, he wrote to a friend: “I have often thought that if heaven had given me choice of my position and calling, it should have been on a rich spot of earth, well-watered…No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.”

President Jefferson proved a man of his word. He spent the next twenty years building a 1,000 foot (305 meters) terraced vegetable and herb garden at Monticello, a project some refer to as the “Ellis Island” of kitchen garden plants. That garden was instrumental in introducing to Americans over 330 varieties of 99 species of familiar herbs and vegetables, many of which were exotic if unheard of at the turn of the 19th century.

It’s fitting that President’s Day falls around the same time seed catalogs start arriving in the mail. What better way to celebrate the holiday and the contributions of Thomas Jefferson, America’s first gardener, than to use those catalogs to plan your own vegetable garden featuring some of the plants championed by our third president. Here’s a list of some of Jefferson’s favorite vegetables that you should have no trouble finding and growing yourself:



Today, Thomas Jefferson’s vegetable gardens at Monticello have been fully restored and produce crops through three seasons. They are a beautiful and stirring sight and one of the highlights of a visit to Monticello, located outside of Charlottesville, Virginia, a two-hour drive from Washington D.C. But even if you can’t make it to President Jefferson’s home, you can reproduce a slice of his famous gardens in your own back yard, a fitting tribute to a founding father and a hero to gardeners everywhere.

Thomas Jefferson's vegetable gardens at Monticello

My Garden Life has lots of quick and easy recipe ideas and ways to preserve your your vegetable and herb harvest. Learn more here.


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