My Seedy Tour of Monticello...

A stroll through Thomas Jefferson's vegetable garden and fruit orchards—plus! A collection of pics and a list of seeds to start your own "mini Monticello"


Fall is just around the corner and it is time to select the cool season growers! I recently returned from an inspiring trip to Monticello (aka the “Seed to Seed Growing Mecca"). As a Front Yard to Table gardener, I found myself immediately drawn to Thomas Jefferson’s vegetable garden and fruit orchards.


Thomas Jefferson, where do I begin… He was and is historically a rock star. Most people of course think of him as the third president of the United States or, perhaps, as the author of the Declaration of Independence. But Thomas Jefferson’s creativity can be seen in almost every aspect of his life…as an architect, an inventor, avid gardener and plant collector. His gardens at Monticello served not only as a way to provide subsist for the family, but as a living laboratory to push the limits on what was known to grow. He collected and shared seeds from all over the country and the known world, thanks to Lewis & Clark’s expeditions and numerous other well-travelled friends.


Thomas Jefferson truly enjoyed the process of growing and learning. Thankfully, the gardens and seed collections have been restored and made available for us, the home gardeners Yay! It is a seed extravaganza. If you are interested in learning more about the restoration, check out Peter Hatch's “A Rich Spot of Earth: Thomas Jefferson's Revolutionary Garden at Monticello.”


Here are some favorites for your own mini Monticello:


Fast Cool Season Growers:

China Rose Winter Radish (Raphanus sativa)

Tennis Ball Lettuce (Lactuca sativa)


A Few Warm Season Growers:

Queen Anne’s Pocket Melon (Cucumis melo dudaim)


Okay, so this melon, as with most, likes a dry environment. The story of its origins warrants room in the garden. It is said to have been grown for 1,000 years and is possibly named for Queen Anne of England (1702-14). The Legend, according to Monticello, is that ladies of the Queen’s court carried around this melon as a perfumed sachet. Don’t leave home without your pocket melon.


West Indian Gherkin (Cucumis anguria)

Who knew that it was customary to have a “Guest Pickle Barrel” at Jefferson’s house in Washington? Records show this gherkin was a popular crop at Monticello and a favorite for pickling. One guest pickle jar coming up!


Enjoy the images of Monticello ….until the next garden adventure!