• Kate Hanfling, Volunteer

National Gardening Day

Hello everyone! We hope you enjoyed yesterday’s post on some recommended books to get you started in the garden. If not, you can find it here. Today, we wanted to share a few more resources and tips for creating your very own colonial kitchen garden. Currently, the National Colonial Fam’s Kitchen Garden only has some wildflowers, Chamomile, Tansy, cover crops, and Daffodils growing in it due to our plans to rebuild the garden fence. Normally, the garden would be filled with crops that colonists could use both medicinally and for cooking.



The size and type of garden colonists could cultivate depended largely on the amount of space they had available. In town, houses were squeezed close together in order to give equitable access to the riverfront, water source, or village center. The lots were so tiny (maybe 40-50 feet wide) and packed so closely together that there was just enough room for a horse to pass between them to get to the back. These lots had small front yards and long narrow backyards. Of course, farms out in more rural areas had much more space to work with. So whether you’re currently living with a postage stamp space in the back or out in the country with lots of room, here are a few ideas for creating your own working colonially inspired kitchen garden.


  1. Access: A colonial kitchen garden is all about access. When you’re working in the kitchen and you need some herbs or vegetables, you don’t want to have to walk a long way to get your materials and then haul your ingredients all the way back to the house. Similarly, you want to be able to get what you need easily. With this in mind, colonial gardens were often grown in square or rectangular raised beds next to the house (just outside the kitchen if possible). If the bed was too wide to reach across from only one side, there was usually a path on both sides to provide easy access. Paths between beds were straight, providing simple and direct access. Paths could be created with clamshells, gravel, bark, or simply swept dirt.

  2. Protection: After all the work you’ve done to plant, weed, and grow your garden, the last thing you want is wind and animals (wild or your own livestock) destroying it. For this reason, colonial gardens were surrounded by either picket fences or living fences like hedges or shrubs. In fact, we’re building a new fence around the National Colonial Farm Kitchen Garden beginning this week! It’s worth mentioning that simple fences and hedges worked because they were coupled with other strategies like trapping or shooting pests as well as using guard dogs in the garden. We do not recommend trapping or shooting pests now (though dogs are great!) so you might consider other protection options like an organic pest control.

  3. The plants! Whatever you decide to include, colonial kitchen gardens often mixed the herbs, flowers, and vegetable plants together rather than creating neat and distinct sections. This strategy helped protect crops from pests. Unless you are able to purchase seeds from specifically preserved variations of heritage crops, the herbs and vegetables we grow today bear little resemblance to actual 18th century varieties. However, don’t let that stop you! Your garden can include a wide variety of flowers, herbs, and vegetables. If you have space for a fruit tree, design like the colonists and make it a focal point for the garden!


Here are some ideas for your own garden #plantagarden:


If you want some pretty flowers commonly found in colonial gardens: try Hollyhocks, Foxgloves, Daylilies, Irises, and Peonies.


If you want to plant some vegetables: try squash, cucumbers, cabbage, beans, peas, melons, lettuce, carrots, radish, and peppers.


For herbs: consider planting horehound, angelica, winter savory, oregano, sage, calendula, hyssop, lady’s mantle, and nasturtium.


If you want to be as authentic as possible, check out Southern Exposure, a local company that sells heirloom seeds. Another option is Sustainable Seed Co. located in Utah. If you're looking to seed save, learning where your seeds came from and their genetics will help you to ensure you're saving

healthy seeds for next year's planting!


Good luck! However you decide to celebrate National Gardening Day, we hope you enjoy it! Gardening is a great activity for the whole family, and kids always enjoy playing in the dirt, so spend the day outside and in a few weeks maybe you’ll be making a meal from your very own garden! If you do, we’d love to hear about it! Tell us what you’re growing, harvesting or cooking!


Below are a few photos of the National Colonial Farm Kitchen Garden in its full glory to give you some inspiration.



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