CONGRATULATIONS

Carrie Fancett Pagels' "The Substitute Bride" in O' Little Town of Christmas collection is a 2016 Published MAGGIE AWARD FINALIST in Romance Novellas!!!


Tea Party winners: Roseanne M. White's winner is Connie Saunders. Elaine Marie Cooper's winner of a $10 Amazon gift card is Nicole Wetherington. Carrie Fancett Pagels’ winner of choice of ebook or paperback of Saving the Marquise's Granddaughter goes to Deanne Patterson and the White Rose teacup set goest to Lena Nelson Dooley. Angela Couch's winner of Threads of Love e-book is Melissa Henderson and Marguerite Gray is the winner of Mail-Order Revenge print. Denise Weimer's ebook of Redeeming Grace winner is Ashley Penn. Congrats all!!!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Colonial Gardening by Lisa Norato



In southern New England from whence I hail, the spirit and history of colonial gardening is kept alive in living museums, public historic houses, parks and memorials. Gardening is a timeless pursuit of great interest and reward. Who doesn’t look forward to a little digging in the dirt come springtime? In our country’s earliest days, however, gardening was a necessary part of daily life. Every home, whether in town or country, had a garden. They ranged from the most modest dooryard gardens (that is, small garden plots literally located just outside the front door) to beautiful, sprawling acres like Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Park. They provided sustenance for the family, were cultivated for medicinal purposes and provided the pleasure of fresh flowers which even the poorest of Colonial women could enjoy.

The Plymouth Pilgrims were introduced to local crops by the Wampanoag Indians. Without them, the early settlers might not have survived the winter. These Native Americans taught them many techniques, including a highly effective method of gardening called The Three Sisters. A Three Sisters garden begins with the planting of corn, which could be eaten off the cob or ground into flour. Once the stalks grew, pole beans were sown beside them where they would climb the stalks as opposed to spreading across the ground. This procedure not only conserved space but added nitrogen to the soil. Squash planting followed—anything from pumpkins to crookneck to acorn squashes. The vines encircled the corn and beans, acting as living mulch to help conserve water and control the growth of weeds, while their bristles helped repel hungry critters.

Every home from poor to middle class to gentry had its own kitchen garden for the family’s everyday use. These produced all manner of vegetables and herbs, sometimes even flowers, all crowed together so as not to spare one of inch of soil. Lamb’s Quarter was popular during this time, though is rarely to be found on our modern dinner plates. Today this leafy green is treated as a weed and discarded, but in early America it was commonly consumed for its rich nutritional value and a taste similar to that of spinach. 

Gardening was also a rare way in which a Colonial woman could earn a livelihood. Seedswomen traded in flower and vegetable seeds and many advertised in local newspapers such as The Boston Evening Post. For other women, gardening was a way to alleviate some of the homesickness they felt when they came to the New World by planting seeds and roots common to their homelands, such as the English Rose.

In addition to plant life, gardens would sometimes include a beehive or dove-cote or perhaps even a heavy leaden sundial which would stand for generations. Many were inscribed, like this one owned by a Dr. Bowditch of Boston, which I'll leave you with in parting:

“With warning hand I mark time’s rapid flight
From life’s glad morning to its solemn night.
And like God’s love, I also show
There’s light above me, by the shade below.”



Lisa Norato is the author of Prize of My Heart, an inspirational seafaring historical from Bethany House. A life-long New Englander, Lisa lives in a historic village with homes and churches dating as far back as the eighteenth century.

17 comments:

  1. A very interesting post, Lisa. So much about 18th century gardening is practical as well as charming.

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  2. Thank you, Janet! You've said it perfectly. For all its practicality, colonial gardening is very charming, I agree.

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  3. Gardening is a subject near and dear to my writer's heart (especially the Three Sisters) but not so much in reality, where I have a VERY brown thumb. :)

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    1. Me too, Lori--brown thumb. :( It's very disappointing considering a had one grandfather who could grow any vegetable with almost no effort and another grandfather who got his start peddling vegetables. Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. Great post, Lisa. The Cherokee tribe's depended on a reliable food supply, which is why they used the "companion planting" of the three sisters. They believed that since corn, beans, and squash were so magical when grown together, that they should also be eaten together. They also believed that, since the vegetables protected each other while growing, they would protect whoever ate them together.

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    1. Susan, thank you so much for stopping by with this additional info! It's so interesting. I had never heard of three sisters before, until I read about it in my local newspaper recently. I found it fascinating.

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  5. Love this Lisa. Gardening is one of my hobbies, and I wish I had enough room to live off it...some day maybe.

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    1. Bless you, Lynn! I hope your dream comes true and your garden grows and grows. Thanks for stopping in and reading my post.

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  6. Delightful article, Lisa! Thank you for all this information! I love to garden, and even though I have a small yard now, we finally have good soil. One of my ambitions is to plant a colonial herb garden as well as a small vegetable garden, and I'm hoping to get it started in the spring.

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    1. It sounds wonderful, Joan! I wish you much success with your garden; and when it's grown, maybe you will even share pictures of your colonial herb garden with us? Thank you for popping in and reading my article.

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  7. What a lovely post, LISA! I love the quote, especially. Three sisters planting is something I have heard over and over again both here in the southeast and in northern Michigan. Great info about the "seedswomen"--wouldn't it be fun for us at CQ to have a short story serial about some seedswomen? Blessings!

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  8. Thank you, Carrie! I had a similar thought as I was researching and learned about "seedswomen." I thought it would make for an interesting and unusual heroine--a colonial entrepreneur. Blessings to you, too!

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  9. Such a beautiful post, Lisa! I love learning about the gardening practices in colonial times. And I can imagine what a comfort it was to colonial women to bring seeds from home to plant in their gardens in the new world. Come spring, those budding plants would surely warm their hearts! Thanks for all this research. And yes, you should consider a "seedswoman" for your next heroine! :)

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    1. Thank you, Elaine, and special thanks for sharing the picture of the medicinal herbs with me so I could include it in the post. Blessings!

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  10. Lisa,

    What a beautiful post. Someday I plan to go on a tour of historical gardens throughout the US - I think that would be so cool. We grow primarily edible plants and medicinal herbs, but I often tuck pretty flowers in among the carrots and tomatoes because the bees love them as much as I do...and every garden needs bees!

    Blessings,
    Becky

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    1. Thank you, Becky! I loved hearing about your own colonial garden. It sounds lovely. I bet you could learn a lot from a U.S. tour. It would certainly be inspiring. Blessings to you as well!

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  11. What an enjoyable post. My husband and I both love gardening. He is in charge of "food" and I'm in charge of "pretty" in our garden. However, I love herbs as much as flowers so I also cultivate them. So fun to brush up against them while working and enjoy the fregrances. Your comment about the colonial (also frontier) gardens being so close to the front step made me recall reading that their gardens were placed there so it was easy to toss out the dirty water from the kitchen and water the garden at the same time. Actually, we know today that the soap in their dirty water also helped fight off insects. Their lives had to be all about efficiency.

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