The former president’s house at Monticello is open for visitors as is his extensive vegetable garden. This is still cultivated today and grows the same crops as it did in his day including Native American beans and strawberry spinach. Margaret Roach has conducted one of her interviews with Peggy Cornett who is in charge of the gardens and this is a transcript of part which comes from the A Way To Garden website.
Q. It?s such an interesting subject: to look back in history with your help. Can you give us a backdrop for those of us who don?t know it? Jefferson was born in 1743 and died in 1826, was President in 1801-1809?but when was he at Monticello, and what is it like?
A. Throughout his lifetime, he spent long periods of time away from Monticello, but when he finally retired in 1809, he spent the rest of his life here. That?s when he really focused on creating this magnificent vegetable garden.
Just prior to his retirement he actually leased seven enslaved workers from a plantation nearby to dig out?to carve out?from the side of the mountain, this 1,000-foot-long vegetable garden. They labored for three years doing this, moving wagonload after wagonload of soil.
The garden really stands like a terrace overlooking his south orchard. It?s 80 feet wide, and it descends in three levels from west to east. It?s a magnificent garden, and supported by a stone wall that is over 10 feet at its highest point.
At the midpoint of the garden, at the 500-foot mark, there is a really spectacular garden pavilion that was constructed there. It?s a cubic structure, quite lovely, and a place to sit and contemplate and enjoy the garden, and the marvelous views from that location. You really are just perched on the edge of the Piedmont of Virginia.
Q. It?s a historic place, especially in that he was the President, and you have among his records his meticulous and very famous Garden Book?with details. He really put down every detail; he was much better than I am about that.
See more at A Way To Garden