Preserving Jefferson’s Garden: an activity for children of all ages. Thomas Jefferson accomplished many amazing things in his lifetime. Not only did he help write the Declaration of Independence, become the third president of the United States, and more than double the size of North America with the Louisiana Purchase, he was a scientist and gardener as well. Thomas Jefferson was passionate about bringing new plants to Monticello and sharing them with other people in order to improve the gardens and lives of fellow human beings.
“The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add an useful plant to it’s culture…”
– Thomas Jefferson Memorandum of Services to My Country, after 2 September 1800
You too, can be a part of his legacy. In this activity, your child will learn how to obtain heirloom seeds from Jefferson’s Monticello garden, as well as learn about Jefferson’s seed-saving and seed-sharing practices. This activity also includes instructions for starting your own seed-saving, storing, and sharing adventure.
- heirloom seeds from Monticello (see buying options below)
- a place in your garden where you can plant some of the seeds to let them grow flowers and produce seeds to then later harvest and save.
- seed storing envelopes or just regular envelopes. Jefferson sometimes simply sent his seeds in the same envelope containing a letter to a friend. There will be an activity on making your own seed saving envelopes in a later unit.
- Consider reading Thomas Jefferson Grows a Nation by Peggy Thomas.
- As you read, have your child narrate parts of the story back to you.
- Choose and order the varieties of plants you want to grow, save, store, and share. This activity focuses on seeds from Monticello but could be done in the same spirit with any heirloom varieties that need to be preserved and shared.
- Read more by clicking on the link to the following article: Seeds at Monticello: Saving, Storing, Sharing
- Once your seeds arrive, plant them according to the instructions in a place in your garden where you can let some of them go to seed (make sure to enjoy some of them yourselves by eating the vegetables or making bouquets with the flowers).
- Harvest the seeds and clean them. (There will be a detailed activity in an upcoming lesson that explains how to do this.)
- Share your seeds with your fellow gardening friends. Make sure to include a letter and detailed instructions for growing, as well as the name and history of the plant.
- Take pictures and tag #theabundantgarden on Instagram to share your fun and for an opportunity to be featured @theabundantgarden.
To learn about seed saving, storing, and sharing, visit the following sites: Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants and Monticello’s Seeds of the Past. You can also watch the following short video.
Seed buying options:
From the Monticello’s online store: There is a slightly larger selection of seeds here.
Monticello seed packet box with ten heirloom varieties of vegetable seeds.