Gardening For Survival The Colonists Knew How

Not too long ago we went to visit Colonial Williamsburg….amazingly the colonists invented square foot gardening before we had even heard of it and they knew all about “gardening for survival” and using everything they grew not just some of it.  We visited Williamsburg the first weekend of February and notice there are touches of yellow daffodils and green in the photographs.

I love the “Terrariums or Little Greenhouses” pictured above….also makes for an interesting photograph.  In Colonial Williamsburg gardens tended to have more of an organized and English theme…..colonists must have modeled their gardens after old England and they seemed to have more success than their predecessors at the Jamestown colony.

I love how they have these coldframes now in Colonial Williamsburg they are trenches that basically you lay windows over for a greenhouse type affect.

Of course as I always do I had my camera with me and although it was cold, gray and damp the day we went I think my husband and I got a couple of good shots in spite of it all.  I love these wooden type trellises I am so hoping “The Viking” in my life will put some of these up for us this year.

There was a reason why the colonial garden was built right next to the back door.  This was very efficient and often herbs would be bundled up and dried and or put in the stew for that evenings supper.  The gardens actually just “feel efficient” when you walk through them.  These gardeners meant business and you can tell the gardens produced lots of good healthy produce and nothing was left to waste.  They used herbs not only in cooking but in salves and remedies and as I have a particular interest in herbs and homemade remedies so this was also of particular interest to me.

I believe it is really important to look back before we make plans towards the future.  These gardens definitely gave us some definite ideas of where we want to go with our gardens this year.  I hope they have inspired you as well!  Click here to see some maps of what colonial gardens looked like:

Some trivia:

Did you know most Colonial Women were not used to gardening so they had to start out small…..they were learning new skill sets…they basically started out doing their best to support their families and then were slowly able to expand as their gardening skills grew.  This is very similar to me when I first started gardening I mostly only grew tomatoes or at least that was one of the only seeds I had luck with.

I am not a historian just an interested blogger so if you are well read on this time period of Colonial Williamsburg I would love to learn more about what the Colonists grew and what they ate or even their daily routine I sure would love to hear from you.

If you like myself are not a historian but would like to share your thoughts and comments I would love to hear from you as well.  Thanks for coming with me on my journey to the past.   Have a great Friday everyone!


my siggie :)

This blog post is linked to the following wonderful blog hops:

Farm Girl Friday

Homestead Barn Hop

The  Country Garden Showcase

25 thoughts on “Gardening For Survival The Colonists Knew How

  1. These photos are great!
    I’m just learning …again after years of not gardening (originally not being very good at it either). When I look at your photos of the Colonial Williamsburg’s garden…and then look at my own garden– they look quite similar. I am just using what I have on hand and making the best use of space. I have to keep it managable… and not go too big. It is just The Husband and myself– so keeping it small for us is a challenge; plus finding a way to plant a variety without being too much to handle. Make sense? Love, love, love the little twig fences/ trellis…I definitely wouldn’t mind making something like that to keep the chickies out of the Peas!

  2. While doing some research as to where to go for a family vacation that involved spectacular gardens (although my son would be less than thrilled), of course I thought of Colonial Williamsburg. What surprised me was that there are books (and chat groups) all about the style, history, etc… on colonial gardens and how they reach back to England. I bet with a little snooping at the library you’ll find more info. I wish I could remember the names of the books for you!

    1. Marnie there are beautiful gardens there but don’t forget Busch Gardens, water Country and Great wolf lodge are all here too. If you think of the titles let me know and thanks for stopping in over here!

  3. I really like reading your blog. We gardened for year and stopped for about 3 years. Everyone missed all the wonderful food. My baby is now 9 so I can put more time into gardening. We must wait for warmer weather first. I like your blog.

  4. There are some wonderful books out there- many of the actual period books reproduced from the 18th and early 19th centuries– on Colonial gardening and cooking. I think some of them have titles like, “The Virginia Housewife” and so forth. Also, Culpeper’s (a famous English herbalist) herbals are fantastic for this research. Period books are wonderful resources. Because cooking for meals and preparing herbal remedies and medicines were often done simultaneously, recipes for both often appeared side by side in herbals or recipe books. Colonial women and midwives possessed a special herbal knowledge and internal library on how to prepare herbs and wild plants into teas, tinctures, poultices, plasters, and infusions to use in the bath. Sadly, most of these secrets have been lost through the generations.

  5. Garden is truly lovely. Love the idea of repurposing window frames for trellis’. Very unique and suits the purpose perfectly.

  6. Did you walk out to the farm? We got to try our hand at making pegs (for building), they were making planks, growing all kinds of stuff. IDK what they’d be doing in Feb. The best part was when the lady making pegs said to my kids (who were saying it was all too much work) that, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” 🙂 We went there a lot when the kids were younger. Great for a homeschooling family.

    1. Yes over the years we have been all over Williamsburg. I grew up not far away in another port town of Norfolk, Virginia. I agree a wonderful place for children to visit and homeschooling families do have an advantage (I used to homeschool) in that there children can be much more hands on and interact more well that is just one advantage. I think that is wonderful that they shared that with the children…and I bet it was true! Thank you so much for stopping in and commenting!

  7. Colonial Williamsburg is one of our favorite places to go. We’ve been 3x now and learned something new and applicable each time we went.

    1. Kathi I agree I love Colonial Williamsburg I may try to talk to my hunny into going back next Spring for a visit and a camping trip too!

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