Dear President Jefferson,
We are a fourth grade class and are learning about colonial America and
plants. We would appreciate it if you could answer some of the questions
we have written below:
Other than rain, did you water your crops?
Did you use fertilizer? If so, what did you use?
How did you keep pests away from your crops?
Did you compost?
How did you store your seeds during the winter?
Our class is doing many experiments that will help us understand the
factors that affect plant growth. We are using the same kind of seeds
you have in your garden. We hope your response to this letter will help
us to understand gardening in colonial times.
Mrs. Clark's fourth grade class
My dear students,
Thank you for your recent letter. I am greatly pleased to learn
of your interest in the culture of the earth. I have often thought
that if Heaven had given me choice of my position and calling, it
should have been on a rich spot of earth, well watered, and near a
good market for the productions of the garden. No occupation is so
delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture
comparable to that of the garden. Under a total want of demand except
for our family table, I am still devoted to the garden. But though an
old man, I am but a young gardener.
As for your questions, I will do my best to answer them to your
satisfaction. I do not make it a habit to water crops. It is however
important to water seedlings and newly replanted flowers. I am a
proponent of using animal manures to fertilize crops and plants. At
Monticello we use mostly cow and horse manure. As for pest control,
I have always felt that a well manure and rich ground will bid
defiance to pests. I have great plans for a movable compost, but have
not yet put them into practice. As you may know, the collection and
storage of seeds is of great important. I store my seeds in glass vials
or tin canisters in a cabinet.
I wish you the best of luck with your gardening plans and look
forward to hearing from you again to learn of your successes.
I am a sophomore in high school. Over the summer, my family visited
Monticello and learned a great quantity about life in the South. But one
thing we did not hear about, was the use of tobacco in the Southern regions.
I know it was grown there, but was it also used there? Did you?
Dear Master Patrick,
Thank you for your recent letter. I am pleased to hear that you
made a visit to Monticello and learned a great deal. You are correct
in your assumption that tobacco is grown in Virginia (not all
Southern states grow it). I plant wheat as my primary cash crop
and supplement that with tobacco. The culture of tobacco is one of
infinite wretchedness. Those employed in it are in a continual state
of exertion beyond the power of human nature to support. Little food
of any kind is raised by them; so that the men and animals on these
farms are badly fed, and the earth is rapidly impoverished. No, I do
not personally partake in the use of tobacco in any form, tho many
of my neighbors do.