Fort de Chartres Heritage Garden

Un journal d'un Jardin Potager du Pays des Illinois

Page 2 of 13

Événements de juin

31 mai, 2017 mercredi

The jardin potager in May.

82 degrees, sunny

7 mph, NW wind

So much is happening at Fort de Chartres State Historic Site in the Illinois Country over the next two weeks! We have been busy trying to keep up with the usual seasonal garden tasks while preparing for important and exciting upcoming Fort events. I haven’t been able to find a moment to write a recent jardin update and time has flown since my last post the end of March. I promise a regular garden blog post mid-June, once the jardin schedule settles into the slower pace of summer.

FdC June Rendezvous

Saturday and Sunday, June 3 and 4, I will be in the jardin during the Fort’s 47th June Rendezvous. This signature event transports visitors back to the 1700s and this annual Rendezvous is the largest gathering of its kind anywhere in the Midwest, attracting many thousands to the site. Visit the June Rendezvous page located on the Fort’s website for event information and updates.  I will be interpreting in the garden throughout the 2-day event and I hope you stop by and visit!

And new this year, our jardin potager will be part of a five site French Colonial Gardens Driving Tour, Sunday, June 11, Noon-5 PM.  This new garden event is sponsored by the Foundation for Restoration of Ste. Genevieve and Les Amis du Fort de Chartres. There will be garden tour flyers available in the jardin during the upcoming June Rendezvous. Plan a day trip on June 11th and enjoy a Sunday drive through the ‘French Colonial Corridor’ along the middle Mississippi River valley. Whether you begin your journey near Prairie du Rocher or Ste. Genevieve, these gardens and sites are sure to provide inspiration and enjoyment.

In Ste. Genevieve Missouri, see these historic gardens

Jacques Guibourd House Garden

Felix Valle State Historic Site Garden (Closes at 4 PM)

Near Chester Illinois, see this historic garden

Pierre Menard Home Garden

Near Prairie du Rocher Illinois, see these historic sites & gardens

The Creole House

The Fort de Chartres Heritage Garden Project  (Jardin Potager)

We hope to be visiting with you soon during June Rendezvous or during the garden tour when you travel to visit these gardens and sites in Missouri and Illinois, located within our historic Illinois Country.  A bientôt!



16 mars, 2017 jeudi

49 degrees, cloudy

12 mph, SSE wind

March in the Illinois country jardin has always been somewhat of a wild journey, and this year is no exception. The mild winter has produced little snow and rain while temperatures drop from high to low and back again, similar to years reported in the some of the first accounts recorded of the Illinois country. As l’habitants planted their jardin potager in those early  gardens, they learned to judiciously clear and plant beds, careful not to risk too much too early. They discovered how to plant what, when, and where in their gardens in this new continent as illustrated below in the instructions on the planting of peas as written in one of the earliest garden books printed in the American colonies, sharing commonsense garden knowledge, just as wise now as it was then.

Pisum sativum. Le pois/Le pois commun
bibliotheque nationale de france gallica

“You should sow your Peas every fortnight, and as the hot weather comes on, the latter sort should be in a sheltered situation, otherwise they will burn up. I would recommend the sowing in drills about two or three inches deep, levelling the ground very smoothly with light mould, in rows about four feet asunder, for the convenience of going between, in order to gather the crop, and raising Cabbages or other things at the same time. In the spring let your rows be east and west, in the summer north and south, for a reason which must be obvious, viv. the giving them as much sun as possible in the first instance, and as little as possible in the last. When your peas are well up, they should be hilled once or twice before they are stuck; this not only strengthens them, but at the same time affords them fresh nourishment; the manner of sticking them every body knows; I shall only therefore mention a caution to put your sticks firm in the ground, otherwise they are apt to fall, when the vines grow rampant, and not to stic on them in too near the roots, lest you do the plant an irreparable injury. In the spring it has been found that scattering some dry cow dung in the trenches before you sow your peas, has been very beneficial.”

  • A treatise on gardening, by a citizen of Virginia, John Randolph, jr. (1727-1784)

As garden beds are prepared for planting, precipitation would be welcomed and appreciated. This past mid and late February brought the planting of peas, radishes, and spinach. As we travel through the month of March, it is time to direct sow heirloom beets, scarlet runner beans, cabbages, leeks, lettuces, and onions. Mid-month is also a good time to plant the flowers and herbs like celosia, snapdragons, parsley, and field poppies. The pruning of the jardin’s fruit trees has been underway and other timely garden tasks yet to be accomplished in our jardin include clearing the asparagus bed, pruning out the old canes of the gooseberry and currant shrubs, and dividing the garden’s fall blooming perennials.

Some of these March gardening tasks will be undertaken with the help of friends during the annual Fort de Chartres Jardin Potager Weekend on Saturday & Sunday, March 25 & 26. Visitors are welcome to join volunteers on Saturday at 10:30 AM. for a discussion about direct sowing seeds in the garden. After a break and until 3 PM, work will begin in the garden preparing raised beds and planting seeds appropriate for spring. On Sunday, volunteers will be working in the garden from 11 AM-1 PM. Sample heirloom seed packets will be available to visitors traveling to the Fort to celebrate the upcoming spring season. This event is free and open to the public. If you would like more information about the Fort or upcoming events, call Fort de Chartres State Historic Site at 618-284-7230. For more information about the Fort’s garden events, please email Carol at directly or follow the jardin’s FB page at

Note: I would like to thank the Northwest Historical Society of Jefferson County for inviting this gardener to speak earlier this month at their monthly meeting held in Byrnes Mill, Missouri. As a Master Gardener of Jefferson County, Missouri, it was a pleasure to share the history of Fort de Chartres, as well as the information on the eighteenth century demonstration garden located on-site. The presentation was well attended and I thank all for the wonderful questions about the garden and the Fort.  I was very happy so many sample seed packets and informational flyers were shared. Next to working in the Fort’s kitchen garden, sharing the histories of French colonial eighteenth century gardening and Fort de Chartres are a passion. Many thanks to all who attended and I hope they travel soon to visit in person the Fort’s jardin potager. A bientôt!

Jardin événements d’hiver 2017

Jardin 2016 seed exchange (CK)

Jardin 2016 seed exchange (CK)

Fort de Chartres State Historic Site Heritage Garden will host two jardin potager events for early 2017.  The first event will be hosted by this garden curator and the event will include a seed exchange event on Saturday, February 18, from 10 a.m.-noon. The seed exchange will take place in the site’s guard room and free heirloom seeds and sample seed packets will be available. Bring your favorites or extra seeds to the fort and share your seed bounty while having an opportunity to select seed from the garden project or others offering their seeds. After a break, weather permitting, at 1 p.m. we will move into the Fort’s kitchen garden and learn how to prepare raised beds for the upcoming growing season and learn which vegetable and flower seeds than can be planted in February in the Illinois Country. Also, the garden’s fruit trees will be pruned for their most important pruning of the year.

2016 Winter Garden Event (EJ)

2016 Winter Garden Event (EJ)

The second garden event occurring late winter at the Fort is the annual Fort de Chartres Jardin Potager Weekend on Saturday & Sunday, March 25 & 26. Visitors are welcome to join volunteers on Saturday at 10:30 p.m. for a discussion about direct sowing seeds in the garden. After a break, work will begin in the garden preparing raised beds and planting seeds appropriate for the approach of spring. Heirloom seed packet samples will be available to visitors traveling to the Fort to celebrate the upcoming spring. À bientôt!

Mes amis dans le jardin. (CK)

Mes amis dans le jardin. Toni, Renea, and Jen-merci!(CK)

These events are free and open to the public. For more information about these garden events, please email me, Carol Kuntz, at or visit

For a list of the 2017 Special Events at Fort de Chartres, please check the Événements page of this blog. and if you would like more information about the Fort or upcoming events, call Fort de Chartres State Historic Site at 618-284-7230.


La fin de l’année

29 décembre 2016, jeudi

Photo: The Southern, 2009

Photo: The Southern, 2009 Prairie du Rocher La Guiannée at Fort de Chartres

47 degrees F, Sunny

22 mph, W wind

As December’s end rapidly approaches and holiday greetings of “Bonne année et bonne santé!” echo through time in the old French communities of the Middle Mississippi Valley during the holiday season, residents prepare for the welcoming of the New Year with the centuries old celebration of La Guiannée.

The end of our garden year and recent single-digit temperatures has signaled the cessation of plant growth in the kitchen garden. The final harvest of spinach, the last remaining crop, does not define the end of work to be accomplished in the jardin potager. It is an excellent time, as weather permits, to remove unwanted plant debris, improve and amend the soil, and add compost to beds, preparing the kitchen garden for the coming year. In the eighteenth-century garden book, Every Man His Own Gardener: Being a Gardener’s Calendar, and General Director, written by Thomas Mawe, John Abercrombie, and other Gardeners, published London, 1782, includes the advice for the month of December: “Now forward, at all opportunities, the trenching and digging all vacant spaces of ground in the kitchen-garden, that you may not have that work to do in the spring, when there will be much other business to be done, that could not be properly performed before.”

The garden's longest new bed frame prepared for placement.

The garden’s longest new bed frame prepared for placement.

In our jardin potager at Fort de Chartres State Historic Site, we are taking this early winter opportunity not only to work in the beds but to actually replace four of our rotting raised beds. Replacing and reconditioning the beds is a worthwhile and productive way to spend a winter’s day and fits well with the concepts of birth and celebration of this season’s holidays. Preparing the garden for a new season is a fulfilling reminder of the optimism of the New Year and the garden’s future. This garden project is funded by last year’s successful KGI Seedmoney Grant fundraising event completed December 2015.  A significant portion of the funds raised for our jardin potager last year was used to buy the lumber needed for this project. Former Fort site staff member, Gerry Franklin, has been an invaluable resource offering advice and assistance, working with garden volunteer and Les Amis du Fort de Chartres member, Jen Duensing, constructing the new beds in the appropriate manner required to match the current beds and consistent with eighteenth-century construction methods. The lumber had been ordered earlier this summer and has been curing in the intervening months. I can’t fully express my gratitude for Jen and Gerry’s work on this project, for their time and effort making the dream of new beds a reality. Recently, Jen, her son Graden, our newest garden volunteer, George Kutterer, Gerry, and the Fort’s seasonal staff member, Jeff Weber, met me in the kitchen garden to install two of the replacement beds. The final bed was installed yesterday. With the lack of Fort site funds due to the Illinois State budget impasse, volunteer efforts combined with the many past garden donations are an irreplaceable gift to the jardin and the site. All donations—past, present, and future—enable us to move forward each garden season, including allowing us to buy and share heirloom seeds, furthering the interpretive efforts of this heritage project.

Author & jardinier testing soil of the newly prepared beds.

Author & jardinier testing soil before preparing beds.

Visitors often express much interest in the raised beds in our French colonial kitchen garden and raised bed gardening in general. This common colonial garden feature existed throughout France and Europe in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and was brought to North America as the French settled Northeast Canada and expanded westward towards the Mississippi River and south to Louisiana. Raised-bed gardening traveled with the colonial settlements as they grew along the routes of French expansion and the beds were found to be wonderfully adaptable to the various growing conditions found throughout the continent.20160714_133053 The materials used to create garden beds would be have been common to the area being settled. Likely materials used to make garden beds would have included lumber created from locally harvested timber, wattle made with wooden rods or stakes interwoven with twigs or branches to create a bed wall, and found materials such as stone. If using lumber found in the Illinois country, there are a few types of wood that are naturally rot resistant and long lasting, such as red mulberry,  cedar, and juniper. Dense woods such as black walnut or white oak would also be a good choice with older pine wood an option for a well-drained location. In order to match the larger bed lumber needed in our jardin potager, aged yellow pine was chosen to be used in our new beds as it could be acquired in the larger sizes needed for our replacement beds. The jardin’s site is especially well drained for the most part, an important requirement in our wood selection of yellow pine. Yellow pine was the wood used previously in the construction of the Fort’s jardin beds and the wood lasted on site for 20+ years.  For general information on raised bed materials, a nice reference site can be found here.

Debbie & Ron McCain

Debbie & Ron McCain

In the season’s spirit of reflection, we look to the past to not only celebrate the highlights and successes of the recent growing season but to review and reflect on the garden’s journey. Well met this past season are the friends and Fort visitors who have shown pleasure and interest in our French colonial heritage garden. The garden welcomed new friends such as Debbie & Ron McCain who donated a fig seedling to be planted in the jardin for mes amis Antoinette, Renea, and my use in our eighteenth-century culinary recette explorations inspired by the Fort’s bake oven. This lovely gift was accompanied by a new fig preserve recette—such a kindness and one we look forward to exploring.  All these kinds of memories fill this past year’s garden path. And with the close of another year, there is full recognition of and regard for those who have gardened at the Fort through the years, whether volunteers and/or staff, such as Adele and Linda. They deserve our thanks, appreciation, and remembrance for their efforts and of all the others involved in the work of interpreting our region’s gardening past.

James Adams Primitive Tools

James Adams period garden hand tools.

The interpretive journey of this jardinier has benefited from the kindness and skill of the many friends who have helped in the garden through recent years, Antoinette, Renea, Jennifer, and others. And then there are those who have created or donated beautiful garden tools, knives, and hoes, such friends as John Hancock, James Adams, and Shawna Kadlec.

FdC heirloom sample seed packets. Knife, John Hancock.

FdC heirloom sample seed packets. Knife, John Hancock.

Their beautiful gifts have been important contributions in the interpretation of this French colonial garden.  As any gardener knows, our tools require loving care and attention, which brings memories of a dear friend, Bo Bradshaw. Bo was a wonderful reenactor, his interest and attention to detail was impressive, as was his kindness. Bo often brought his period sharpening wheel to the Fort and you might have seen him set-up near the garden shed during a rendezvous or other event.  He would kindly sharpen our garden’s knives, hoes, and hand tools-elevating the interpretive experience from the academic to a practical educational exercise. Bo’s sudden passing earlier this month leaves us poorer in spirit and our hearts are sore for his loved ones and friends. For anyone who might have known or remembered Bo from Fort and other reenactment events, a memorial page has been created at

Bo Bradshaw demonstrating his sharpening wheel at the Fort. Thang Ho Photography.

Bo Bradshaw demonstrating his sharpening wheel at the Fort. Thang Ho Photography.

And in the spirit of remembrance and reflection, it is fitting to take a moment at the close of this year to remember a good man and his seasons of giving and, in turn, repay his kindnesses to his family as they begin this New Year.

To support Les Amis du Fort de Chartres and all of its projects and efforts at Fort de Chartres, become a member! And if you would like to add a donation for the Fort de Chartres Heritage Jardin Potager, just  include your designated gift with your membership fee. We appreciate and give thanks for all support and extend greetings of the season-“Bonne année et bonne santé!”

Heirloom Produce Saturday-jardin d’été.

Summer in the Illinois country has been hot but the summer crops are producing and being harvested in the Fort’s kitchen garden. Heirloom cucumbers, squash, beans, and carrots are growing aIMG_3431pace of the season. You are invited to the next Heirloom Produce Saturday in the Fort de Chartres kitchen garden to be held Saturday, July 30, 10 AM-1 PM. We happily will share some of the jardin’s produce, offer tips on preparing for the fall garden, and have available free heirloom seed packets for fall plantings. Join us as we celebrate summer in the jardin potager! Let’s meet in Fort’s garden on July 30th at Fort de Chartres State Historic Site, 1350 IL Route 155, 4 miles west of Prairie du Rocher, IL 62277. Call (618) 284-7230 for more information.

« Older posts Newer posts »