Fort de Chartres Heritage Garden

Un journal d'un Jardin Potager du Pays des Illinois

Tag: seeds (page 1 of 2)

Neige de printemps

American Bottomland

American Bottomland Late Winter

16 Mars 2014 Dimanche (Sunday)

31 F, Snow

14 mph NNE wind

Snow. Four days until the arrival of spring and winter is reluctant to release its grip in the Illinois country. We continue to endure the temperature extremes with accompanying precipitation and await a steadier course of warm weather truly heralding the change of seasons. Late winter has offered a limited number of days suitable for work in the garden and just as one despairs of the weather, welcome news arrives lifting one’s spirits.

First, the glad tidings. This year marks the fifth season of the Fort de Chartres Heirloom Garden project. I am very thankful for the support of fort staff, Les Amis de Fort de Chartres (The Friends of Fort de Chartres), friends, and visitors who have shared in the eighteenth-century French-colonial garden adventure. leaffork_with_text_580_0KGIIn celebration of this milestone, I applied for a Kitchen Gardeners International grant on behalf of the Fort’s l’habitant jardin potager under the sponsorship of the Save American History organization. Notification has just arrived that the Fort garden project has been awarded a $500 grant from KGI’s nonprofit community of over 30,000 people who are growing some of their own food and helping others to do the same.  The Sow It Forward grant program received 910 applications from 24 countries and 160 grants were awarded. We are extremely thankful to be chosen for this grant and promise to continue sharing heirloom seeds, education, and enthusiasm with visitors to the Fort de Chartres jardin potager. In addition, Les Amis de Fort de Chartres and Save Illinois History organizations are matching the grant amount which will enable the garden to expand, repair, and further the garden project and its outreach to those interested in history and gardening. These organizations have given wonderful patronage to Fort de Chartres, and we are appreciative to be included in their support. Merci.

Renea, Toni, Nick, and Cecelia

Renea, Toni, Nick, and Cecelia

Returning to the needs of le jardin, work has begun in earnest, despite the uncertain weather.  Late February’s annual garden weekend at Fort de Chartres was spent in great companionship and weather with my husband Nick, mes amis Toni, John, Renea, and Cecelia. Time in the garden involved weeding and clearing beds, pruning fruit trees, and late winter plantings of late heirloom Monstrueux de Viroflay spinach, Long Scarlet radish, and French fields poppies. Sample heirloom seed packets and information were shared with the weekend’s travelers to the fort and a few visitors even chipped in by weeding and clearing beds-wonderful fun and a much needed respite from the sévérité of winter.

And in parting, soon the time will arrive for the annual Fort de Chartres April Colonial Trade Faire Musket and Rifle Frolic -April 4, 5, and 6. Mark it on your calendar and we hope to visit with you then!

Jardin Potager Weekend, Février 2012

JMA Primitive ToolsAs winter continues its journey, dreams of the upcoming garden season are quickly becoming reality.  Jardin seeds collected throughout the previous growing season are catalogued and set aside, ready for planting as the temperatures begin their steady rise.  New seed varieties to be tried in this year’s garden are ordered and are beginning to arrive in the post.  Winter has been mild and kind, and we anticipate finalizing garden plans and the work preparing and amending the raised beds.  By late February the beds will be turned and the early crops of peas, kale, lettuce, and spinach will be direct sown with beets, cabbage, leeks, radishes, and turnips to follow quickly behind if the temperatures remain constant.

On Saturday, February 25, 10 – 4 PM, come and visit our jardin potager at historic Fort de Chartres.  Join in our historic journey and watch us begin the annual work of gardening in the Illinois Country.  Volunteers as habitants, prepare kitchen garden beds with reproduction tools and plant heirloom seeds of vegetables, herbs, and flowers, all heirloom varieties that might have been grown in Upper Louisiana. We celebrate the approach of spring with the age old activities that bring the promise of future harvests of the spring, summer, and fall seasons.

Thank you once again to Silvertree Forge, Jas. Adams, Proprietor, for offering to replace the wooden handles of newly donated period garden hoes and pitch fork.  (Thank you, Shawna Kadlec, for the donation!)  Mr. Adams has been kind enough to create our most excellent reproduction primitive garden tools used in our heritage garden.  If interested in participating or for more information about period garden tools, please visit the Participer page of our garden blog.


27 August, Saturday

90 degrees F

Partly Sunny, Calm

Finally cooler winds swept across the valley floor and some relief arrived for the jardin. A week after the previous post, two-thirds of an inch of rain fell and one could almost hear the plants sighing. It was brief respite from the heat but most welcome. Our Heirloom Produce Saturdays have been great fun and a wonderful opportunity to meet visitors, share produce, recipes, gardening stories and the continued harvest of eggplants, scallop squashes, and watermelons.

Mmes Hancock et Davis

But with exasperation, I must note the recent resurgence of heat with no new rain. The days are nearing September, late summer chores continue-heirloom beets, carrots, lettuce, radish and turnip seeds were planted, while the compost was turned and new materials were added. As a sad tune to this summer’s meter, most time spent in the jardin once again have been focused on watering and controlling weeds. Some of the seeds have emerged but a few beds had to be reseeded due to the lack of germination. The melons and squash still produce, but fewer fruit have been set.

The Author

Raccoons manage to slip into the garden overnight and sample the few remaining ripening French melons, very frustrating! The open rinds lay in the bed and scooped clean of any trace of melon except for the seed. The red seeded citron watermelons litter the melon bed intact, the rind being too hard for raccoon mischief. These melons are strong survivors to the trials of our summer. The citron melon was preserved following the recipe posted last month on the recettes page and the result was surprisingly lovely-the marmalade flavors of ginger and lemon combined with sweetened melon. The result is a marmalade piquancy without the bite. Melon preserves will be a wonderful accompaniment to meals and tart fillings this winter. As these melons are not eaten fresh, they will keep months in the cellar and can be processed as the fall season slows work in the gardens. No wonder citron melons were widely grown, even though they take a bit of work to prepare.

Garden weeded and planted for fall.

Looking about the garden, we do not wish the summer season to be at an end–still hoping to be blessed with cooler temperatures and rain. Time is needed for seeds to grow and then, as the promise of the fall garden beckons, the tastes and pleasures of the upcoming autumn will be ours to explore.

11 August, Thursday

Summer Harvest

86 degrees F

Sunny, Light S winds

While enduring the heat and the lack of rain these past weeks, the lyrics from a traditional harvest song keep echoing in my mind -“The summer is a tyrant of a most ungracious kind.” No truer words express this past August in our jardin. The unrelenting sun made the work of clearing the garden of spent summer plants and weeds even more challenging than usual. So much of the time upon arrival involved watering, harvesting, and feeding plants, nurturing and protecting the crops against the burning rays. The melons and summer squash are producing, even thriving, in this August heat while the cucumbers are struggling to set fruit.

Cucumbers and Basil

It was a relief to observe the leeks and eggplants still growing and the new planting of native Potawatomie lima beans beginning to twine around the base of their poles. Once again, friends Antoinette and Renea stepped forward several times this month, helping with the thankless tasks of digging and clearing beds. Forgotten carrots and turnips are discovered and are fed to the chickens, while the weeds are pulled and beds are prepared for planting.

Turnip Seedlings

The ticking seasonal clock waits on no one and as soon as the weather breaks, seeds will be planted for the fall season. New to the jardin this month, Heirloom Produce Saturdays. On our first Saturday, we had a few visitors brave the 90 degree heat and sample the Moir de Carmes, Charentais, Missouri Heirloom, Georgia Rattlesnake melons. We gave away some melons and squash and shared recipes. We hoped for cooler temps the upcoming Saturday, and more new friends to visit and share our jardin produce.


4 June, Saturday

95 degrees F

Sunny, Light Wind

The date does not reflect the true summer season, but the first weekend in June heralds the beginning of the summer for those of us in the Illinois Country. It is the annual date of the Fort de Chartres Rendezvous and this year commemorated the 41st year of this landmark event. Rendezvous is a re-creation of the traditional French fur trapper’s holiday of the 18th Century, and is one of the oldest and largest events of its kind in the United States. And as usual, the temperatures and humidity soared as the date approached. Even as the heat rose, visitors arrived to take in all the activities; morning and evening colors in all its pageantry, militiamen, buckskinners, artisans, and entertainers. We welcomed visitors to our jardin potager and enjoyed sharing gardening history with those who stopped by. This event should not be missed as it always is filled with much joyous noise and activity, the colorful sights and sounds of a large 18th Century regional gathering.

In between garden visitors, some work was accomplished in the garden. Weeding help was offered by a new acquaintance and her work was gratefully accepted. As she weeded, work continued, mounding the soil next to the spring peas, so that the De Bourbonne & Long Anglais cucumber seeds could be planted. Once this task was completed, these beds along with the others were thoroughly watered. Checking the new apple trees planted earlier this spring, I was very pleased to see they are thriving and ready for the next step in the process of espaliering. New shoots were pinched back, leaving those to be trained to their supporting wire in the fall. The lettuces and radishes were harvested along with the Tom Thumb bush beans. Their harvesting brings to mind ingredients for an 18th century salad whether French salades simples or English salmagundi. Look on the recettes page of this blog for salad, cucumber, green and dried pea recipes.


21 June, Tuesday

87 Degrees F


Summer is indeed with us, streaming in with the rains still pounding our region. With the formal arrival of the season, the heat has made for challenging gardening conditions.  Our Tom Thumb bush peas are just finishing production but the yellowed and dried vines of the Blue Podded Snap & the De Grace Snow peas signal the end of their season. Tis time to clean out the dead vines and provide the supports for the rapidly growing cucumbers . Work continues with the weeding, harvesting some carrots, radishes, and turnips as I progress through the garden beds. The Painted Lady Runner beans and snapdragons are brightening the jardin with their blooms. Radishes have gone to seed but they are left in place for now as they have been attracting pollinating and beneficial insects in the garden. Staff and volunteer help have begun weeding of the Native Garden and the large squash/melon bed. Their efforts are greatly appreciated. These areas are rapidly growing, fueled by the warm temperatures. As the plants grow, they are checked for signs of the dreaded squash bugs, which so devastated our squash crops last summer and fall. It appears with the cooler temperature this spring and the heavy rains since, they are appearing more slowly this season. All in all, except for the perennial complaint of an abundance of weeds, one can be satisfied with the steady progress of our jardin potager.

Trade Faire Gardening

3 April, Sunday

80 Degrees F

Sunny, Gusty Winds

After a busy weekend enjoying the Fort de Chartres annual Colonial Trade Faire and Rifle/Musket Frolic (sponsored by the Chasseurs du Datchurat), Sunday morning brought bright sunshine and rising temperatures. As we basked in  the warmth relaxing in our camp, we looked beyond and the garden beckoned. Toni and Renea quickly set to work weeding the asparagus bed and I began to prepare a few beds for planting. It was remarkable to reflect that just a few days earlier, strong winds brought air that was quite cool and damp and just the week previous we were experiencing thunder-snow! This morning our hope was to finish preparing and planting the beds that we were unable to work on due to the earlier snows. After hoeing and weeding, we planted St. Valery and Tonda Di Parigi carrots, Crapaudine and Early Wonder beets, Navet des Vertus Marteau turnips, and Red Wetherfield Onion sets. These heirlooms are seeds/sets of the 18th century and are close to the type of vegetables that might have been grown by les habitants of the Illinois Country, full of flavor and valued for their many uses-fresh or preserved. The newly planted seeds were well watered, as well as the other parts of the garden already planted. Gooseberry shrubs were pruned, joining the grape vines already so prepared by fort staff memebr Dennis Thomas and volunteer John Guilfoy. Walking the garden, the cabbage transplants appeared to be settling in nicely and the lettuces, spinach, and radishes seedlings were beginning to emerge. These cool weather crops were not bothered by this uncertain weather, thriving and growing, using the current warm air to fuel their growth. A morning spent in garden work under the sun warming rays was a pleasant way to end to a weekend of camaraderie and friendship. In the weeks ahead, as we near our last frost-date milestone, the next seeds to be planted will be runner beans and peas. Other garden projects include new heirloom apple and pear fruit trees which have been ordered and delivered. These new fruit trees are provided by Les Amis de Fort de Chartres, the fort volunteer organization. As we prepare work on our garden layout and design, we welcome the onset of spring!

Older posts