Fort de Chartres Heritage Garden

Un journal d'un Jardin Potager du Pays des Illinois

Tag: Summer

La fin de l’été

August harvests.

5 septembre 2017 mardi

72 degrees, partly sunny

12 mph, nw wind


Sow Cabbages, 10th, plant cuttings of Currants, Clary, Comfrey, plant cuttings of Gooseberries, sow Radishes, plant layers or suckers of Rasperries, Rosemary, plant out Strawberries, string your Strawberries, and dress your beds, plant Tansy.

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

FdC Jardin Potager

Ete.  Summer.  Just the word “summer” here in the Illinois Country brings the feeling of oppressiveness, as heat and humidity are a constant companion. One can argue the garden becomes all about the art of watering and under a summer’s sweltering conditions, the raised beds of a jardin potager require careful executing of that art.  Luckily as September begins to stretch into its first week, the days and weeks of extreme warmth have finally broken and we relax our guard over the constant worry of keeping the garden watered, welcoming the scattered showers drifting across the region, signaling transition. The transition really began earlier last month, just as John Randolph’s eighteenth century garden advice for August urged:

Sow Cabbages, latter end Carrots, get your Cucumber seed, sow Cresses, prick out Endive, early sow Lettuce, Mullein, gather Onion seed… sow Peas for the fall, sow Radishes, middle sow Spinach, tho’ some say not till after the 20th, sow Turnips.

Hidatsa Winter Squash

The centuries old advice recorded above is still sound practice for our late summer garden endeavors as we plan and plant a fall garden here in the Illinois Country.  Even as the harvest of the summer crops of cabbages, carrots, cucumbers, eggplants, onions, peppers, summer squash and watermelon continue, the summer season marches towards autumn with the first harvests of winter squash. Direct sowing of fall plantings of heirloom bush bean, beet, carrot, small bush pea, radish, and turnip seeds have been accomplished and as temperatures continue to cool, lettuces and spinach plantings will not be far behind.

Summer visitors. Photo by Ericha Johanning.

Over the summer months, Heirloom Produce Saturday and Fort visitors were welcomed into the jardin. Interpretation of and information about the colonial French kitchen garden were given, sample heirloom seeds packets were shared, and an ear was offered to all gardeners visiting to recount their garden stories. It is so interesting to learn of the seasonal peaks and valleys we each suffer in our yearly garden journeys and the connection and sense of camaraderie we develop by sharing these stories. To a gardener, the passage of time is measured in the triumphs and tragedies a pace of a season, as it has through the centuries here in the Illinois Country.

Wayne Wildey hoeing.

I had hoped that the story of this year’s garden would have been recorded more faithfully this season but the days have not seemed long enough to accomplish this simple task. Maybe one day I will be able to return to a more regular accounting of the garden’s season. While the jardin’s tale of successes and failures might be interesting, it is really not the only story to be recounted. What also has importance, especially for this gardener, is the help received during the course of the year. The assistance of volunteers always helps this jardinier have a garden story to share. Their efforts provide a solid framework of support that allows the work to move through the seasons. From late winter/early spring plantings of peas and spinach to the planting of cabbages, radishes, and turnips for the fall season, success and failure often rest on the simple garden chores of weeding, watering, and hoeing. Invaluable volunteer assistance this season was given by Jen, Jason, George, and Wayne, not to mention my husband’s unfailing help and support, and the enthusiasm and sheer joy of granddaughter Olivia. My friends Toni and Renea, along with others, have always offered a helping hand and kindly answered the call for assistance through the years and I am grateful.

James Adams’ new hay rake.

Also important in this heritage jardin’s journey are the lovely reproduction tools created and/or donated to the project, especially those by James and John. This garden has received gifts and support from many these past eight years and I am sincerely grateful. As we wend our way towards this season’s conclusion, the story of these volunteers is as important to this garden odyssey as the crops grown within its boundaries.


Récoltes et Gratitudes

10 septembre 2015 jeudiphoto 3(17)

84 degrees, Partly Sunny

5 mph, NNW wind

Harvests and Gratitudes. The jardin late summer has been bountiful, with heirloom summer squashes, cucumbers, beans, eggplants, melons, and peppers continuing to bear throughout the summer months. Intermittent stretches of cooler weather and rains nourish the recently planted fall crops as the garden is renewed through succession planting as autumn approaches and as the late summer crops near the end of their production. There is something so fulfilling in our garden cycle of reaping and sowing, following the paths and knowledge of previous generations of gardeners and farmers. Walking and working those same agricultural paths of sowing, weeding, and harvesting, give a depth of meaning to the seasons beyond the enjoyment of photo 4(4)the elements and their effect on nature. One can imagining the habitants of the Illinois country going about their daily lives, the acts of harvesting and preserving not only meant a boon to their household but could mean a the difference between life and death in the Illinois country. And yet this matter of serious urgency was made beautiful by the women of the Illinois country, their gardens reflecting the French sensibilities of beauty and skill beyond what was necessary. No matter the depth of their skill, they must have been grateful for the years of bounty which could sustain them through the years of disappointment, nature’s eternal challenge. The Fort de Chartres jardin potager is an attempt to honor that history.


Darrel Duensing, Fort de Chartres Site Manager

As we are in our sixth year of the modern reincarnation of the habitant jardin potager, I often reflect on the bounty not just of the garden but of friends, volunteers, Fort de Chartres staff, and sympathetic organizations who have helped make the garden a living breathing homage to those eighteenth century habitants of yore. I can’t possibly name all involved but please accept this gardener’s gratitude. Toni, Renea, and Jennifer, your willingness to help over the years have given me hope in those moments when the garden begins to overwhelm. I cannot express enough my gratitude to all members of my family, extended family, and our reenactment family who have kindly given their assistance to keep this vision of an eighteenth century French kitchen garden moving forward.

Jennifer Presler

Jennifer Presler


Toni Hancock & Renea Davis

The fort staff and volunteers over the last six years have continued to support and encourage these efforts, even as state funding has subsided. Darrell, Dennis, John, Linda, Jerry, David, and the many seasonal workers have so often made the difference between success and failure. Organizations such as Les Amis du Fort de Chartres, Les Coureurs de Bois de Fort de Chartres, Kitchen Gardeners International, Save Illinois History, Save American History, and in the early years, the Prairie du Rocher Girl Scouts fueled the jardin with energy and funds when it was most needed. And who could forget my partners in song in last autumn’s infamous KGI’s Carrotoke contest? Nick, John, Toni, Renea, James and Ed, your crazy willingness to sing into a crossed pair of carrots awarded the garden a second place prize which garnered the garden project much needed equipment and financial assistance in the form of new watering hoses, pruners, baskets, and rotary push mower. Long hours spent in the jardin potager often feel like a solitary project but in actuality it is a gift of many. The rewards are to be found in the interest and support of the public who delight in learning the history of  everyday life sustained by the women of the photo(22)Illinois country and in the beauty of sharing the garden’s gifts of free heirloom produce and seeds. The Fort de Chartres Heirloom Jardin Potager Project promises continued exploration of a l’habitant’s garden in the Illinois country, its history and beauty, aided by nature and those willing to care and support its efforts. Merci.

Reminder: To keep abreast of the jardin’s progress throughout the year, please follow the Fort de Chartres Jardin Potager Facebook page.