A Veritable Vegetable Garden

When the Rowan family first planned their “Federal Hill” mansion, now known as “My Old Kentucky Home,” they needed a considerable vegetable garden to supply not only the family, but the workforce of the farm as well.

The number of people that the farm needed to supply with food fluctuated drastically from year-to-year at Federal Hill. With the increase in family members over time, in addition to an increase or reduction of enslaved servants, varying amounts of food were needed to adequately sustain the farm’s inhabitants. The gardens which appear to have been located directly behind the mansion served as a means to make the farm self-sufficient.

Perhaps the largest number of occupants at the Federal Hill farm would have been a total of 50 people. Eleven family members and thirty-nine enslaved servants. Among the various outbuildings, animals, and feed crops that supported life at Federal Hill, there was the necessity of a vegetable garden to provide the family and workforce with food. According to images made of the mansion in the 1870s, the vegetable garden may have been located directly behind the mansion. A picket fence can be seen directly behind the mansion and typically, vegetable gardens were contained within such fences. An ornamental garden is documented as having been installed and located between the mansion and the cemetery.

 My Old Kentucky Home (Federal Hill) in 1882

My Old Kentucky Home (Federal Hill) in 1882

 Picket Fence behind Mansion

Picket Fence behind Mansion

Today, an ornamental flower garden that was initially installed in the 1950s has taken the place of what is believed to be the original vegetable garden. However, in order to provide guests of My Old Kentucky Home a glimpse into 19th century life, a 19th century style garden is being created adjacent to the west kitchen entry.

My Old Kentucky Home’s new vegetable garden will feature vegetables documented as having been part of the farm’s diet, and will feature plants specifically referred to in their letters. The garden is also being planted, maintained, and harvested by the signs, a 19th century tradition amongst farmers and a celestial agricultural practice spanning centuries into human history. More about planting by the signs can be heard on days when the our garden events are held.

Included in the garden will be: 

Carrots
Snow Peas
Rhubarb
Corn
Pumpkin
Mint
Cabbage
Bibb Lettuce
Radish
Potatoes
Onions
Garlic
Eggplant
Okra
Asparagus
Cucumbers
Squash