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"A Rich Spot of Earth": Thomas Jefferson's Revolutionary Garden at Monticello Hardcover – April 24, 2012

4.9 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Elegantly produced and artfully augmented by stunning, evocative photographs of the estate and the bounty it produces, Hatch's homage establishes Jefferson as the clear forefather of modern organic and sustainable garden movements."—Carol Haggas, Booklist, Starred Review
(Carol Haggas Booklist)

"Peter Hatch's vibrant and enthusiastic passion for preserving Thomas Jefferson's farming legacy at Monticello reminds us all of the time-tested continuity and historical root of this kind of agriculture."—Alice Waters
(Alice Waters)

"Breathtaking. The photos are beautiful, the research is impeccable, and the story is captivating. From a historian's perspective, Hatch provides a new depth to the understanding of Jefferson's character. From a gardener's perspective, the book serves as an inspiration to grow and treasure heirlooms."—Heirloom Adventures Blog
(Heirloom Adventures Blog)

"Digging deep into our long, illustrious tradition of presidential dirt. . . .A Rich Spot of Earth lovingly describes the 1000-foot terraced vegetable garden that was restored to its 1812 appearance under the author's able direction."—Dominique Browning, New York Times Book Review
(Dominique Browning New York Times Book Review)

Winner of a 2013 American Horticultural Society Book Award.
(American Horticultural Society Book Award American Horticultural Society 2013-03-20)

Winner, Silver Award of Achievement from the 2013 Garden Writers Association Media Awards Program.
(Silver Award of Achievement Garden Writers Association 2013-04-02)

Winner, 2013 Annual Book Award, The Colonial Dames of America
(Annual Book Award The Colonial Dames of America 2013-04-10)

"...there is much interesting archive material, and pleasing vegetable still-lifes composed with the care of a Dutch master."—Ambra Edwards, Gardens Illustrated
(Ambra Edwards Gardens Illustrated 2012-05-01)

 "Beautifully illustrated, authoritative. . . . It is wonderful to find out that the man who contributed so much to the republic in which we live also set his contemporaries—and posterity—such a salutary example in other ways as well."—Martin Rubin, Washington Times
(Martin Rubin Washington Times)

"A Rich Spot of Earth: Thomas Jefferson's Revolutionary Garden at Monticello presents a rarely seen side of the man. Here is Jefferson with mud-splattered boots laying out garden beds and carefully setting seeds with dirty hands: a Founding Father not on a lofty pedestal, but joyfully competing with neighbors in an annual contest to see who could bring the first spring peas to table."—David Maurer, Richmond Times-Dispatch
(David Maurer Richmond Times-Dispatch)

“In this fascinating book, Peter Hatch wonderfully weaves together his deep understanding of Monticello’s soil with his scholarly knowledge of Jefferson’s legacy as a gardener.”—Andrea Wulf, author of Founding Gardeners
(Andrea Wulf 2011-10-20)

“Peter Hatch is the ultimate authority on America’s ultimate vegetable garden.  Learn all about the genius of the place.  Hatch’s fascinating account will enrich your garden and your life.”—Amy P. Goldman, Chair of the Board, Seed Savers Exchange
(Amy P. Goldman 2011-10-20)

"Peter Hatch brings the horticultural legacy of Thomas Jefferson to life.  A Rich Spot of Earth affords us a clear and compelling view into the revolutionary thinking of Jefferson, illuminating for the reader his approach to food, diversity, democracy, and freedom – making the genius of Jefferson, perhaps, as relevant today as at any other time in American history."—P. Allen Smith, author of The Garden Home Series
(P. Allen Smith 2011-10-25)

"The book is absolutely beautiful and tells a fascinating story. It provides pure pleasure for those interested in tasty food lavishly presented. And it opens up a new and interesting way of thinking about Jefferson, the Founding Father who remains most relevant and malleable for Americans."—Erik Loomis, Lawyers, Guns, and Money Blog
(Erik Loomis Lawyers, Guns, and Money Blog)

“[T]he images make the book thoroughly enjoyable, and, through their sheer number and quality, provide us with an insight into the sublime character, and material ordering, of natural productions so important to historical actors of this period.”—Simon Thode, Archives of Natural History (Simon Thode Archives of Natural History 2014-01-01)

From the Author

Interesting Facts & Stats

from "A Rich Spot of Earth"


·     Open to new ideas from far-flung sources, Thomas Jefferson incorporated gardening traditions from England, France, Spain and the Mediterranean, West Africa, and Creole culture.


·     With boundless enthusiasm, Jefferson sought seeds and distributed them. He received them from the Lewis and Clark expedition, from neighbors and friends across America, and from an international community of plantsmen.


·     Jefferson experimented with over 330 varieties and some 99 species of vegetables.


·     With some of his neighbors, Jefferson enjoyed a tradition of competing to raise spring peas; whoever harvested the first spring pea hosted a community dinner that included a feast on the winning pea crop.


·     Unique among Virginia gardeners of his day, Jefferson introduced a roster of unfamiliar species now taken for granted, including tomatoes, okra, eggplant, lima beans, peanuts, and peppers.


·     Anticipating healthy living advice that would be extolled two centuries later, Jefferson wrote, “I have lived temperately, eating little animal food, and that . . . as a condiment for the vegetables which constitute my principal diet.”


·     Jefferson documented nearly six decades of horticultural triumphs and failures in his Garden Book, a diary he maintained from 1766 to 1824. This rich record made possible the most accurate early American garden restoration ever undertaken. 

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1St Edition edition (April 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300171145
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300171143
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 10.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #731,825 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By wogan TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover
We hear, see and read much of the architecture of Jefferson, his plans and ideas, but little of his love for the garden. This is a nice size coffee table book, easy to handle and read that will educate and show a reader around Jefferson's Monticello garden. There is some information on other gardens of the times and influences on Jefferson.
The photographs are lovely and illustrations well done. There is as much text as there are pictures.

The book contains' Jefferson building and designing his garden, the garden of today, and specific information on Monticello's vegetables, fruits, flowers, roots and leaves. There is an appendix on vegetables mentioned in Jefferson's own garden book and in his correspondence, sources for historic and heirloom vegetables and an index

Photographs show the garden of today, both in close up and aerial photos. There are illustrations of Jefferson's garden diary and planning. One photo is included of the garden in the 1940's - one wishes that more of this interim time would have been included.
We read how Jefferson's garden was built, the terracing that had to be done, his love of vegetables and the amounts harvested and purchased. How Jefferson had a competition with his neighbors... whoever harvested the first spring pea, hosted a community dinner. The varieties and plantings, methods all give an interesting portrayal of this man and his time.
The book itself is interesting for those who love gardens, Jefferson, Monticello and history.
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Recommended for its forward thinking and ideas far ahead of the times, this is a delightful book full of useful and fascinating information from this incredible Renaissance man of our very own US of A--Thomas Jefferson--what an enquiring mind and how very wonderful it must have been to have been privileged enough to know him! Many of the suggestions made and horticultural experiments tried are still honored and practiced now--Jefferson was somewhat of a genius! The pictures and story told in this book demonstrating the complete modern revamp of
the garden to demonstrate the beauty as it was in the past is worth many afternoons of pleasant reading.
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This beautiful book, lavishly illustrated and engagingly written, is, I fear, going to fall into the wrong hands. Why? It looks like a so-called coffee table book (lush photos, oversized format). It would be a shame if it ended up on, well, coffee tables, to eventually be covered with old magazines or used as a handy coaster or, in better circles, to perform a merely decorative "house beautiful" function.

It deserves to fall into better hands, specifically those of your favorite vegetable-growing friend or relative. Plenty has been written about Monticello, its architecture and beautiful grounds. This book is about Thomas Jefferson's vegetable gardens.

Might you be interested in what varieties of lettuce Jefferson grew? What sort of insects attacked his crops? How he saved seeds and swapped them with his neighbors? Then this book is for you. You may never live in a house like Monticello, but you can put its vegetable varieties on your table.

The book is divided in two. The first half focuses on Jefferson's interest in gardening and the development and restoration of the Monticello gardens. It presents a well-researched look at the state of American horticulture in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The author, Peter Hatch, Director of Grounds and Gardens at Monticello, also pays homage to the African-American slaves whose labor built Jefferson's gardens and whose own garden plots often supplied the big house.

The second half is a detailed look at many of the vegetables grown in the gardens, including cultural information. It is here where Jefferson's passion for experiment becomes clear. He was always trying new seeds, such as varieties of corn brought back by the Lewis and Clark expedition.
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Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed this coffee table style book. I'm not a gardener, but I wanted to read this book for it's historical tidbits. I learned that Jefferson really loved his veggies and introduced a lot of new legumes to the States. He was one of the first gentleman farmers to start growing vegetables based on the seasons and he americanized gardening, and got away from the english style of planting.
This book is truly a treasure and so is it's author Peter Hatch. Hatch has devoted many decades to researching and restoring Monticello's gardens to their colonial glory days and this book is a terrific record of this labor of love.
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Having lived in Charlottesville, VA for many years I am familiar with Monticello. Just beautiful and I highly recommend making a point of visiting whether passing through the area or you already live here.

The reason I bought this book was because I am a gardener and Thomas Jefferson was a well known gardener and ahead of his time in that arena. I wanted to understand how he planted, what he planted and where he got his seeds and information.

This book combines history and gardening. Just imagine what it took to construct a 1,000 ft. garden bed and then adding 60 wagon loads of manure. Not only do you learn the successes but the failures in the garden. Who were the key contributors. Where and what Jefferson learned in both France and England. He was not a big meat eater. In fact, he is quoted as saying he only used meat as a condiment. He loved vegetables and had great success with lady apples (tomatoes). He also had a yearly contest with his neighbors to see who could produce the first peas of the year. The winner had to host a dinner using his peas. Learn what it took to build and maintain Monticello. The labor and construction will boggle your mind.

I found this book to be fascinating and well worth the price. Do yourself a favor and order " A Rich Spot of Earth", what a delight.
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