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By June 2, 2020 Read More →

Samuel Prescott’s Garden

Each year, Samuel Prescott plants a dooryard garden at his mill house. This year, Samuel is keeping a garden journal and will share what is happening in the garden over the season. While fictional, Samuel’s journal is based on historic gardening techniques and plantings. In this first journal entry, he shares his methods for preparing and enriching the garden beds.

Samuel’s wife Nancy is keeping a diary of their daily lives in the Phoenix Mill House, read her diary here.


After a slow cool spring, I am starting to renew Mrs. Prescott’s kitchen garden for the summer ahead.

The ground planted so far has been prepared by double trenching as follows. At one extremity of the

Preparing the beds for planting

plot, a trench is dug, a spade wide, down to the infertile sand and gravel of this mill yard, and the dug soil carried to the opposite side of the garden. Next to the trench thus made, several inches of upper soil, including the needle mulch of last year and the leaves piled on last fall, are turned into the first trench along with any insect eggs and weed seeds lingering in that layer, Then the rest of this second trench is spaded up and turned into the first trench, bringing it back to the original level, burying seeds and pests too deeply to do mischief this season.

This enterprise is repeated across the width of the garden leaving the last open trench to be filled with the earth first reserved.

From the combustion of garden produce and field crops, our men of science have noted the mineral residues which must have been carried away from our croplands with the harvest, and reasonably

Samuel started these Katadhin potatoes from last year’s stock. He planted a row of peas along the fence.

should be restored if fields are to remain productive. Animal and green “manures”, rotted bark from the tanning pits, and composted horse manure from hot beds are all recommended.

We bury our kitchen waste in the garden and are adding peat, dug from a local bog to help fortify this light sandy soil and improve its ability to retain moisture in the summer’s heat. Sandy soils dry and warm earlier in the season, favoring the impatient gardener, but suffer from those same virtues in the heat and droughts of July and August.

Some cool weather plantings are appearing. Katadhin potatoes are 6 inches high from stock saved from

last fall’s harvest. The onion sets are poking up small green spikes. The lettuce is up, as are the peas, and the Brussels sprouts and cauliflower transplants are starting to establish.

Samuel Prescott, May 31, 1837