"A Rich Spot of Earth" Thomas Jefferson's Revolutionary Garden at Monticello Peter J. Hatch, Alice Waters

Publication date:
13 Nov 2014
Yale University Press
280 pages: 216 x 260mm
201 color illus.
Sales territories:

Were Thomas Jefferson to walk the grounds of Monticello today, he would no doubt feel fully at home in the 1,000-foot terraced vegetable garden where the very vegetables and herbs he favored are thriving. Extensively and painstakingly restored under Peter J. Hatch's brilliant direction, Jefferson's unique vegetable garden now boasts the same medley of plants he enthusiastically cultivated in the early nineteenth century. The garden is a living expression of Jefferson's genius and his distinctly American attitudes. Its impact on the culinary, garden, and landscape history of the United States continues to the present day.

Graced with more than 200 full-color illustrations, "A Rich Spot of Earth" is the first book devoted to all aspects of the Monticello vegetable garden. Hatch guides us from the asparagus and artichokes first planted in 1770 through the horticultural experiments of Jefferson's retirement years (1809–1826). The author explores topics ranging from labor in the garden, garden pests of the time, and seed saving practices to contemporary African American gardens. He also discusses Jefferson's favorite vegetables and the hundreds of varieties he grew, the half-Virginian half-French cuisine he developed, and the gardening traditions he adapted from many other countries.

As Director Emeritus of Gardens and Grounds at Monticello, Peter J. Hatch was responsible for the maintenance, interpretation, and restoration of its 2,400-acre landscape from 1977 until 2012. He lives in Charlottesville, VA.

"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

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

"[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

Winner of a 2013 American Horticultural Society Book Award

Winner, Silver Award of Achievement from the 2013 Garden Writers Association Media Awards Program

Winner, 2013 Annual Book Award, The Colonial Dames of America

"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

"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

"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

"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