Get your hands dirty and plant wheat, oats, and barley just like Washington did as he experimented with the best practice of growing these cereal grains. Watch their progress online throughout the growing season.

Dates Offered

Time

Program offered 11:30AM-12PM; experiment is on display all day

Location

Pioneer Farm

Washington was a visionary plantation owner who used experimental farming as a way to advance agriculture at Mount Vernon and for our fledgling nation. Because cultivating tobacco depleted his soil, Washington switched to growing wheat, oats, and barley. In 1760, he conducted an experiment to discover the best soil for growing these grains and recorded their progress in his diary.

From July 7 to September 1, Mount Vernon will recreate this experiment using the same soil mixtures as Washington: cow manure, horse manure, sheep manure, creek mud, and river sand. 

Every day at 11:30AM, dig and plant seeds in a soil box like Washington and learn about his 1760 experiment from our historic tradesmen.

Read Excerpts from Washington's Diary in 1760

Monday Apl. 14.

Fine warm day, Wind So[uther]ly and clear till the Eveng. when it clouded.
No Fish were to be catchd to day neither.
Mixd my Composts in a box with ten Apartments in the following manner viz.—in No. 1 is three pecks of the Earth brought from below the Hill out of the 46 Acre Field without any mixture—in No.
2. is two pecks of the said Earth and one of Marle taken out of the said Field which Marle seemd a little Inclinable to Sand.
[267]
3. Has 2 Pecks of sd. Earth and 1 of Riverside Sand.
4. Has a Peck of Horse Dung.
5. Has Mud taken out of the Creek.
6. Has Cow Dung.
7. Marle from the Gullys on the Hill side wch. seemd to be purer than the other.
8. Sheep Dung.
9. Black Mould taken out of the Pocoson on the Creek side.
10. Clay got just below the Garden.
All mixd with the same quantity & sort of Earth in the most effectual manner by reducing the whole to a tolerable degree of fineness & jubling them well together in a Cloth.
In each of these divisions were planted three Grains of Wheat 3 of Oats & as many of Barley, all at equal distances in Rows & of equal depth (done by a Machine made for the purpose).
The Wheat Rows are next the Numbered side, the Oats in the Middle, & the Barley on that side next the upper part of the Garden.
Two or three hours after sowing in this manner, and about an hour before Sun set I waterd them all equally alike with Water that had been standing in a Tub abt. two hours exposd to the Sun.
Began drawing Bricks burning Lime & Preparing for Mr. Triplet who is to be here on Wednesday to Work.
Finishd Harrowing the Clover Field, and began reharrowing of it. Got a new harrow made of smaller, and closer Tinings for Harrowing in Grain—the other being more proper for preparing the Ground for sowing.
Cook Jack’s plow was stopd he being employd in setting the Lime Kiln.

 

Thursday May 1st.

Got over early in the Morning and reachd home before Dinnertime and upon enquiry found that my Clover Field was finishd sowing & Rolling the Saturday I left home—as was the Sowing of my Lucerne: and that on the [ ] they began sowing the last field of Oats & finishd it the 25th.
That in box No. 6, two grains of Wheat appeard on the 20th.; one an Inch high—on the 22d. a grain of Wheat in No. 7 and 9 appeard—on the 23 after a good deal of Rain the Night before some Stalks appeard in Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5, & 8 but the Ground was so hard bakd by the drying Winds when I came home that it was difficult to say which Nos. lookd most thriving. However in
No. 1 there was nothing come up.
2. 2 Oats 1 barley
3. 1 Oat 2 barley
4. 1 Oat 4
5. 1 Wheat 2 Oats
6. 1 Do. 3 Do. 1 Do.
7. 1 Do. 2 Do. 2 Do.
8. 1 Do. 1 Do.
9. 2 Do. 3 Do. 2 Do.
10. 1 Do.
The two Grains in No. 8 were I think rather the strongest, but upon the whole No. 9 was the best.

 

Thursday May 22d.

Continued shearing my sheep. A good deal of Rain at Night—and Cool as it has been ever since the first Reign on the 12th.
Captn. Dalton had a sorrell Mare coverd.
My Black Mare that came Frederick was Coverd Yesterday & the day before.
Captn. McCarty had a Mare Coverd the 20th.
Memms.
To have 600 Tobo. Hills Marld at Williamsons quarter—to try the Virtues of it—to do it more effectually, tend 500 Hills of the same Ground witht. Marl giving both equal working and let them fare exactly alike in all Respects.
[283]
For an Experimt.
Take 7 Pots (Earthen) or 7 Boxes of equal size and number them.
Then put in No. 1 pld. Earth taken out of the Field below, which is intend. for Wheat—in No. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 equal proportion’s of the same Earth—to No. 2 put Cow dung—to 3 Marle, 4 ⟨with⟩ Mud from the Marshes ⟨& bottoms⟩ adjoining the [ ] Field, to 5 Mud ⟨tak⟩en out of the River immediately, to 6 the same Mud lain to Mellow sum time, and to 7 the Mud taken from the Shoreside at low Water where it appears to be unmixd with Clay. Of each an equal quantity—and at the proper Season of Sowing Oats put in each of these Pots or boxes 6 Grains of the largest and heaviest Oats planted at proper distances—and watch their growth and different changes till Harvest.
N.B. To preserve them from Accidents put them in the Garden ⟨and⟩ let the Pots be buried ⟨up⟩ to their brims.

"The more I am acquainted with agriculture affairs the better I am pleased with them, insomuch that I can find nowhere so great satisfaction, as in those innocent and useful pursuits."

-George Washington

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3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway
Mount Vernon, Virginia 22121