- Meet George Washington
- Visit His Estate
- Support His Vision
- Educational Resources
After an extensive excavation and study, George Washington's upper garden re-opened in 2011 with a new design that accurately reflects its appearance in 1799. During the three-year, forensic-style study, archeologists unearthed evidence showing how the garden had grown and evolved under George Washington’s care, a more practical pleasure garden featuring more vegetables and fruits than ever before. The restored garden is both creative and practical, just as it was during George Washington’s time, with three large planting beds for produce framed by beautiful flowering trees and perennials.
Considered "Martha Washington’s garden", the lower garden is an excellent example of a Colonial Revival garden representing a formal English kitchen garden, continues to produce vegetables as it did more than 200 years ago. Also known as the kitchen garden, this space features the same vegetables, fruits, and herbs grown by Washington, as noted in his own writings and in the weekly reports of the gardener. The lower garden also includes a dipping cistern, which was a common feature of gardens, recommended in books of the time to expose and warm water from wells, thought to be better for plants.
Learn about Washington's farming practices at the George Washington: Pioneer Farmer site. This four-acre exhibition farm features a 16-sided barn of Washington's invention, a reconstructed slave cabin, animals, and crops. Demonstrations take place from April through October. Wheat treading demonstrations are offered July through October. Please check the online calendar for the schedule.
With more than 700 guests in one year, Mount Vernon’s kitchen bustled with activity day and night. Baking, roasting, broiling, frying and stewing were all accomplished here, both in the fireplace and over piles of hot coals burning at several locations on the hearth. At least three generous meals were served daily at Mount Vernon. Breakfast was served promptly at 7:00 a.m.; dinner at 3:00 p.m. and tea at 6:00 p.m. Sometimes a light supper was served at 9:00 p.m. This schedule meant a long and exhausting day for the team of enslaved workers. Assistants or scullions, who lived elsewhere on the grounds, hauled water and wood, washed dishes and cooking utensils, and helped with food preparation.
The salt house was used to store the hundreds of pounds of salt—then an expensive commodity—that Washington bought each year. Much of this salt was used to preserve food at Mount Vernon, but some of it was fed to his livestock or used to brine wheat seed to prevent it from rotting before planting.
In George Washington’s greenhouse, he and his gardeners tested their horticultural skills by growing plants exotic to Virginia. The greenhouse provided a winter refuge for such tropical and semi-tropical plants as coffee, orange, lemon, lime, sago palm, and aloe. During the warm growing season, these plants were moved outside to the garden.
Martha Washington carefully supervised the preparation of the hams and bacon that were eaten by the Washingtons and their guests. After slaughtering and butchering the hogs in December and January, the Mount Vernon slaves smoked the meat over a fire pit to preserve it for the coming year. The meat was smoked, aged, and stored in the smokehouse.
Occasionally a thief would break into the smokehouse and steal a ham. However, the most notable ham theft happened in broad daylight, right off the Washingtons' dining room table. The thief was a hound named Vulcan, who made a running pass at the table and dashed out the door with the savory prize clenched between his teeth. A chase ensued, and the ham was recovered; but, of course, nobody wanted to eat it after that. Although Martha was furious, George Washington delighted in recounting the incident to guests.