How many times have you heard the phrase “Genes don’t lie?” I am an amateur genealogist who has spent years researching my family lines. Imagine my absolute delight in discovering that my 7th great-grandmother was Martha Daniell Logan (Dec 29, 1704–June 28, 1779) of Charles Town, SC. She was the daughter of Lt. Governor Robert and Martha Daniell. After her father’s death on May 1, 1718, almost fourteen-year-old Martha inherited and managed her father’s 48,000 acre estate on the Wando River. She had been influenced by her father’s nursery business and thus began her love of gardening.
Charleston can lay claim of many famous “firsts” in South Carolina history. In 1752, Martha’s gardening calendar, “Gardener’s Kalendar,” was published for the first time in John Tobler’s South Carolina Almanack. She gave month-by-month instructions on what needed to be done in the garden. Unfortunately, a copy of the 1752 almanack edition has been lost. Martha’s calendar was published again in the 1757 edition of the South Carolina Almanack. An original of this printing is the archival collections of the South Carolina Historical Society in Charleston.
Not only was this the first gardening calendar published by a Colonial American, but it also was written by a woman! She was an avid gardener and kept extensive records on her gardening practices at her home near Charles Town. John Bartram, the famous Philadelphia botanist, met Martha in 1760 when he was visiting Charleston. This began a lengthy correspondence where they exchanged letters, plants, and seeds.
As Martha’s “Gardener’s Kalendar” was written in the 18th century, words and spelling varied greatly then to what is written today. For example, a medial (lowercase) s looks similar to an f is used in the middle of a word. An uppercase S is used at the beginning of a word, and a lowercase s is used at the end of a word. Martha was not consistent in her use of this rule.
My favorite advice that my 7th great-grandmother recommended is “Whatever was neglected the last Month, may be done in this with good Success, if it’s not too dry.”
It would be nice to know that she’s smiling, knowing that her “green genes” and love of gardening are present in her grateful descendant.
Below is a more modern, easier-to-read translation of the “Gardener’s Kalendar,” but it is transcribed using as much original language as possible.
Directions for managing a Kitchen-Garden every Month in the Year. Done by a Lady.
PLANT Peas and Beans: Sow Spinage (Spinach) for Use and for Seed; that which is preserved for Seed must never be cut; a small Quantity will yield plentifully in rich Ground. Sow Cabbage for Summer Use, when they are fit, transplant them into rich Earth. Sow Parsley. Transplant Artichokes into very rich mellow Ground, and they will bear in the Fall. This Month all Kinds of Fruit-Trees may be Transplanted.
Sow Celery, Cucumbers, Melons, Kidney-Beans, Spinage, Asparagus, Radish, Pasley, Lettuce to be transplanted in shady Places; the must be moved very young and watered every Morning; Pond or Rain Water is best. If the Season does not prove too wet, this Month is best for planting all Sorts of Trees, except the Fig, which should not be moved ‘till March, when the Suckers may be taken from the Roots of old Trees: The Fig will not bear Pruning. The Middle of this Month is the best for Grafting in the Cleft. If Fruit-Tres have not been pruned last Month, they must not be delayed longer. About the Middle of this Month, sow Spinage, Radish, Parsley, and Lettuce for the last time, plant Dwarf and hotspur Pease (Peas). Sow Onions, Carrots, and Parsnips; and plant out Carrots, Parsnips, Cabbages, and Onions, for Seed the next Year. Plant Hops, Strawberries, and All Kinds of aromatic Herbs.
Whatever was neglected last Month, may be done in this, with good Success, if it is not too dry. If it be, you must water more frequently. Now plant rounceval Pease (a variety of heirloom pea that was grown in England at the Chapel of St. Mary of Rounceval), and all manner of Kidney-Beans.
Continue to plant aromatic Herbes, Rosemary, Thyme, Lavender, &c, and be careful to weed and water what was formerly Planted. Lettuce, Spinage, and all kinds of Salading may be planted to use all the summer, but they must be frequently watered, and shaded from the Sun.
This Month is chiefly for weeding and watering; Nothing sown or planted does well.
Clip Evergreens, and Herbs for drying. Thyme, Sage, Carduus (a type of thistle), Rosemary, Lavender, &c. Sow Carrots, Parsnips, and Cabbage. If the Weather is dry and hot the Ground must be well watered, after being dug deep and made mellow. Straw or Stable-Liter well wetted, and laid pretty thick upon the Beds, where Seeds are sown, in the Heat of the Day, and taken off at Night, Is a good expedient to forward the Growth
What was done the last Month may also be done this, Continue to water, in the Evening only. The latter End of this Month sow Pease for the Fall. Water such Things as are going to seed, it being very needful to preserve good Seed. Turnips and Onions may be sown; Leeks, scallions, and all of this Tribe, planted.
Sow Turnips, and another crop of hotspur or Dwarf-Pease, Still continue to weed and water as before.
Showers of Rain will be frequent: Now Prepare the Ground for the following Seeds, viz, Spinage, Dutch brown lettuce, Radish, Endive, and another crop of Pease and Beans. Now you may inoculate with Buds.
Dress your Artichokes, take all Suckers from the Roots, leave no more than three in a Hill, put fresh Dung, well rotted, to the Roots; a Mixture of Dung thoroughly rotted, with what the Gardeners call untry’d Earth, is much the best. Untry’d Earth, is rich and mellow, taken about a half a Foot beneath the Surface of good new Land: This I would advise in all Cases where Manure is wanting; indeed it is much better than any other, and will amply Reward thy Labor: plant the Suckers of Artichokes in Holes about a Foot square, and two Feet deep, fill’d with the aforesaid Earth. Continue to inoculate. Sow large crops of Windsor and Garden Beans, Lettuce, Radish, Endive. Set out Celery (for blanching) that was sown in the Spring before. Trim and dress your Asparagus-Bed in the following Manner, the Beginning of the Month cut down the Halum or Stalks, lay them over the Bed, and burn them; then dig the Earth about the Roots and Make the Bed level; then cover about three Fingers deep, with rotted Stable Dung and untry’d Earth. This may likewise be done the Beginning of November as the present Month.
Earth up Celery and tie-up Endive for blanching. Continue to sow Seed as Parsley, Spinage, Radish, and Lettuce of all kinds. The latter End of this Month begin to prune Fruit-Trees, especially Vines, which may now be done safely.
This Month being chiefly for the Management of the Orchard, plant and prune all manner of Fruit-Trees. This likewise a good Time to plant Rose-Trees, and the like; and prepare Ground for transplanting in the Spring.
TO HAVE GOOD SEED
When the Weather begins to be so cold that you may reasonable expect a Frost, take up your best Cabbages, Radishes, Turnips, Carrots, Parsnips, and put the Roots in dry Sand, in a warm Cellar, or some other Place where they will not freeze; In the Spring as soon as they begin to bud, which they will do in the Sand, plant them out to run to Seed. This Method of raising Seed, will prevent its degenerating.