Historic Fort Vancouver

Overview

In this short video from www.howtogardenvideos.com, Yolanda Vanveen visits with park volunteer Shelly in period costume at the Ft. Vancouver Heritage Garden in Vancouver, Washington. In this series of quick sustainable tips, Yolanda learns tips from a historical garden from the past to use in the future.  Fort Vancouver was originally built in 1825 further away from the river on the bluff. When it was determined that the plain did not flood, they moved the fort to the current location by the Columbia River.  The garden was originally much larger. The original settlers sustained themselves on stews and soups with vegetables from the garden. Eventually they experimented with and grew many warm climate plants including lemons and cotton in a summer house. When the Whitman’s stayed at Fort Vancouver, Narcissa Whitman described it as the New York of the Pacific because they had such a variety of foods. Vancouver, Washington was the first settlement on the West Coast following the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The sustainable gardens are not the only attraction. Inside Fort Vancouver there are museums, demonstrations and artifacts to discover.
Ft. Vancouver Heritage Garden Facts
Established in 1825 by the British Hudson’s Bay Company, Fort Vancouver was once the headquarters of all trade in the Northwest. To feed the population, the fort operated farms and had a 7-acre garden filled with vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers. Today, the fort and vegetable garden have been re-created. All the vegetables in this garden, including British soldier beans, citron, yellow pear tomatoes and dozens of others, are heirlooms. So are the herbs and flowers. For that matter, so are some of the gardeners. They dress in period attire and bring to life some of the original workers of the Hudson’s Bay Company.
According to Oregonlive.com, the one-acre re-creation of the garden that once flourished outside the Hudson’s Bay Co. stockade gate greets visitors to the national historic site, thanks to the work of 50 or so gardening volunteers who ensure that its historical roots are preserved. Teeming with potatoes, currants, pumpkins and beans, the garden also features ornamental flowers and herbs. All are grown with heirloom seeds, some from historical seed catalogs, but many collected by volunteers and all linked to the fort’s early days. Produce fuels the fort’s interpretations of pioneer cooking, and the surplus is donated to a Vancouver food bank.
When the growing season begins to wane, Pat Green and others begin collecting flower and produce seeds. Some, such as scarlet runner and ‘Jacob’s Cattle’ beans, are saved for planting in the garden next spring. Others are packaged and sold at the visitors center of the Vancouver National Historic Reserve Trust to support the garden. Fort Vancouver’s heritage garden is balanced with geometric beds of herbs, flowers, and fruit- and vegetable-bearing plants like those grown during the fort’s heyday in the mid-1800s.
Green began collecting seeds at the fort 18 years ago. She takes some home and starts them in flats every spring until, free from the threat of frost, they are ready to plant in the fort garden. “We use heirloom seeds just like the ones grown here in the 1800s,” says Green, who maintains the garden’s authenticity by supplementing collections with seeds from heirloom seed banks throughout the country.
The original Hudson’s Bay Co. garden, started in 1825, was about eight acres. It helped make the fort less dependent on food from London, which was costly to ship. Today’s garden features representative samples of the kinds of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers grown at the fort about 1845. “The garden at the fort played a pivotal role as far as what was ultimately grown in the Northwest,” says Jim Pestillo, another volunteer. “Early settlers came off the Oregon Trail starving and exhausted. They saw what was grown here at the fort and took the idea with them when they set up their own farms in the Willamette Valley.”
Most of the volunteers have their own gardens at home, and some are master gardeners. But a sense of stewardship keeps them coming back to the fort. “It’s a connection with the Earth,” says Green, “and all those who will come after me.” Oregonlive.com  http://www.oregonlive.com/hg/index.ssf/2008/09/post_12.html
Whether you have a small backyard garden or are a serious Prepper, don’t forget to learn from history and use organic material in your garden including compost and mulch and add heirloom vegetables such as cabbage, fruits and perennial flowers to attract butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators.
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For more information about historic sustainable gardening visit Fort Vancouver Heritage Garden http://www.nps.gov/fova/index.htm
612 E. Reserve St.
Vancouver, WA 98661
Website: Fort Vancouver Heritage Garden

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