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Early Settlers' Historical Gardens Grow Again

Gerald H. Emmerich Jr., "Putting Down Roots"

Wisconsin's early settlers didn't plant gardens for decoration - they were their primary food sources.

Many Milwaukee area gardens serve a decorative or even functional purpose on a small scale, most of them probably wouldn’t sustain a family.

But back in the 19th century, that was exactly their purpose.

Settlers came to Wisconsin in the 1800s from many countries - Germany, Ireland, Finland and others. And while they had different methods of gardening and grew different things, they did it for the same reason: survival in harsh Midwestern winters.

Credit Wisconsin Historical Society Press
Old World Wisconsin's historical gardener Marcia Carmichael includes garden plans and recipes from early settlers in her book.

At Old World Wisconsin, several ethnic gardens have been recreated under the careful research and guidance of its historical gardener Marcia Carmichael. Over the last several years, Carmichael has painstakingly compiled descriptions of the various kinds of gardens grown by early settlers from mainly primary sources from the times.

Those descriptions are featured in a book called Putting Down Roots: Gardening Insights from Wisconsin's Early Settlers.

Carmichael will lead an heirloom garden stroll this Sunday afternoon at Old World Wisconsin, with a book signing to follow.