To John Mason
Monticello June 22. 10.
You were so kind, when I left Washington, as to give me some seed of the Swedish turnep. I sowed it carefully, but a drought from the middle of July till autumn, prevented a single plant from coming to perfection. can you give me a few seeds now, & inform me when you plant them. McMahon directs it in April or May. but this is so different from the season of sowing other turneps that I am in hopes this application is not yet too late. I lost, by the same drought my eggplants but it is now too late to ask that seed. my garden & farms occupy me closely from breakfast to dinner, after which it is my habit to lounge. so that I read little & write less. should I get any thing useful in the gardening way, I shall take pleasure in communicating it to you. I have the genuine Alpine strawberry, which I recieved from Italy. but it bears so little that I think it would take acres to yield a dish. I propose therefore to remove it from the garden to the fields where alone we have acres to spare. should it prove worth attention I will send you some. present to mrs Mason & accept for yourself the assurances of my friendship & respect.
PoC (DLC); at foot of text: “Genl Mason”; endorsed by TJ.
Bernard McMahon advised gardeners to sow the “Swedish turnep, or Roota Baga” (rutabaga; Brassica napus napobrassica) in april or may, as opposed to “the common garden or field turnep,” which they could plant as early as mid-March (McMahon, The American Gardener’s Calendar [Philadelphia, 1806; repr. 1997], 190, 427; Hortus Third description begins Liberty Hyde Bailey, Ethel Zoe Bailey, and the staff of the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium, Cornell University, Hortus Third: A Concise Dictionary of Plants Cultivated in the United States and Canada, 1976 description ends , 179, 989–90). TJ first obtained seeds of the alpine strawberry (Fragaria vesca) in 1774 (Betts, Garden Book description begins Edwin M. Betts, ed., Thomas Jefferson’s Garden Book, 1766–1824, 1944 description ends , 51; Hortus Third description begins Liberty Hyde Bailey, Ethel Zoe Bailey, and the staff of the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium, Cornell University, Hortus Third: A Concise Dictionary of Plants Cultivated in the United States and Canada, 1976 description ends , 484; Peter J. Hatch, The Fruits and Fruit Trees of Monticello , 172–3).
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