“ …I am but a young gardener." – Thomas Jefferson
If you've read much about the founding fathers you hear a lot of little 'mentions' about their gardens. George Washington took time even while fighting the British to send instructions to his plantation manager regarding Mount Vernon. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson spent weeks touring gardens while in England, and Jefferson and James Madison later did the same in America. And the gardens at Jefferson's Monticello and Madison's Montpelier are still famous and visited by many today. But all you get in most histories are the little 'mentions,' and it's always left the subject tantalizingly vague for me.
Washington was perhaps the most efficient gardener or farmer, abandoning tobacco early in favor of crops that weren't so destructive to the soil. He also experimented extensively with manures in an effort to replenish the soil. Adams returned home after the presidency and was happiest working on his humble Massachusetts farm. Jefferson was always on the lookout for seeds and plants that might be beneficial in America and traded continually with a large network of friends (as did Benjamin Franklin). Jefferson was especially interested in the new species brought back by Lewis & Clark when they explored the Louisiana Territory and spent much of his time experimenting and trying to grow new and better plants.