“While We Are Hausbound” — German-American Gardening

The weather is slowly getting warmer, and if the low supply of seeds in (online) gardening stores is any indication, many of us are planning some gardening. What better time to take a look at nineteenth century advice books for German-Americans gardeners! The most prominent of them was the Amerikanisches Gartenbuch für Stadt und Land (American gardening book for cities and the rural areas), written by Hans Buschbauer and published by the Brumder Publishing Company in 1892. Hans Buschbauer was the pseudonym of Franz Hoffmann, an immigrant from Westphalia, who wrote a popular advice column on all matters agricultural.

Read more about Hans Buschbauer and his Amerikanisches Gartenbuch in the attached article by Kevin Kurdylo, “Hans Buschbauer’s Advice for the German-American Gardener” from the Fall 2004 MKI Newsletter (starting on page 8).

The entire Amerikanisches Gartenbuch is available online HERE

A few samplings from the Amerikanisches Gartenbuch:

1) You don’t need a big piece of property to enjoy a garden! Any piece of land, even if it is only a few square yards in size, can be used as a little garden. It can be converted into a cozy space for a family to gather after a long day of work and toil. However, in smaller spaces, there will not be as much variety as in larger gardens. A garden is a nature painting; the larger the plot, the more varied the picture will be; the smaller the plot, the fewer designs are possible. But even a small garden can offer so much and provides the gardener with many opportunities to express themselves.  [page 2]

 how to prune grapevines to grow on your house

2) A vegetable garden to feed a family
How big does a garden need to be to provide enough vegetables for a certain number of people? […] This depends on the yield, whether the garden is more or less well cultivated, how many staple vegetables versus luxury vegetables are grown, and how much a family consumes in general. However, it is usually assumed that a ¼ acre will satisfy the needs of a family of four for a year, potatoes excluded. But if you have the choice, it is always better to have a slightly larger garden, and if the space is not needed for kitchen plants, use it in other ways. [page 9]

3)  Good garden design
The Amerikanisches Gartenbuch offers a number of different garden designs. Most suggest plantings in rows or squares. One recommendation is to group vegetables according to their fertilization needs:
Plant in freshly fertilized beds: cabbage, lettuce, and corn. Plant in beds that have not been fertilized for one season: carrots, beets, tomatoes, and potatoes. Plant in beds that have not been fertilized for two seasons: beans, peas, and onions. […] You can see at first glance that this is a garden planted for practical purposes. However, you can easily bring in some beauty by creating 3-4 foot wide beds alongside the vegetable plots and plant them with herbs, pretty shrubs and flowers.” [page 55]


4) Plant plenty of flowers!
A gardener who has only a small plot near his house will want to have it richly adorned with flowers of all kinds and strive to make it as beautiful a possible: his little jewelry box. [page 12]
Many different perennials and annuals were popular in German-American gardens.  Can you match the following favorites with their English names? You will find the solution in Kevin’s article above!.

  1. Flammenblume    2. Gartenwinde   3. Löwenmaul.   4.Mohn.   5. Ringelblume.   6. Rittersporn.    7. Stiefmütterchen.   8. Schwertlilie

A. Marigold.  B. Poppy.  C. Larkspur.  D. Morning Glory.  E. Pansy.  F. Snapdragon.  G. Phlox.  E. Iris

 .        .        


German-American Gardening Traditions at Old World Wisconsin
Gardeners at Old World Wisconsin have put into practice some of the old German-American gardening traditions. You can read about these gardens, gardening techniques, heirloom plants, and recipes in the chapter on “German Settler Gardens” in…Putting Down Roots: Gardening Insights from Wisconsin’s Early Settlers by Marcia C. Carmichael, Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2011.The cover image is of a traditional German small-bed garden in front of the Schulze House at Old World Wisconsin.