Fort Nisqually Heritage Gardens
The Heritage Gardens at Fort Nisqually are intended to represent the much larger historic garden (approximately one-and-a-half acres) that was located along Sequalitchew Creek outside the Fort palisade at the original site (today’s DuPont).
In order for Hudson Bay Company (HBC) forts and outposts to be less dependent on costly imports, which had to sail around Cape Horn from England, they grew as much of their own food as possible. The primary crops at Fort Nisqually were turnips, potatoes, onions, peas, carrots, and cabbage.
In 1839, anticipating the decline of the local fur trade, HBC formed the Puget Sound Agricultural Company (PSAC), based at Fort Nisqually. The PSAC's objective was to profit from a contract to supply food items (e.g.beef, grains, and butter) to the Russian fur traders in what is now Alaska, and export wool to England. By the mid 1850's HBC had laid claim to over 160,000 acres of land in south Puget Sound, most of it used for the raising of sheep, cattle, and horses.
Growing in the heritage grain patch, in front of the Fort, are field crops such as wheat, barley, and oats, which were widely grown by HBC. New in 2015, the plot includes “Hudson’s Bay Wheat,” (aka Lammas) a soft white winter variety cultivated by HBC in the Northwest during the 19th century. It was recently rediscovered at the USDA seed bank in Washington D.C. and reintroduced to the Northwest by Richard Scheuerman of Seattle Pacific University.
The kitchen garden, located next to the kitchen, contains fruits and vegetables, culinary and medicinal herbs, and ornamental varieties available in the 1800s.
The John Work prairie, in front of the Fort, is intended to represent the native prairie that surrounded the historic site.
In peripheral beds, around the kitchen garden and elsewhere in the Fort, are medicinal and culinary herbs, berries, flowers, and native plants. Dr. Tolmie used medicinal plants in his practice, and he is known to have brought dahlias from Hawaii to the Northwest. Native plants were used by Native Americans for a wide variety of purposes, and Dr. Tolmie collected local specimens for botanists in England.
The apple orchard, located in the meadow next to the Fort, includes trees grafted from survivors at the original Fort Nisqually site.
Our gardens are designed to honor and reflect 19th century agricultural practices. Visitors to Fort Nisqually learn that sustainability, once a way of life, can still be utilized today.