Located at Nashville Zoo, the Grassmere Historic Farm includes a 1.5 acre garden in the same space the family had at Grassmere beginning in the late 1800’s. Today’s garden has been maintained since 1998 by the Davidson County Master Gardeners, a local group of volunteers that undergo educational training and are certified through the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and the local Extension agency.
The primary goal of the Master Gardener organization is offering advice on gardening and horticulture, and educating the public. Through an annual series of spring classes, informal garden chats with visitors, and organic practices in gardening, the Master Gardeners are providing guidance and information on not only how gardens were maintained during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, but also how gardeners today can be good stewards of the planet with their own backyard gardens.
Organic gardening methods include using companion plants, such as lavender, rosemary and marigolds, for natural pest control, and using self-created compost for fertilizing the soil. Heirloom seeds, which are seeds that have been saved through the generations and are unmodified or hybridized, are used in the vegetable terrace of the Grassmere garden. Many types of heirloom seeds have become extinct over the years due to underuse from low yield, and the fact that few people save their own seeds year to year. Planting heirloom seeds provides delicious produce and also ensures future generations will be able to enjoy some of the same foods as their ancestors.
A percentage of the harvest of greens, peppers, okra, tomatoes, squash, beans and peas, among other vegetables, goes back to the Zoo’s commissary and is used in the animal diets. Keepers also use some of the produce as training rewards or enrichment items. By using produce grown in our own garden, we cut down some of the cost of food items we need to purchase or have delivered, and we help conserve energy in the process.