Long before the first seed went into soil, a lot of work has already been done to prepare for the coming growing season. While most people can simply choose what they like to grow in their gardens, I had to do research to find out what kinds of plants would be appropriate in a Civil War era medicinal and kitchen garden. Thankfully there are a number of resources in print and online that discuss different medicinal herbs and their uses during the 1800s. Vegetable plants also require some research, as different fruits and vegetables were sometimes more or less popular in the past than they are today, and the specific varieties that we commonly enjoy often did not exist over a century ago.
Acquiring seeds for a 19th century garden can be a little bit more challenging, but the internet has made that easier. It's not as simple as going down the street to the local garden store and picking out your favorite seed packets of Burpee's best hybrids. Thankfully, there is a growing community of people dedicated to preserving and sharing the seeds of historical heirloom crops. Most of my seeds were selected and purchased online from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, as well as Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. These were far from the only reputable places offering a wide variety of heirloom seeds, but they happened to have most of what I was looking for all together.
The seedlings I have already started are Jersey Wakefield cabbage, Jaune Paille Des Vertus onions, and five different medicinal herbs: White Horehound, Yarrow, Echinacea, Toothache Plant, and Lobelia.
Look at how tiny these Yarrow seeds are!
I am using a simple, store-bought seed-starting kit to begin my seeds. It has 72 cells for different seedlings and a clear plastic cover to keep things moist, especially while seeds are still germinating. I keep this in the basement with our wood-burning stove to keep nice and warm. The planter is near a window and under artificial light, but unfortunately I do not have a florescent lamp, which would be even better.
My cabbage seeds popped up out of the soil after only a couple of days, and they are still looking great! The Jersey Wakefield Cabbage was introduced some time in the early1840s and remains a popular cabbage variety in home gardens today. If all goes well, it should produce small, compact heads of cabbage in the spring.