I Have Solved
The 200-Year-Old Mystery
Of Thomas Jefferson's
Garden-Thing Drawing

Dateline: 21 February 2016 AD

This is Thomas Jefferson's mysterious garden-thing drawing.

I’ve read that Leonardo da Vinci invented the helicopter. Of course, he didn’t actually invent a working helicopter (after all, he lived in the late 15th century)—he just came up with the concept. It’s sort of like how I Invented Granola Bars back in 1975 (when I was 17 years old). It's the same sort of thing with that old drawing above.

According to the book, A Rich Spot of Earth: Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden at Monticello, that sketch  is something of a mystery. Nobody has been able to figure out what exactly that garden-thing drawing is all about.

Well, I'm here to tell you that I know what it's all about. 

I knew what it was the moment I saw it. 

As you probably know, in addition to being a polymath, Jefferson was a visionary thinker. His concept in that drawing from 1812 would not come into actual existence until the spring of 2012 (exactly 200 years later)…..  when I invented the Whizbang Solar Pyramid.

This Planet Whizbang Solar Pyramid contains a single tomato plant. It was planted at the same time as the tomatoes in the background, but it is twice their size. The tomato is also as healthy as a tomato plant could ever be. The solar pyramid is stunningly efficient at getting plants off to a good start in the spring garden. (click picture for enlarged view)

Can you see it?

I have been taking credit for coming up with the incredible Whizbang Solar Pyramid, and it was actually Thomas Jefferson who first dreamed of the idea!

Without the invention of plastic and, in particular, Bob’s Superstrong Woven Poly from Northern Greenhouse Sales (up there in North Dakota), Thomas Jefferson couldn’t possibly bring his idea of solar pyramids to reality. But I did. This is a humbling realization, to say the least.

In my imaginings, I have imagined what it would be like to fold up a few solar pyramid covers, stuff them into Doc Brown's DeLorean time machine, and go back to Monticello circa 1800. We could land on that red-clay runway right next to Jefferson's 1,000 foot long garden...

(click for larger view)

According to his famous garden journal, Jefferson was forever trying to beat the spring frosts and get his garden plants off to an early start (and usually failing). Can you imagine his delight at seeing what a Whizbang Solar Pyramid could do in his garden! 


The whole story of Whizbang Solar Pyramids (less the part about Thomas Jefferson inventing them) can be found in The Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners


Debbie said...

Sorry, but I don't see it as you do at all. It looks more like a tool for making the top of the ridges flat. It has a handle in the top for a reason. I think it is supposed to be drug across the top of a furrow to make the ridge of the furrow flat for planting. Just my take anyway.

Herrick Kimball said...


I thought that was the all-seeing eye blinking.

I'm sure it's a solar pyramid.


Elizabeth L. Johnson said...

Elizabeth L. Johnson said,
I immediately thought it was a solar pyramid as soon as I saw the drawing, w/o reading the article, or Jefferson's notes!! You got my vote, Herrick!

Unknown said...

Well, since the definition of a ridge is "a long, narrow elevation of land" and he had long narrow beds, I would say this was your cloche! Only more like a cold frame to him, and he also mentions a plant, so I would say it's a cold frame-cloche. LOL It did have a handle on it to me too, but I think that was to move it, or lift it, when it wasn't needed anymore. Of course he didn't have minibed plastic like you do! Great post! Bless, Sheila PS This is one I missed.