Our historic buildings are surrounded by period gardens. Many of them are small holdings and kitchen gardens used to grow numerous heritage fruit and vegetable varieties. Others, in contrast, are typical of gardens belonging to more prosperous farmers from the mid-19th century onwards and document the rise of the ornamental garden. The museum also has agricultural areas which are used to grow heritage grain and potato varieties, in some cases using machinery dating from the 1950's.
Museum gardener Matthias Schuh will be happy to show you our historic gardens, while farmer Michael Grebe can tell you about our historic livestock breeds.
The agricultural Explore-Garden informs visitors about livestock raising, the cultivation of the land and historic fruits and invites them to self-experience activities already before entering the museum. At the peak of the tourist season, visitors can park their cars on the field next to the museum.
The kitchen garden at Pringens Hof farm includes all the vegetables which were typically grown in the heath region in the 19th century. These were predominantly pulses and potatoes, although strawberries, leeks, celeriac and turnips were also grown. Cabbage was, and still is, a typical winter vegetable in the region. In line with this, we grow brown kale, a historic form of today's kale, in the Pringens Hof farm garden . Its taste is bitterer than its modern relative, which no longer contains the healthy bitter compounds.
At the beginning of the 20th century the inhabitants of the Elbe marshes ran micro-businesses, growing vegetables to supply the nearby city of Hamburg. The Elbe river provided a quick, cheap method of transport. The market gardeners loaded their produce onto small barges which travelled along the Ilmenau and Elbe rivers directly to Hamburg's market.
For many years, the produce grown to supply the city was known as ‘Hamburg market vegetables’ and our market garden includes many of these vegetables. Varieties such as ‘Hamburger-Markt-Herbst’ peas; ‘Hamburger- Markt-Schwert’ runner beans or ‘Vierländer-Blut-Rhabarber’ rhubarb all thrive in the garden. It was possible to grow such an abundance of produce thanks to the fertile soils of the marshes, however farmers in the area also faced the challenge of irrigating and draining their fields. During their visit to the museum, visitors can discover exactly how the various historic drainage systems worked.
The post-war years were a time when housing was in very short supply. Feeding the many people who had lost their homes and/or were refugees was also a challenge. One solution was to provide people living in Nissen huts with allotments, where they could grow certain types of vegetables. To restrict the spread of potato blight gardeners were not allowed to keep seed potatoes from the harvest. They were only supposed to use seed potatoes provided by the authorities. Growing tobacco was also forbidden, however in the face of the hunger and deprivations most people suffered, very few of them complied with these bans.
Tobacco, cabbages, potatoes, rhubarb and black- and redcurrants were typical fruit and vegetables grown on Nissen hut allotments. The tobacco plants could grow to 1.80 metres in height and their large leaves were dried on washing lines before being exchanged on the black market for more useful things.