The big ‘O’ has finally reached the Big House and seems to be spreading to landscapes beyond. The big ‘O’ I refer to, of course, is Organic. Gardeners who have used organic gardening practices in their edible and other landscapes were heartened to hear the First Lady announce her big ‘O’ plan for the White House edible garden. Then we learned of the Earth Day unveiling of the People’s Garden plan for property surrounding the Whitten Building – headquarters of the US Department of Agriculture in Washington D.C. The People’s Garden will serve as a model for how to incorporate sustainable gardening and landscaping practices to all who visit.
The People’s Garden plan involves a redesign of lawn, trees, and shrub areas to include an organic garden that will go through the official 3-year designation process to become Certified Organic. The People’s Garden will also include a Potager (French for kitchen garden) design that incorporates edible and flowering plants into pleasing garden beds, and a Pollinator garden filled with flowers that attract bees and other pollinating insects. The People’s Garden honors Native American tradition through a Three Sisters Garden – the Native American tradition of interplanting corn, beans, and squash (beans provide soil nitrogen for heavy feeding corn, corn provides stalks for beans to grow up, and large squash leaves hinder weed growth). Additionally, the People’s Garden will display crop rotation methods required to transition from so-called ‘conventional’ gardening/farming to Certified Organic in Transition Field Plots. The People’s Garden plan will also incorporate stormwater collection using porous paving and bioswales to filter and infiltrate runoff; rain garden depressions that capture stormwater exiting from bioswales and allow excess water to more easily soak into the ground; bat houses, green roofs, and the use of urban grown wood from trees felled by storm or old age to create steps and raised bed planters.
The areas are to be maintained by USDA’s landscape contractor, a non-profit organization created to serve individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but UDSA employees may also work in the gardens. Additionally, USDA Secretary Vilsack challenged USDA employees at other facilities to create sustainable landscapes, thereby launching the People’s Garden Initiative. Read more about the People’s Garden and follow its progress at the USDA website. Finally, it seems government agencies are focusing on sustainable gardening and landscaping practices – this big ‘O’ project is going to be a blast to watch.