Category Archives: White House garden

The big ‘O’

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.


peoplesgardenlogo-smThe 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.


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Filed under Edibles, Gardening, General, Techniques, White House garden

Gardeners in action … again

It’s been a busy couple of days, but I finally had the chance to scan through some other gardening blogs.  Garden Rant posted about a petition campaign in support of the organic status of the White House Garden, so I did a little research of my own on the subject.  It appears The Mid America CropLife Association, a group that represents chemical companies, wrote a lengthy letter to Mrs. Obama stating their chagrin over her intent to keep the First Garden organic.  The letter, posted at La Vida Locavore on March 28, has since made the Internet rounds.  As you might expect, organic gardeners are not pleased and there now is an online petition in support of an organically grown First Garden and the First Lady’s choice to use organic practices.  Consumer Reports has also posted information on the issue here.


I’m not going to get into a pro/con discussion of the use of chemicals in large farming operations, but I will voice my support of organic practices in backyard gardens and small farms.  Chemical attacks are unnecessary when gardens have healthy soils teaming with beneficial organisms – this comes from the use of compost, not factory produced chemical fertilizers.  In the absence of pesticide attacks, insects – both beneficial and harmful – generally maintain their own balance.  The best way for gardeners to help nature be nature is to have a good solid understanding of local ecosystems and when to get out of the way and let plants do what they do best – grow.  Bugs in a garden is not the end of the world, but a sign of good health.  Gardeners who take the time to learn about the natural environment in which they work understand that every tomato may not look ‘perfect’ but will still taste perfectly heavenly … without the use of chemicals.


So you may have guessed by now that I have added my name to the petition.  Go here if you want to do the same.

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Filed under Gardening, Uncategorized, White House garden

The First Garden – spring planting plan

The First Garden, which according to The Washington Post, can be seen by passersby, will encompass 1,100 square feet, and over the course of the growing season will include 55 kinds of vegetables.


The spring plan includes extensive beds of leafy greens such as red and green romaine lettuce, butterhead lettuce, spinach, chard, kale, and collards, plus radishes, carrots, shallots, onions, broccoli, and lots of shell and sugar snap peas.  It also lists herbs – fennel, sorrel, thyme, oregano, sage, rosemary, marjoram, chives, chamomile, garlic chives, hyssop, dill, cilantro, and parsley.  I’m happy to see that flowers – nasturtium, marigolds, and zinnias – will edge the main walkways as these will attract pollinating insects to the area.  Plus they wisely show a separate bed, aside of the main garden, for fast spreading mint.


I hope the White House releases regular photos showing the progress of their garden as it will be fun to watch how well Michelle’s garden grows, as well as the planned layout of late season crops.


Do you think the next step will be to plan a First Greenhouse so the White House staff can supply the first family with leafy greens and other cold hardy plants throughout the winter?

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The image of the President and First Lady of the United States helping to tend the organic vegetable and fruit garden they are establishing on White House grounds may do more to promote the health and environmental benefits of home gardens than any ad campaign or grass-roots effort … even if the Obama’s only visit their ‘First Garden’ occasionally.  The Obama’s get the fact they, through their election, serve as role models.  They have chosen to model a healthy lifestyle and to promote healthy eating with their organic garden … and our First Lady sees how our children will reap the benefits.


The New York Times reports:  While the organic garden will provide food for the first family’s meals and formal dinners, its most important role, Mrs. Obama said, will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at time when obesity has become a national concern. In an interview in her office, Mrs. Obama said, “My hope is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities.”


What a breath of fresh air … all I can say is “Thank you!”


Filed under Edibles, Gardening, White House garden