First Lady Digs White House Garden

Michelle Obama has made healthy eating her go-to issue and she’s pretty serious about it. Just last Friday, Mrs. Obama and local school kids broke ground on the new White House vegetable garden on the famed South Lawn, the first in many decades. She’ll be growing fruits, vegetables and herbs which will be harvested in the coming year and used in the White House kitchen. Michelle Obama has always been very receptive to the idea of having a White House garden and is being praised for her views about food in connection with children; the Associated Press reports.

The first lady has already been crusading for healthier foods, discouraging processed foods and placing more focus on locally grown fare, but the White House garden is not a new idea. In the 1800s, John Adams planted the first garden so that he and his family could enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables. Then in the 1940s, in support of the war effort, Eleanor Roosevelt brought back the White House garden, calling them “Victory Gardens” and encouraged all Americans to plant their own.

And even now it’s catching on. Last summer, some Los Angeles residents transformed a dreary cinder block wall into a vibrant garden cascading with strawberries, tomatoes, herbs and vegetables. This is great, especially since healthy foods, like fruits and veggies, are scarce in poorer neighborhoods.

Image credit: Justin Sloan

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diane lassen - March 23, 2009 8:29 AM

Good quality produce is harder to come by unless you live in an area that has an abundance of farmer's markets and roadside stands. The fruits and veggies found in the supermarkets are often lackluster and, frankly, old. Consider the fact that a large portion of our produce travels literally thousands of miles in a refrigerator truck before it reaches our stores!
I try to encourage people to grow a little something of their own. A bit of leaf lettuce, some herbs, a few tomato plants ---it's all you need to catch the gardening FEVER. My father was an avid vegetable gardener, and the apple didn't fall far from that proverbial tree. But here in Hunterdon County, NJ, we have a lot of critters--rabbits, woodchucks, deer, bears, turkeys-- all waiting to ravage my crops! We also live in a very wooded area with limited hours of sunlight. To tackle both issues,I just plant in pots up on my sunny deck. Just yesterday I found some beautiful strawberry plants at Home Depot and figured I'd give them a try. Strawberries are a fruit that are very highly sprayed and very expensive to buy organic-- just the perfect fruit to grow at home! So along with my romaine, collard and bok choy seedlings, I will grow strawberries for my cereal this year. I think everyone should try to grow something, and it is a great way to get kids involved, too. Give it a try! You'll be pleasantly surprised!

Walter Pittman - March 24, 2009 1:45 AM

But the sad thing about this is that home gardens can be dangerous because of the accumulation of lead in the soil around houses, due to lead in paint, etc. The lead is incorporated into the plants, especially in leafy greans, and is provided to the consumer free of charge.

So maybe home gardens aren't such a good idea after all. Dreary cinderblock neighborhoods in Los Angeles are probably the WORST place to plant gardens because they are likely to have the highest concentrations of lead.


Kirsten - March 24, 2009 8:39 AM

Given the crud involved in industrial agriculture, I will take my chances with home contamination. Home and community gardens are so important to our psyches as well as our food security.

Keith - March 24, 2009 11:51 PM

I would like to point out Square Foot Gardening to anyone afraid of using their own soil for a garden. I have been using the techniques as long as I have been gardening and can vouch for them. I use small four foot square boxes and get an amazing amount of produce from a tiny little space. I have six boxes going this year and don't expect to be buying any produce from the store all summer and fall. Pretty good for a total garden space of 96 square feet. The initial setup of a box is the only real expense and really can be cheaper than a traditional row garden. Once it is set up you feed it homemade compost when you plant a square. The second year doesn't cost anything unless you decide to add more boxes.

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