The Obama Vegetable Garden

Meditating Wind

Michelle Obama will plant a vegetable garden in the White House backyard. This will be the first White House vegetable garden since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden, and I find that surprising. You’d think at least the Carters, as peanut farmers, had planted some collard greens and okra back there.

Eleanor Roosevelt planted her garden as a model of self-sufficiency during the hard times of the Depression and World War II. Michelle wants to plant hers as an example of healthy nutrition for her family. Also, she plans on having everyone in the family participate, even Barack. There’ll also be two beehives. And best of all, she plans on growing everything organically.

Click on the graphic below to read the New York Times article.

obama garden

Looking at the garden plan, this is what I notice:

  • It’s heavy on the spinach and other leafy vegetables.
  • Also, there are lots of peas. That’s good for fixing nitrogen.
  • Along the path, there are nasturtiums and marigolds. These are great for chasing off root pests like nematodes.
  • A berry patch will be set apart from the garden, as will a small mint patch. This is a good strategy as these plants tend to intrude into everything around them.
  • Finally, an herb garden will make up a corner of the plot.

Well, that’s a good start. But this is what I would add:

  • When I see that expansive lawn, I want to dig it up into rows. I think a cornfield would be really cool. I planted a small one in my back yard in Oregon, and it was beautiful and elegant. A classic corn, beans and squash garden would be the ultimate in Americana.
  • I also noticed there was no basil. Basil is so expensive that it pays for itself after one fresh pesto batch.
  • And garlic is life! It should be planted.  It’s so easy to grow. Just stick the cloves in the ground and forget about it.
  • There are no beets because Barack doesn’t like them. I too never liked them as a child because I ate the canned beets in school, which made me wretch. But fresh beets, lightly steamed, is a completely different vegetable.
  • What no sunflowers?! What’s more optimistic than a row of big smiling suns?
  • Okra would be a great symbolic gesture to the South. Plus it’s tasty. And if you let it go to seed, the okra eventually opens up into a white hibiscus flower. Yeah, okra is a flower bud.
  • And finally, there should be lots of fruit trees.

I think a lot can be learned from taking care of a garden. The complexity of the ecosystem, tending things from beginning to end, feeling connected to the earth by putting your hands into the dirt. All are great lessons to be learned. It may give the President some insights, as well as help him to relax. Maybe he’ll be the first President whose hair doesn’t go gray. He would definitely be the first to have dirt under his fingernails.