Michelle Obama has made America’s gardening great and she’s now laying down roots so the gardening tradition will continue even after her family leaves the White House this January. Obama created the garden in 2009, and made sure to expand it twice so it will be hard to plow under by the next family. She’s expanding and improving it so it will endure, along with the American values of gardening to discourage obesity, and get kids outdoors.
The garden started at 1100 square feet to more than double in size at 2800 square feet. It has walkways, wooden tables and benches. A stone reads: “White House Kitchen Garden, established in 2009 by First Lady Michelle Obama with the hopes of growing a healthier nation for our children.”
A new endowment by the seed and home gardening company, W. Atlee Burpee Company, and The Burpee Foundation will keep Obama’s dream alive. While there is no White House law that must keep the garden alive, Burpee’s latest $2.5 million donation will ensure that it is tended to and thrives into the future, as Michelle has intended as a legacy to her husband’s time in Office.
Burpee Seeds, officially W. Atlee Burpee & Co., is a seed company that was founded by Washington Atlee Burpee in 1876.
According to Venelin Dimitrov, a senior manager at Burpee, regardless of who moves into the White House, Michelle’s garden can live on: “The idea is to preserve the legacy left by First Lady Michelle Obama,” he tells Green Prophet.
Dimitrov, a specialist in flowers, helped create the special seed blends that were donated for distribution at U.S. national parks.
Honey bees are on a swift decline, and Monarch butterflies are now considered endangered. By encouraging people to plant flowering plants, we can ensure that pollinator food such as fruits and many vegetables that will continue to feed us into the future.
Dimitrov says that it’s also about historical preservation to have a garden in the White House: “Most of the Founding Fathers were farmers and gardeners and it’s a neat idea to have a garden in the White House similar to President Jefferson’s garden in Monticello” where he grew more than 300 varieties of plants.
“If we had established it 100 years ago, every president could have left their mark. Now it has been started by Mrs. Obama and can be there for every Administration after the Obamas. It would be neat to see, 100 years from now, how the garden evolves,” he says.
The mission is to get people up, moving and gardening; but Dimitrov holds off giving us the list of what the White House Kitchen Garden is growing, saying we shouldn’t try to mimic what’s being grown there, since every region and state has different species and varieties that work best locally.
The point is that if our leaders set an example, the people will follow.
There is diabesity and obesity and “from a gardening point of view we would like to see people broaden their horizons by getting outdoors and growing plants.”
What’s exciting to grow? Dimitrov says that exotic fruits such as figs are becoming popular with Americans, as are jujubes and goji berries. There are lots of new fruit that are grown in tough climates around the world. These work well in the US as they are used to drought and do not require a lot of maintenance.
There are traditional vegetables that are high yield and low maintenance, such as cucumbers and melons. Urban farmers with little space should try their hands at vining plants such as peas, pole beans, and tomatoes.
Do garden Jujitsu
Dimitrov says: “It’s like garden Jujitsu. Use plans to fight the elements to your advantage. Use plants for shade if you are exposed to heat — there are excellent tomato species, such as ‘Heatwave II’.
“Morning Glory flowers provide plenty of shade, helping to cut down on energy bills. Even hyacinth bean; let them climb up, creating beauty to your porch, patio or roof, and an impact on your air conditioning use.”
Dimitrov says Burpee cultivates varieties of seeds that grow well in small spaces to give you great output with little requirements in terms of water and attention.
Want to know what to plant? “Bush bean, ‘Beananza’ in your balcony box, tomato, ‘Patio Princess’, cucumber, ‘Spacemaster’ or small okra, like ‘Baby Bubba’, may look tiny, but they can really bring a lot of food to the table,” Dimitrov adds.
Go to Burpee.com to cultivate your next meal and family project.