June 17, 2009

Miracles Grow in Mrs. Obama's Neighborhood: And All the Good Little Children Say "Yes"

Eden on the Potomac

The amazing magical garden of Michelle Obama was harvested with the help of school children yesterday after a miraculous growing season of less than 3 months.

Gardeners everywhere cannot fail to be impressed by this fantastic triumph of gardening.

Students join Michelle Obama in harvesting garden

Together the group harvested 73 pounds of lettuce and 12 pounds of peas from the 1,100-square-foot, L-shaped plot on the South Lawn.

Assistant White House chef Sam Kass said the garden has also produced beans, kale, collard greens, chard and herbs. He said the kitchen had been serving the beans from the garden every other day and herbs every night.

Typical Bounty from the Miracle Plot

Wags who might question the phenomenal fecundity of the garden simply ignore the vast teaching moment offered by it.

To this end there were Remarks by the First Lady at the White House Garden Harvest Party via The White House - Press Office. Here are some excerpts harvested verbatim from the transcript. Note the role of the children.


MRS OBAMA: Like adults, kids have a very simple approach to food. What do you guys like about food? If it tastes good, right?


MRS. OBAMA: If it tastes good, you'll eat it, right? You don't care what it is! How many people pulled a snap pea off the vine and ate it today? And it was pretty good, right?


MRS. OBAMA: And by making this whole process fun -- and we've got some advantage because we have the White House, right? It's fun being here, right?


MRS. OBAMA: I'm going to miss you over the summer, but this garden will be here, and we're going to keep doing more around the garden. So by the time you're in 6th grade and 7th grade -- I never want you to get too old or too cool to come back and see me in this garden. You promise?


Meanwhile a commenter @ Garden Variety: Harvesting at the White House Kitchen Garden by The Baltimore Sun's Susan Reimer asks,

"I've been gardening for years and I live in the Baltimore area but how did The White House get mature veggies in 60 days? I know beans/peas grow quickly but full heads of lettuce too? I only have a few "baby" tomatoes and peppers at this point that won't be ready to harvest until mid-late July."

That person obviously failed to get the memo, "With Obama All Things Are Possible." Reimer, who writes on gardens for the Sun and might be presumed to know something about it, simply gushes, "This is the same garden the school children and the First Lady planted in April and the abundance was impressive." Good Democrat. Cookie for you.

Posted by Vanderleun at June 17, 2009 10:42 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Wow...they think we'll believe anything!

Posted by: Phil at June 17, 2009 12:42 PM

And rightly so because, it would seem, a very large percentage of us do.

Posted by: vanderleun at June 17, 2009 12:48 PM

Lettuce takes anywhere between 40 and 85 days to mature, based on the variety. Peas take anywhere from 54 to 72 days. The garden was planted on March 20—89 days ago.

It's hard to take you guys seriously when you go down this road.

Posted by: Biff McLargeHuge at June 17, 2009 1:29 PM

No doubt about it Biff. June is busting out all over.

Posted by: vanderleun at June 17, 2009 2:05 PM

I'm a New England gardener, and up here the days Biff mentioned would be those from transplanting fairly advanced plants, until harvest. With luck (if nothing got them, no root shock,etc.). Of course DC is warmer, so things might grow a little faster than up here. But lettuce is prone to bolt when not direct seeded, for example, as are peas and beans. Most novice gardeners do not have such perfect luck growing stuff fast, unless someone else with experience is actually doing the gardening. I don't think you could get them that fast from seed.

What interests me more than the feasibility of actually growing the stuff is WHO grew it. If Michelle, the dead giveaway that it was really her garden would have been dirt smudged gardening clothes instead of a pristine red and white outfit, grime under the fingernails from a real gardeners' obsessive, constant care (weeding here and there). 1100 square feet is a lot of garden for anyone to keep weeded, for one thing. Especially if she is doing it organically and no weedkiller. Growing vegetables organically is far more labor intensive than conventionally.
And what a scripted pep talk to the little darlings.

Posted by: retriever at June 17, 2009 2:17 PM


Posted by: rg at June 17, 2009 7:21 PM

Well, they planted rice seedlings all along the rails when Chairman Mao toured China that time on the train. The people were starving, but everywhere Mao looked there was rice growing (until it wilted).

Posted by: Duncan Winn at June 17, 2009 8:26 PM

The garden was planted on March 20—89 days ago

Ah, Biff? From the article:

This is the same garden the school children and the First Lady planted in April and the abundance was impressive.

Your confusion is understandable: there was a big article in the NYT on March 20 (89 days ago) about the intent to plant the garden. Shown is a picture of a really nice bit of lawn with a chef and gardener pointing out where things are going to be planted.

Also noted in the article is the intent to grow the food organically from seedlings.


Posted by: Brian Dunbar at June 17, 2009 9:46 PM

Well, I can't speak for the White House garden, but I planted my own garden this year, around the end of April. I've never done any gardening before.

Due to my inexperience and lack of knowledge, some plants never sprouted, and some are growing slowly.

But the radishes and lettuce: Whoa, Nellie! I can't eat salads that fast. At this point I'm actually hoping the rabbits come around and take some of it off my hands.

Posted by: rickl at June 17, 2009 9:56 PM

Without a confession from Obama's Potemkin, or Potemkin's supplier..., well, please don't make this a "plastic turkey" moment.


Posted by: tehag at June 18, 2009 6:05 AM

They're holding back the fifteen-thousand foot beanstalk for the re-election.

Posted by: james wilson at June 18, 2009 10:26 AM

Will anyone at the White House spill the beans?

Posted by: Deborah at June 18, 2009 1:06 PM


I myself have never grown beans and can offer no expertise there. But it's not out of the ordinary at all to have lettuce this soon, including full heads, unless the weather has been utterly miserable. (In fact, this is when you'd normally harvest spring lettuce there, because once it gets hot there's no stopping it from bolting.)

Pre-harvest it's usual to use a cut-and-come-again method with greens (meaning you cut some and let the rest of the plant keep growing) - if you are willing/eager to eat baby letuce, you can start doing so within a couple of weeks of planting

Herbs also are good to start harvesting from pretty much as soon as they have true leaves.

Now tomatoes and peppers are an entirely different story - they're summer crops, they're fruits not leaves, and they require a couple of months of hot sunny weather at a minimum. But the WH isn't claiming to have harvested those - just greens and beans. For these crops the claimed results are not unreasonable.

(I of course assume the WH gardening staff is doing the actual, er, gardening, except during photo ops, and presumably they're reasonably expert at siting and caring for plants.)

Posted by: jaed at June 19, 2009 5:49 PM