The Kitchen Garden (or…Be Like the Obamas!)

Ever since the Obamas moved into the White House on January 20, hopeful foodies and conservationists alike have been prodding the first family to be the first since the Roosevelts to turn the White House into a Green House! (OK…not really a Green House, but it sounded clever…really they dug up some of the lawn and planted a garden. But it’s “green,” right?)

So this past Friday, Michelle Obama, along with students from Bancroft Elementary School in the District of Columbia, heeded our gardening wishes and broke ground on a new garden to supply the White House kitchen. In an article from the Green section of The Huffington Post, Alice Waters, famed California local food chef and owner of Chez Panisse restaurant, noted the importance of the first family making an investment in their own health by supplying some of their own food: “It just tells you that this country cares about people’s good health and about the care of the land,” she said. “To have this sort of ‘victory’ garden, this message goes out that everyone can grow a garden and have free food.”

If the Obamas have inspired you, here are some thoughts and resources to help you get breaking ground on your own kitchen garden (April begins the big planting season in many areas!):

1. A kitchen garden should be made up of food that you will cook up in your own kitchen (thus the clever name). Grow what you are most likely to cook with or eat raw.

2. Know what to plant, at what time, and under what conditions. Once you’ve developed a list of what you’d like to grow, head to your local nursery to find out which varieties grow best in your area. Questions to ask: should I plant seeds or transplants? What month should I plant? What soil amendments are necessary? How much sun does the plant require? (Note: be aware of the location your are planning on gardening and count how many hours of direct sunlight that location receives, and during which hours of the day. This information will be helpful for the experts at the nursery to provide you with the best varieties for planting.)

3. If you don’t have a lot of space to plant, don’t give up on your kitchen garden! There are lots of clever ways to grow your own, including growing food in pots, hanging bags (popular with cherry tomatoes and strawberries), and even herb gardens in kitchen windowsills. Check our our post on growing and storing your own food, where we’ve linked to several helpful resources to get you started.

Kitchen gardens are en vogue with good reason. They help save you money by cutting your food budget (especially if you have the time and patience to grow some fruit trees and/or bushes), help encourage healthy eating, provide you with a great excuse to get outside, provide you with the organic foods you might otherwise not have purchased, they improve the quality of the soil, and they cut down on the environmental impact of food traveling all over the world to make it into your kitchen.

It’s no wonder seed sales have shot up, all over the country, over the last year!

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