White House Kitchen Garden


first planting spring 2009
     I have just finished reading American Grown by Michelle Obama about the vegetable garden she started in March of 2009 on the White House south lawn.  The book flows smoothly and is easy reading. This is not a detailed how-to-garden book.  It is a chronicle of the planning, execution, trials, and mistakes in bringing about a functioning garden from planting, to harvesting, to consuming the bounty of the garden. There is a wealth of photos from 2009 to the present.

the book cover

     The main thrust of the book is to inspire all, children in particular, to plant and harvest their own garden, to experience how wonderful fresh-from-the-garden vegetables and fruits taste, and to think about the foods they are eating, and how it impacts health.

students planting spring 2009

     The first garden was planted in the spring of 2009.  All seeds and plants are organic and everything is organically grown.  Problems were encountered in the garden.  Heavy rains washed away the mulch.  The birds got all the blueberries despite the netting that was used.  Pumpkins did not do well because the seeds were planted too late.

garden beehive

     Along with the first planting was the installation of a beehive on the south lawn.  A local beekeeper, who also happens to be the White House carpenter, established the beehive in the spring of 2009.  The honey is not only used in the White House kitchen, but is also donated, and is given as gifts to visiting dignitaries and heads of state.

scouts and students plant the expanded garden 

     The garden was expanded in 2010 by 500 square feet to 1,600 square feet.  Although Mrs. Obama invited school children and scout troops to plant and harvest every year, she found that adults wanted to work in the garden also.  Hundreds of White House staff and the White House chefs all became involved in caring for the garden.  The garden became a welcoming place of learning and sharing.

the spring garden

     The garden changed the way the chefs cooked meals for the White House with vegetables becoming the new centerpiece for meals.  They started requesting that certain vegetables and herbs be planted.

hoop houses for growing winter vegetables
     In winter hoop houses were used to grow cold weather vegetables such as spinch, kale, chard, collards, and lettuces allowing the garden to produce year round.

first harvest fall 2009

     The garden also produces for the larger community.  About one third of what is produced is donated to an organization that provides meals for the homeless.

students eat what they harvested

     Additional sections in the book profile school and community gardens and recipes developed in the White House kitchen using vegetables and fruits from the garden.  Of particular interest to me were the garden designs for spring, summer, fall and winter that were included.  The White House garden has had widespread influence, and this book was inspiring to me.



  1. Nice summary of the effort that deals with an important set of concerns, including healthful food, children, homeless.

    1. Hi Lee, I enjoyed the book and everything it touched on. I feel the White House kitchen garden has influenced many people and given them a push toward gardening and/or eating more healthfully.