Posted on Tue, November 24, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
2 Comments | Categories: Farms and Farming, Policy, Uncategorized,
by intern Emily Stephenson
First Lady Michelle Obama and White House Chef Sam Kass set a great example this spring when they planted their vegetable garden on the White House lawn. Without a doubt, the project is a successthe garden has taught D.C. kids where their food comes from, fed heads of state from around the world, and hosted last months Healthy Kids fair which featured delicious treats from the garden and Mrs. Obama hula-hooping. Most importantly, the garden has shown families across America that you can eat healthy, affordable, responsible food right out of your own backyard.
This winter, the First Lady can take it one step further. Eating from the garden doesnt only have to be limited to March-October. Michelle Obama is in a perfect position to show us that local food is possible outside of the summer months, no matter where you live. She can bring the countrys attention to the creative ways that people like Eliot Coleman and Will Allen manage to grow food in all four seasons.
Washington D.C. is located in the USDA hardiness zone 7, which means that with the help of a few basic supplies, the White House garden could be producing food all year round. Putting up cold frames a wooden frame covered with glassbrings the zone up 1.5. Putting up a hoop housea simple plastic structure that uses passive solar energy (as opposed to a greenhouse, which is heated)brings it up another 1.5, to a zone 10. To put it in perspective, thats the equivalent of southern California or Florida! These affordable and efficient structures mean the Obamas (and Bancroft Elementary students) could be eating salads, greens, radishes, carrots, turnips and more throughout winter. Think of what a great example they could set for the whole country. And they would be doing themselves a favor, too: vegetables such as kale and carrots actually get tastier and sweeter when left in the cold soil.
The White House could start by covering their raised beds with cold frames now, and planting various salad greens and kale, cabbage and other hardier greens. Also, by spacing the plantings, theyll be sure to have a ready supply from November through to spring. Its too late to plant root vegetables for a winter harvest this year, but according to Sam Kass, the White house already has a makeshift root cellar and can keep what they harvested a few weeks back fresh.
Thats why the White House should start planning for the next four seasons right now. An ambitious winter schedule would have them planting carrots, parsnips and beets in mid-August to be ready for a mid-November harvest. They could plant the same seeds again in October (when its still pretty warm in D.C.) for a January harvest of the same vegetables. Greens such as broccoli, cabbage, collards and Brussels sprouts could be planted a few weeks after the root vegetables as they require less time to mature and this would space out the harvest. Throw some spinach, mesclun, radishes and green onions under a cold frame inside the hoop house, and youve got great food all year round!
The White House garden plan displayed here shows my suggestion for an ideal placing of hoop houses and cold frames that could be planted in any number of ways.
Michelle Obama wants Americans to eat healthy, fresh food in season, and she can show us that people in colder parts of the country dont have to give up on responsible eating come December and February. Shes in a great position to do that with what is certainly the countrys most well-known vegetable garden. Mrs. Obama and Sam Kass should make winter gardening a priority of theirs, and begin planning for their 2010 winter garden.