Michelle Obama supports community gardens

There have been grass-roots efforts to get the president to set an example for the country by planting a kitchen garden at the White House. But persuading the US Department of Agriculture to actively support community gardens might actually lead to some widespread results.

That's why gardeners watched eagerly earlier this month when Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack broke ground on the first People's Garden, which is in front of USDA headquarters in Washington.

More community gardens are planned for USDA facilities across the country and around the world, which is welcome news (although they aren't mandated for all facilities).

The new D.C. garden, located next to a USDA farmers' market, will be home to fruit trees as well as vegetables. (Previously, it was a smaller flower garden.)

The New York Times says its produce will be donated to the District's soup kitchens.

"The garden will showcase conservation practices that all Americans can implement in their own backyards and green spaces," said Mr. Vilsack in a press release.

Last week, Mrs. Obama added her voice to those praising community agriculture: "I'm a big believer in community gardens, both because of their beauty and for their access to providing fresh fruits and vegetables to so many communities across this nation and the world."

When she spoke to assembled staff of the USDA (which Abraham Lincoln called "the People's Department"), the first lady also brought along a historic seedling as a gift for the edge of the garden: It's an offspring of a magnolia planted on White House Grounds more than 150 years ago by Andrew Jackson in memory of his wife, Rachel.

Probably garden activists aren't going to get too excited about the USDA "tearing up pavement" at its headquarters (even 1,250 square feet of it) as part of the new effort, since the hardscape will be replaced with grass (which isn't enjoying widespread popularity at the moment among many horticulture professionals),

But it is a nice environmental move, since it's part of an effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem by eliminating and managing runoff.

Note: We invite you to visit the main page of the Monitor’s gardening site , where you can find many articles, essays, and blog posts on various garden topics.

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