21 March 2009

White House to have garden plot

I read in the New York Times yesterday that the Obamas are putting in a vegetable garden on the South Lawn of the White House. Their plot of land will be 1100 sq. ft. I just had to compare that to our jardin potager at La Renaudière. Our garden is 64 sq. meters, and that works out to about 700 sq. ft. We are being out-classed.

Daffodils out front

Of course, the Obamas have five mouths to feed (at least), counting Barack and Michelle, the two daughters, and Michelle's mother. We are only two mouths (but big ones when it comes to eating, I guess).

We also don't have the White House gardening staff to help us, or greenhouses in which to get our seedlings started. I've been seriously thinking about a greenhouse, though.

I think it's time for me to go out and weed —
and maybe even water — my little collard patch

The NYT said the Obamas' garden will feature collard greens, cilantro, hot peppers, tomatillos, spinach, chard, kale, basil, and more. That all sounds great. The First Family will have a collard patch, as do thousands of people in the American South — and two expatriates near Saint-Aignan near France.

Speaking of collards, the ones I planted last fall have survived the winter and have started growing again. At least one started to bolt, so I pinched the top out of it this morning. I hope the plants produce a lot more leaves before they go to seed.

Here's the healthiest-looking collard plant
that survived the winter.

Maybe I'll plant some mustard greens again this year. They are really good to eat. I tried growing them a year or two ago, but they bolted pretty fast. I'm not sure why. This time I'll know to harvest the leaves as soon as they appear, before the plants send up their big stalks of flowers.

The Obamas won't be growing any beets, the Post article said, because the president doesn't like them. Too bad. I hope he has at least tried fresh beets, not just the ones that come in a can. I'm not growing beets either, because I don't think our clay soil is right for root vegetables. Besides, beets are a dime a dozen in France, year 'round.

But tomatoes! We hope to have tons of them this years, as we did in '04, '05, and '06. They are so much better than supermarket tomatoes when you grow them yourself and let them ripen on the vine. And aubergines (eggplant). They are expensive to buy in the supermarket. The garden-grown ones are not much different from the store-bought ones, as far as I can tell, but they are basically free. Like summer and winter squashes.

Primroses out back

We are also going to try to grow cayenne, jalapeño, and red bell peppers again this year. In those great gardening years of not that long ago, we had great crops of piments de cayenne and poivrons.

I'm getting spring fever. A couple of days ago I felt really blah about the whole thing, but now I'm excited and ambitious. It's supposed to be sunny for the next week or more, and we are getting more and more work done outside.


  1. I really envy you your veg. plot.

    Our garden is full of the biggest, fattest, laziest rabbits all eating their heads off and lying sunbathing in the sun.

    Any vegetables wouldn't stand a chance!


  2. We put a fence around our whole back garden to keep the dog in and the rabbits out. But I saw a hedgehog out there last year...

  3. i even have to bring the bird feeder in at nite cause the deer sticks his tongue in the thing & manages to drain it completely overnite....must take him a while....tongue-full by tongue- full! i would never have known but i saw the guy late one afternoon.....an early dinner for him (feeder was the perfect height for deer lips)

  4. Hi Ken
    I hope you will show us pictures of your garden. I live in a condo so I don't have any room for a garden however I sharing a garden at my friends house (she has a huge yard). Yesterday we planted spinach, two different kinds of peas, green beans, kale, and lettuce. We started in trays parsnips, okra, beets, carrots and some other variety of lettuce. I"M SORE this morning all that bending after a winter of hibernation. My husband has some property that we are also going to till for a tomato, summer squash, and eggplant garden. I hope we are no being too ambitious but I am looking forward to some wonderfully fresh produce.

    Do you have any recipes for the collard greens? We planted plenty of kale which just keeps growing all summer and into the fall.

  5. You are courageous. We have plenty of room, but I have no motivation to do a garden. We have way too many rabbits and deer to hope for good results.
    Let us know how the veggies do as the summer wears on.

  6. Oh, you are all so ambitious and good with your gardens! I am a lazy cuss when it comes to gardening. But, I sure appreciate the fresh results of a wonderful veggie garden.

    Isn't it wonderful what several crisp, clear days of sun can do, and working outside!? It brings out hopes and happiness :)

    I just saw the story this morning about the Obamas and the garden. They had school kids help start the soil, and they'll be donating some of the veggies to a food pantry.


  7. Doesn't that rock about the White House garden? Ours is expanding this weekend. We're moving from the winter veggies into the spring ones. Alice Waters was on 60 Minutes last week, saying she wanted a garden at the White House, and what do you know?

    Check it out if you get a chance:

  8. Judy and you too Ginny, when you work full time it's not easy to also have a garden. We would feel like slugs if we didn't have ours.

    It seems like nearly everyone around Saint-Aignan has a vegetable garden in summer and a cabbage patch in winter.

    Linda, with collard greens we just cook them until they are done, that is tender. You can cook them in chicken broth, in white wine, or in water, with salt or smoked pork, with bacon grease etc. for flavor. Salt and pepper. Eat them with hot sauce or cider vinegar as a condiment.

  9. What, no baby carrots? :p I love all of your photos! I was telling Walt earlier that I am so happy to have found your blogs again, I found them years ago trying to figure out how to get my Yorkie across the pond.
    I think it is lovely that the chefs want a garden at the White House.

  10. Ken, your garden may be outsized by the White House garden but it will NEVER be outclassed!



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