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24 Mar 2009

A Friendly Permaculture Critique of the Obamas’ Vegetable Garden

If I had written it as a Transition Tale in the Transition Handbook, it would have ranked as being even more ridiculous than the Beckhams’ cob retirement house.  However, here we are, and Michelle Obama has started to dig up part of the White House lawn and turn it into a vegetable garden.  According to the New York Times;

…whether there would be a White House garden had become more than a matter of landscaping. The question had taken on political and environmental symbolism, with the Obamas lobbied for months by advocates who believe that growing more food locally, and organically, can lead to more healthful eating and reduce reliance on huge industrial farms that use more oil for transportation and chemicals for fertilizer.

It is a fantastic development with enormous and potent symbolism.  According to the article, it will be used to grow 55 kinds of vegetable (go on, sit down with a piece of paper and a pen and try and think of 55 kinds of vegetable… I got to 25 and started to struggle…), the first time since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden during World War Two. The plot will be 1,100 feet, just slightly larger than the average UK allotment, so while we are not talking a self-sufficient White House here, it is a powerful statement.  Here is a clip from the television about it…

However, I thought it might be useful to offer some constructive and supportive advice to the Obamas as they take their first steps into the world of gardening, from a permaculture design angle.  For this, I am indebted to the piece in the New York Times, and its map of their garden-to-be (see left).

First Tip. Put the garden nearer the house.  Bill Mollison, co-founder of permaculture, used to suggest growing your food “no further from the back door than you could throw the kitchen sink”.  Here in England, the traditional family vegetable garden was usually down at the end of the garden, ideally hidden away behind a low hedge, as though it were something to be slightly ashamed of.  The effort of trudging down to it was one of the reasons gardening died away as a mass pursuit sometime in the early 1960s.

Putting the vegetable garden up against the house, in aesthetically delightful raised beds on the south facing side of the house would make harvesting easier, would look great in the formal photos taken with visiting heads of state (“Vladimir, just a bit to the left so they can get the artichokes in”).  It would model to the nation that growing food, edible landscaping, is something to put centrally in our lives rather than tucking away out of sight of the house.

I blame Capability Brown and all those dreadful 18th century landscape artists, who popularised the idea that the view from the house is everything, that it should be sweeping and open, it should present the viewer with some idealised landscape, denuded of anything that is actually useful.  To be able to look out of the Oval Office window and onto an edible landscape would be very powerful.  Lose that lawn.

Second Tip. Add more fruit.  The design thus far is all vegetables and herbs, with rhubarb being the sole fruit.  When Bob Flowerdew visited Totnes and was asked how to get the people of the town growing food, he suggested by focusing on fruit rather than vegetables.  They are easier to grow, take less time and are more costly to buy than vegetables.  Some espaliered fruit trees, or perhaps an orchard… to return to the previous point, energy efficient layout would suggest that the vegetable garden go as close to the house as possible, the fruit can be further away.  Perhaps there is a route into and out of the White House that visiting dignitaries use, which would be planted with apple trees, grafted to form a tunnel?

Third Tip. Think holistically.  A vegetable garden is just one element of a sustainable lifestyle.  Why not put back the solar panels that Jimmy Carter put on the in 1970s which Ronald Reagan subsequently took off again?  If being off the grid is good enough for George Bush’s Texas ranch, surely it is time the White House stepped into the 21st century.  Insulate.  Draught proof.  Thicken those curtains.  Do an energy audit and work though its recommendations.  Visiting dignitaries being invited to use the compost toilet?  Now that would be a powerful message to the world!

Fourth Tip. Add more diversity.  Although the New York Times piece talks of 55 vegetable varieties, the map they publish shows 16 types of vegetable and 14 herbs.  While it is admirable that the focus, as a garden for a busy urban family, is on greens and salads, there could be a wider range of these.  Where’s the rocket, the mizuna, the mustard leaves, the amazing range of cut-and-come-again or pick-and-pluck salads?   As a model for the small family garden, salad mixes are an important element in making the most of small spaces.

Also, there are very few carrots, and those are tucked in with the herbs.  Why not grow them together with the onions (for their companion planting properties), and grow more of them?  Pulling carrots is deeply satisfying. Finally, potatoes.  Although in a small garden it is not worth growing lots of potatoes, as they can be bought so cheaply from local organic growers, for kids there is nothing like digging up your own potatoes and then eating them.

Geoff Lawton is fond of saying that all the problems of the world can be solved in a garden.  Here is an amazing opportunity to prove that he is right.  It should also provide a great education for the nation, including the newsreader in the clip above who says “we have flowers along the side of it that I’m sure aren’t edible, nasturtiums, marigolds….” (both of which are, of course, edible flowers)… Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden led to millions across the country, producing 40% of the nation’s food, hopefully we are about to see something similar again.  Over to you now Gordon Brown.  Edible hanging baskets at Number 10?

Do you have any tips for the Obamas as they start life as gardeners?  What would you do with the space they have?  Clearly, Michelle Obama isn’t yet especially practical when it comes to gardening, so what would your advice be for a family starting from scratch?  Send us your tips.  The Obamas almost certainly read Transition Culture every morning, so your tips may well end up being implemented at the White House…. you never know.

P.S. Congratulations to those who ran the campaign to make this garden happen….. fantastic….

Categories: Compost Toilets, Food

Comments are now closed on this site, please visit Rob Hopkins' blog at Transition Network to read new posts and take part in discussions.

55 Comments

Harriet
24 Mar 8:37am

“Over to you now Gordon Brown. Edible hanging baskets at Number 10?” … For anyone who watched Jo Swift’s Gardener’s World special “No grounds for gardening” last week that’s not such an absurd suggestion. Jo described all sorts of inventive schemes for creating green-ness in inner-city areas, from window boxes and balconies to roof gardens and those famous massive Parisian green walls (‘mur vegetal’). I’m sure there’s plenty of space at No. 10 for a few tomatoes at least.

Jane Buttigieg
24 Mar 8:58am

If I were lucky enough to have such a large growing tunnel I would have some polytunnels put up. That way they could grow a lot of stuff throughout the year, and have the added bonus of being very visible.

James
24 Mar 9:16am

I wept for joy when I saw the news item about Michelle Obama’s garden on iplayer.

Hope.

James – Transition Stratford

Sue
24 Mar 9:24am

Historically many cottage gardeners used to have their vegetable plots in the front garden, as I understand many people did in the Dig for Victory campaign in WW2.

Javier Zarzuela
24 Mar 9:26am

En España decimos que los cambios vienen de Estados Unidos. Quizá tengamos que aceptarlo, con gracia y alegría. Bienvenidos.

Un saludo.

Javier Zarzuela – Madrid (España)

[...] Originally posted here:  A Friendly Permaculture Critique of the Obamas’ Vegetable Garden … [...]

C Robb
24 Mar 11:00am

Chickens!

Graham Burnett
24 Mar 11:59am

How times are changing…

Nine years ago RTS had a go at turning the lawns in Parliament Square into gardens http://rts.gn.apc.org/mayday2k/index.htm and got arrested for their troubles. Who knows, maybe in a few months time Gordon Brown will be inviting them back for a Leaf Street http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYO51rST5vg&feature=channel_page style make-over???

Graham Burnett
24 Mar 12:02pm

Fifth Tip; Water harvesting and cycling at every opportunity – how about sending the Obamas a copy of Brad Lancaster’s ‘Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond’ http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/

Linda S
24 Mar 12:31pm

Let’s hope this is just the beginning! They have enough lawn for grains as well — amaranth and corn come to mind. And think of the melons, pumpkins, and peanuts they could grow. They could showcase strawbale gardening, potatoes in barrels, and gardening techniques being developed for hard-to-grow places (such as the keyhole gardens being sponsored by Send a Cow. http://www.sendacow.org.uk/schools/africangardens/keyholegardens). The possibilities are quite exciting.

Karen
24 Mar 1:17pm

Seeing how much Obama is trying to accomplish right now, I’m disinclined to tell them that their new garden isn’t ‘good enough’. There is ALWAYS something else that someone can do to be more resource conservative – all of us. I’m pretty happy that they’re getting this garden in at their earliest possible chance – they can tweak it over the ensuing years, and make more improvements to the WH over time to make it more green. One thing at a time. I hate how when someone (or some entity) finally makes a change for the greater good, only to be told “that’s great – but you have to do more” and they get badgered. It’s counterproductive. I know we’re out of time, I know the situation is desperate. But alienating people and telling them that they haven’t done well enough before the darn garden is even IN isn’t going to accomplish anything at all.

Joanne Poyourow
24 Mar 2:34pm

Oh, but they don’t plan to EAT the vegetables! The newspaper articles here said that some might make it to the White House kitchen, but that the rest would be donated to the soup kitchen where Michelle volunteered.

Our Transition group counted veggie varieties with great glee, but we concluded that the architect’s plan (the Los Angeles Times version of the plot plan had a formal title block) must just be for early spring in D.C. because there aren’t any tomatoes … Maybe the other types come later in the year.

They’re lean on legumes. Also, with the brassicas all over the place it sounds like a short-term garden with no crop rotations planned, and they have no compost crops like John Jeavons recommends to build the soil.

My suggestion to Michelle: get the girls out there for a photo op pulling carrots and eating them fresh. That would be a potent “copy this” for a nation of kids raised on highly processed peak oil products.

Also, they’re missing the chickens. I believe Teddy Roosevelt had goats, or at least there’s one tale of his kids chasing a goat through the White House.

Robert
24 Mar 3:17pm

What I am curious to know is when the last vegetable garden was grown at the White House. Surely in the 18th and 19th centuries, at least, it must have produced some of its own vegetables and fruit from the extensive grounds. So which president grubbed up the last veggies? I’m guessing post-WWII, maybe Truman?

John Robottom
24 Mar 6:32pm

Interestig article but rhubarb is not a fruit it’s an edible leaf petiole and contains a lot of calcium oxalate which is not good for you.

Sapper
24 Mar 7:10pm

It’s like the American way of doing transition – all celeb photo ops and Culture of Make Believe surreality. But if it gets the changes happening then good good.

DoomerDave
24 Mar 10:40pm

“Rhubarb is, of course, a vegetable that usually pretends to be a fruit. You can call it a fruit if you want, with the support of a ruling by the US Customs Court; just as you are entitled to describe a tomato as a vegetable, this time thanks to a US Supreme Court verdict.” – from somewhere on the Net.

Annie Leymarie
24 Mar 10:42pm

As soon as possible, get the new puppy used to hens, as these are indispensable!
A very large pond with ducks and fish would be nice.
And if the White House must have some dairy, why not a cow or two – or goats? Barack could milk them first thing in the morning…
And a work horse, of course…

Sheila
25 Mar 12:38am

How about a donkey-cart for short trips? Fun for the kids and eat less than a horse. Excellent guard animal. Ditto, a gaggle of geese.

Good idea re chickens. I just incubated a batch, which also would be a fun project for the kids.

A greenhouse for year-round delicacies for visiting dignitaries might be a good addition. Do some of the things shown in that excellent British series, ‘The Victorian Kitchen Garden.’

I don’t see any lovage, a perennial with flavourful leaves and aromatic seeds. Also currants decorative, flowers attractive to humming birds, and make very good jam, as do gooseberries. A delightful perennial for shade is Sweet Cecily, with every part edible and tasting of licorice. The leaves are very nice as edible decoration in a salad. For VIPs, what could be better than French sorrel soup? It is perennial, and is rather like spinach, with a lemony tang to it. (A bit high in oxalic acid, as is rhubarb–the leaves of rhubarb are not to be eaten, but many people enjoy, often with recipes using strawberries or apples. Lots of information here: http://www.rhubarbinfo.com/)

As for asparagus … I must stop as I am drooling …

Ann
25 Mar 1:12am

Start small. Avoid overwhelming yourself. Grow into it year by year.

Helen Loughrey
25 Mar 1:55am

I think it is wonderful that Mrs Obama has adopted this project. I remember signing petitions for this.
Great suggestions here, Rob. And hanging baskets [tomatoes, summer squash] would be great at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as well.
2 more suggestion: use raised beds, not the bad soil under all those years of lawn chemicals; and put a teaching/demonstration public food garden in Lafayette Park across the street.
I also like that they will have a beehive!

john doe
25 Mar 2:12am

companion planting, water catchment, heirloom varieties, a chicken tractor, innoculate with mycorhyzzal fungi, collards, maximize use of land.

LisaF
25 Mar 2:14am

Robert, I think Eleanor Roosevelt was the last one to have a veg garden at the White House.

Shane
25 Mar 3:10am

I think you have to be careful to strike the right balance between doing too little and doing too much.

If everyday inexperienced people are meant to emulate what is going on here then every extra level of complexity increases the chance that their first attempt will end in disaster. My opinion is that they got the level about right. Once someone has a basic veggie garden working well then they can consider adding in other elements.

So baby steps people, slow and steady, not never ending lists of “wouldn’t it be nice if…”.

Also I wouldnt classify marigold (Tagetes) as “edible”. They smell and taste awful even though they aren’t acutely toxic. Calendula would be more tolerable. Even Nasturtium is rather peppery beyond a few petals. It is a sliding scale of edibility- the dose is the poison.

Vegetable gardens will be tough to maintain after the last power blackout

Global oil production is now declining, from 74 million barrels per day to 60 million barrels per day by 2015.

No one can reverse this trend, nor can we conserve our way out of this catastrophe. Because the demand for oil is so high, it will always be higher than production; thus the depletion rate will continue until all recoverable oil is extracted.

Alternatives will not even begin to fill the gap. And most alternatives yield electric power, but we need liquid fuels for tractors/combines, 18 wheel trucks, trains, ships, and mining equipment.

We are facing the collapse of the highways that depend on diesel trucks for maintenance of bridges, cleaning culverts to avoid road washouts, snow plowing, roadbed and surface repair. When the highways fail, so will the power grid, as highways carry the parts, transformers, steel for pylons, and high tension cables, all from far away. With the highways out, there will be no food coming in from “outside,” and without the power grid virtually nothing works, including home heating, pumping of gasoline and diesel, airports, water and sanitation systems, communications, and automated systems.

This is documented in a free 48 page report that can be downloaded, website posted, distributed, and emailed: http://www.peakoilassociates.com/POAnalysis.html

In June I took a trip to Albany, NY USA to talk to 3 audiences on Peak Oil impacts. In the group that invited me, the Capital Regional Energy Forum CREF), is a physicist who teaches solar energy at a major university, and who had served in the Peace Corps.

He has solar powered just about everything, including a solar powered canoe which we went for long ride in on a lake in the Adirondacks, and a PV solar powered house and pump for his well. He repairs about everything on his house himself and he heats much with passive solar. So the guy knows his stuff. He is no ivory tower academic.

We talked for hours about survival in the northeast colder areas after the last power blackout.

It looks “challenging.”

Eventually batteries and even the solar panels deteriorate. He thinks that he could store dry batteries with the liquid stored in glass and thus make “new batteries” after they conk out. But eventually the batteries and solar panels give out.

Cutting and moving wood without trucks, horses, and wagons will be a major effort and very time consuming. There are not many horses around and it will take decades to breed enough horses to go around. Horses require food, care, vets, and medicine. No one is making wagons these days locally.

Wood stoves break, just like everything else. You could keep one or 2 extras, but eventually you have none and can’t get more, because there is no transportation on the highways.

Asphalt roof shingles need to be replaced, and houses need to be painted and maintained.

Food must be grown in with a short growing season, and all of the farm stuff that used to be in a 1890 Sears catalog is no longer available. Last summer I took a tour of a farm and saw how dependent farming is on oil — transportation and manufacture of plastic feeding bowls, containers to store grains/feeds, straw, roofs for animals and storage areas, wire, rope, wood boards, cement, fencing, antibiotics for animals, asphalt shingles etc. Seed and hardware used to be available at the local hardware store, no more.

Then there is clothing which is manufactured and transported from afar. Making cloth is a major operation from growing cotton to making cloth. I have studied the textile mills of Lowell National Historical Park in Lowell, MA USA for years, as I used it as an example of the confluence of capital, technology, and labor for a course I taught on Global Urban Politics at the University of New Hampshire, USA. I know that the parts in those factories were manufactured in many places with a vast transportation network. After the last power blackout, those factories will not be built again. And there are not many sheep around, nor animals to make wool or leather cloth out of. Eventually down coats and comforters wear out, as do blankets. It sounds like just keeping warm will be a major problem.

Water for irrigation will be a challenge, potable water is another problem, and sanitation also.

And there will be no modern pharmacies or hospitals.

Cliff Wirth
http://survivingpeakoil.blogspot.com/

Jennifer Lauruol
25 Mar 12:08pm

As an American ex-pat, I’m thrilled this is happening. However, I’m disappointed there’s no integrated permaculture plan for the entire EDIBLE LANDSCAPE at the White House. C’mon guys, let’s design it for them and send it to them!

Albert Bates
25 Mar 2:40pm

How about a bamboo hedge by the surrounding iron fences to dampen the street noise, screen out unwanted views (both in and out), and provide food, fuel, fiber, biochar, construction material for winter hoophouses, and bird habitat? Maybe a constructed wetland to handle the blackwater of the West Wing could also plant bamboo in the reedbeds, and that would be a bit easier to control. Some deep anaerobic lagoons with algae, water plants (and fish) could be made effective barriers to migrating bamboo and angry mobs of the unemployed.

Mark O'Sullivan
25 Mar 5:22pm

White house honey from their own “first” bees? Awesome.

Jim
25 Mar 6:08pm

Off topic, but there’s a new critique of Transition Towns at
http://blogs.salon.com/0002007

Neither creative nor upbeat, but in a blog with some readership.

Christy
25 Mar 6:19pm

Rocket is the same as arugula, right? I don’t see it on the map, but the article the map came from mentioned that while Ms Obama had one the argument against having beets in the garden, the chef had won the case for arugula.
So rocket WILL be there.
Strange about the tomatoes, though.

Graham Burnett
25 Mar 7:05pm

The posts on time management http://blogs.salon.com/0002007/2006/08/28.html#a1625 from this blog looked quite useful though!

Graham Burnett
25 Mar 7:06pm

Sixth tip; Send the Obmamas a complementary copy of Geoff Lawton’s ‘Establishing a Food Forest’ DVD :)

Simon
25 Mar 9:08pm

I think it’s a great first step, especially as it will encourage Americans to follow their example. And I for one am delighted they won’t be using raised beds!
http://simonsallotment.blogspot.com/2009/03/how-i-garden.html
Robert, you can find a short history of gardens at the white house in video form at http://www.vimeo.com/1767242

ROG
25 Mar 11:00pm

This reminds me of Marie Antoinette’s model farm at the Palace of Versailles, where she used to go to play at being a shepardess. That too was a long way from the palace.
Don’t mean to sound cynical – just to point out that it’s very hard to do this kind of thing without laying oneself open to ridicule from opponents.
Like Le Hameau de La Reigne, modern ‘back to the land’ movements are all the direct descendents of the physiocratic economics and Rousseauan philosophy of the Eighteenth Century.

Meaningful gestures from world leaders? How about tax relief on gardening tools? More funding for gardening education and proper integration with the school curriculum, starting in teacher training colleges? Capacity building for allotments and farmers markets? Legislation to empower a local food strategy in every council area? A demonstration city farm in every suburb? A popular gardening campaign on public TV and radio? Promoting r&d in urban agriculture for economic renewal in declining cities? integrate home food production with a shift towards a three day working week? Maybe the Obama administration is going to do this too… As it is, this garden is a sitting target for the anti-greens. Imagine the glee in x years time when President Jeb Bush (or whoever) pulls it up and plants a golf course.
Meanwhile I’m waiting to see how the Obamas preserve their surplus produce come the Autumn. But we already know: “Yes we can!”

[Someone had to say it.]

Marie
26 Mar 12:29am

Now I don’t know that I would want to eat those veggies either; grown on a previous patch of lawn that was surely NOT organically maintained for who knows how many years. They may end up glowing in the dark! Too bad they didn’t start with decontaminating the chemicals in the soil. I think if it were really going to be used as a family garden, it would be great – but I think it is nothing more than a photo op.

Marie
26 Mar 12:34am

and what is up with the gardening clothes she’s NOT wearing? PR – pure and simple. Who the heck gardens in an outfit like that?

Linda S
26 Mar 2:37am

Maybe we could convince the Obamas to reintroduce hemp . . .

jordan
26 Mar 3:51am

what a novelty idea grow your own food!

Mel Hutto
26 Mar 8:35am

Does Michelle and Barack have a copy of the Transition Handbook?

Mary
26 Mar 9:25pm

Rocket flowers are too good to be true: spicy, sweet, nutty. Collard flowers taste like cotton candy; anyway, the ones I tasted did. Those little orange cherry tomatoes? Try stopping at one! Johnny Jump-Ups are beautiful and edible, as are regular purple violets. Decorate your cakes and your open-face cream-cheese tea sandwiches with them. Strawberries? Blueberries? Where are the grapevines? Venus and Glenora blue seedless are so good. Actually, there are red, white, and blue grapes, what could be more patriotic, far more so than a little lapel pin? Tea plants, like peppermint, for visiting people from North Africa. If I were Michelle, I would be so out there. I’d post the Humanure book and The Toilet Papers on poles, then run every kindergarten in town through. They come back when they’re in middle school. I am reminded of middle-school boys throwing a tantrum on behalf of the girls whose tampons were confiscated in a drug-war bit of nastiness at a middle school here. In the end, the disciplinarian was dealing cocaine, which finally got found out. Anyway, I am happy she is doing this, even if it’s only a photo-op. At least it’s something, unlike….

Linda S
27 Mar 3:14pm

Mary, I’ve never heard of rocket flowers. Are those the flowers arugula gets when it bolts? I’ve never tried eating mine. Or collard flowers for that matter.

Mary
27 Mar 3:40pm

Hello Linda. Yes, rocket flowers are arugula flowers. I love to munch on them, and they would be very pretty on a tapenade made with darker-colored olives, on a cracker or a carrot round. I put them in salads also. You can taste the flowers of kales and many of the greens.

You wouldn’t eat tomato or potato flowers, but many flowers are edible and beautiful. Natural food stores often have edible flowers for sale, but arugula flowers may be too fragile to sell that way. I have used citrus flowers to flavor water. Did you see the movie Monsoon Wedding? Many cultures eat more flowers than we have been accustomed to here in the U.S.

Bill Harshaw
27 Mar 10:33pm

Your info is out of date–GW put solar panels back on the roof.

Liana
28 Mar 8:03pm

It’s not too late to build a small kitchen garden with raised beds closer to the White House. Herbs, flowers, veggies, all insterspersed lovingly. A spiral garden is the best for get the most for your space, and it looks so beautiful. Mine was built as part of a permaculture workshop. I recommend that the Obamas get some permaculturists to hold a workshop for students of all ages, and that Michelle, Obama, and their girls attend. Make a day of it and have a celebration afterwards. We all learned so much, and with a garden like that you keep on learning.

John Mason
30 Mar 6:06am

Quote: “First Tip. Put the garden nearer the house. Bill Mollison, co-founder of permaculture, used to suggest growing your food “no further from the back door than you could throw the kitchen sink”.”

This is an “ideal world” tip that cannot, sadly, be applied in all cases i.e. yes, of course you can grow some veg in a window-box, if you happen to live in a flat, but you would obviously be hard-pressed to grow a lot of your annual requirements.

The garden I’m working on with some friends(see weblink) is 0.6 miles away from where I live, is sheltered, south-facing and some 20 x 10m in size. In contrast, at home there is a tiny, east-facing patio. Although, because it has been rescued from an impenetrable tangle of thorn, heavy tools and transport were required for the initial phase of the project, it remains within reasonable walking distance for day-to-day maintenance.

Perhaps Bill’s tip is most relevant to the Oil-Age, but in a post-Peak world, I would like to imagine there being a lot more time available to work on such things, and that the importance of growing stuff, relative to other current-day uses of time, may well rise a lot higher, so that the effort of walking to a veg garden a distance away from home will no longer be seen as an inconvenience, but as part of the pleasure of the whole thing. Hope so, anyway!

Cheers – John

Mary
1 Apr 12:36am

Pygora goats! Alpacas! (these are very popular with upscale farmers out here in the west, I imagine they are popular in the VA ‘burbs also.) Composting blackwater is also a very good idea. The Potomac is messed up enough already.

Mary
1 Apr 7:51pm

Pygora goats! Alpacas! (these are very popular with upscale farmers out here in the west, I imagine they are popular in the VA ‘burbs also.) Composting blackwater is also a very good idea. The Potomac is messed up enough already.
Sorry, should have mentioned great post! Waiting for your next post!

Mary
2 Apr 4:03pm

OK, here is another pithy post. The Portland Permaculture Guild hosted a virtual talk by Dave Jacke, who can be googled by adding forest garden to his name. He is an excellent source. Dave said there are potatoes with edible leaves. I knew some ethnic groups boil leaves in this family many times, but an ethnobotanist, whose name I can’t remember, slept for 14 hours and felt pretty bad after trying them even after the multiple boilings, so I was pretty curious about this. Her article had appeared in Science News. Curious, I just googled potatoes edible leaves, and went to an article by M.J. Stephens of the Univ. of Florida (published by Texas A & M Univ. in 2002). It appears people have been eating sweet potato leaves for some time. There are so many kinds of potatoes, some with stunning flowers and foliage, and I have grown them sitting on the ground covered up by mulch. If Michelle were to plant many varieties, it serves up the notion of diversity, a notion much needed given the present state of agriculture. Signs with explanations of where the ideas for the plants came from might be good as well. I haven’t been to their citrus site lately, but I remember getting a lot of information from Texas A & M online about citrus when my trees were younger. Potatoes are a First Peoples plant which became world travelers once Late Peoples discovered them on their junkets. Thanks for the encouragement. I have been trying to do my taxes, and I am working hard not to be bummed.

All About Gardening
3 Apr 12:26am

[...] A Friendly Permaculture Critique of the Obamas’ Vegetable Garden … [...]

Caroline
5 Apr 3:49am

There is a no-till method called lasagna gardening. Put wet newspapers or cardboard down on sod and then build your bed up with peat moss and compost.

Mary
5 Apr 9:16pm

Hello Caroline, another name for this in Oregon is sheet-mulching. You can put not-that-well-composted stuff on top of the cardboard and newspaper layers, wood chips, etc., depending on the crop you want to grow. If it is a heavy nitrogen-feeding crop, you may need to figure out a nitrogen source to add. I hesitate to say what they are using in Scandinavia right now, but suffice it to say, it is available here, easily, as well.

[...] A Friendly Permacultre Critique of the Obama Garden and I’m with Stupid From Transition Culture. [...]

Mark
6 Apr 11:52pm

Bill Harshaw,

Sorry to be so tardy in following up on this, but I wonder if you have more information on solar panels on the White House? I am aware that the Park Service has installed both PV and solar hot water on several outbuildings on the grounds, but have not been able to confirm actual installation on the White House itself.

Bill Harshaw
7 Apr 11:25pm

I know nothing you can’t find by Googling–which as you say, means the Bush solar panels are at the White House, not on the West Wing. :-) Give Bush credit for his geothermal heat pumps at his ranch and passive solar design (see Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prairie_Chapel_Ranch)

To nitpick–the Park Service installed Carters solar panels just as it did Bush’s, it owns the place.

[...] One lady who has time on her hands with at least four years to grow lots of different varieties is Michelle Obama in the White House garden. [...]

[...] Through it all, there’s been barely a weed to pull. Yep, I’m still preaching the gospel of permaculture. I found this article a while back and recommend it to those of you are ready to start your own gardens: A Friendly Permaculture Critique of the Obamas’ Vegetable Garden [...]