Planting the Seeds
The White House Kitchen Garden was planted on the South Lawn by First Lady Michelle Obama in 2009. The 2,800 square foot garden provides locally-grown food for the first family and White House guests. What’s more, the garden is a model for how people like you can grow nutritious food at home.
Although the White House Kitchen Garden is a recent addition, there is a long tradition of produce-growing at the White House. President John Adams planned the first vegetable garden on the White House grounds in 1797. Many presidents and first ladies continued the practice by planting fruit trees, orchards, and establishing greenhouses. During World War II, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt planted a Victory Garden at the White House, encouraging all Americans to grow their own food to overcome supply shortages during the war.
Caring for the Garden
The National Park Service cares for the White House grounds including the Kitchen Garden. Our team of dedicated professionals, many of whom have cared for the White House grounds for decades, maintains the soil, plants the crops, tends the garden, and harvests the crops with the White House kitchen staff.
Since the start of the Kitchen Garden, children have been invited to learn how food is grown by helping to plant and tend the crops. The lessons learned can help kids make good choices about the foods they eat.
The Kitchen Garden features a variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs. Today, the White House Kitchen Garden supplies about 2,000 pounds of food each year for the White House. Any food that is not used at the White House is donated to a Washington, DC, charity feeding those in need.
The White House Kitchen Garden has evolved continuously since 2009, including expanding the garden and adding raised beds. The latest updates were made to establish an entrance and improve the access to the heart of the garden, where now there is seating for all from children to heads of state to enjoy.
Students at the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture got hands-on experience designing, constructing and improving the garden. The team of graduate students and faculty surveyed and analyzed the landscape, made construction drawings, and implemented their construction plan. The team used recycled or salvaged wood from locations including the estates of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and Martin Luther King, Jr. to build the tables, benches, and arbor. The project enlarged the garden to 2,800 square feet.
Through its Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks, the National Park Foundation received a private donation to support the updates and future preservation of the garden.
The best times to get a close-up view of the White House Kitchen Garden are during the Spring and Fall Garden Tours, as well as the Easter Egg Roll.
Outside of these special events, you can catch a glimpse of the garden from outside the South Lawn fence. When standing within view of the White House along E St. NW, look to the left to spot the garden and the apiary.
If you’re interested in presidents and food, you will enjoy an exhibit at the White House Visitor Center about several presidents’ favorite meals. Find out which president’s favorite dish was squirrel stew!
What You Can Do
Last updated: September 25, 2017