White House garden inspires urban gardening trend

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DENVER — Since moving into the White House, one of the biggest projects First Lady Michelle Obama has taken on is planting a vegetable garden.

Now she’s written a book all about it called, “American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America.”

During an appearance on The View, the first lady said her inspiration for the garden came from her own daughters.

“We were probably eating out too much, not cooking enough, slipping in those sugary drinks. And my pediatrician pulled us aside and said you might want to look at the girls’ diets,” Obama said.

She didn’t have much experience with gardening.

“Only picking weeds in the backyard with my aunt and grandma, but never had a garden of my own,” she said.

But with help the garden flourished.

“[We have] all kinds of lettuces, herbs, beans, snap peas, rhubarb,” she said. “We’ve got some berry bushes that we’re trying to get going.”

That sounds a lot like what James Bertini has going in his Denver backyard. He calls himself an urban homesteader, growing a myriad of fruits and vegetables in the heart of the city.

“You know exactly what you’re putting into your body because you grew it in your back yard,” Bertini said.

He said the first lady’s influence has a lot of people interested in gardens of their own.

“People saw what was going on the White House lawn and they wanted to get involved in vegetable gardening and they came to us and said how can we learn?” Bertini said.

Denver Urban Homesteading offers classes on everything from gardening, to raising chickens, and beekeeping.

Bertini said you can do it even if you’re short on space, and recommended some good plants to start with.

“Tomatoes are a very easy and yet very rewarding vegetable or fruit that one can grow, lettuce is another one, they grow very quickly,” he said.

As he enjoys ripe mulberries right off the tree, he said he’s happy to help anyone who needs a little guidance.

“I’m always happy when someone discovers gardening, even later in life, so my congratulations to Michelle Obama for growing a garden and encouraging countless other Americans to do the same thing,” he said.

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