The current Department of Agriculture grounds. Look at those boring shrubs. (Photo courtesy Flickr user kimberlyfaye)

To my utter delight, vegetable gardens continue their takeover of Washington. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has announced that the Department of Agriculture's grounds are to be turned into gardens. There will be a mix of container, raised, and in-ground beds filled with a mix of vegetables and ornamentals. Vilsack says the gardens are "a better way to communicate the agency's mission of sustainability and in particular the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables."

There are some wonderful precedents for turning public space into gardens. In 2005, Growing Power, in Chicago, partnered with the city to transform 20,000 sq feet of beds in Grant Park that previously contained annuals into a decorative vegetable garden. (I wrote about Erika Allen, who heads the Chicago branch of Growing Power, and the rise of urban agriculture for In These Times.)

Here's a photo of the Chicago gardens:


Salad days indeed. (Photo courtesy Moore Landscapes, Inc., which helped put in the gardens)

Gardening advocates are rightly pleased. As Rose Hayden-Smith, a historian and food systems educator at the University of California, told the Washington Post: "I kept having to pinch myself in this meeting, We're not the kind of people who have been invited to Washington, D.C., before. We're the guerrilla gardeners, the pollinator people, the seed savers. It wasn't our usual cast of characters. People were grinning from ear to ear."

--Phoebe Connelly