This is historical material “frozen in time”. The website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work.

Search form

Harvesting the Winter Garden

Assistant Chef Sam Kass writes about harvesting the winter garden at the White House.

After a long, and historically snowy winter here in Washington DC, we harvested our winter crop on March 10th.  We have been enjoying the lettuce, spinach, turnips, carrots, and greens ever since. From the beginning, we wanted to demonstrate that a four-season garden was indeed possible even in Washington D.C.  As it turned out, this winter was harsher than most and in fact more like the ones typical to Chicago, with the city experiencing over two feet of snow one week!


Farmers and gardeners around the world are extending their growing seasons through the very simple technology of hoop houses. We used a smaller version that is often referred to as high tunnels. The structures are simply a series of four or five metal bars arched over the beds about three feet high. Fixed to the bars is a simple plastic covering which traps the heat of the sun during the day to keep the plants from freezing at night.  

We were cautiously optimistic that our hoop houses would protect the crops and were pleasantly surprised.  All told we harvested just under 50lbs of produce. A modest harvest compared to what the summer had brought, but it is exciting to have been able to produce food during a long harsh winter. The lettuce and spinach are particularly sweet and delicious. We also learned a few things. For example, we planted our carrots a little too late. They were not as big as we had hoped, but the little things are tasty!  We also discovered that the beds to the north side of the garden get considerably more sun the beds that the beds on south side. The sun is much lower in the sky and late in the day the southern beds are shadowed by surrounding trees. Next year, we will be sure to put plants that need more sun on the north side of the garden. Good lessons to learn, but all together a nice surprise.

Over the next few weeks we will be getting the garden ready for our spring planting. Seeds are being sprouted and at the First Lady’s request we have expanded the garden by 500 square feet so we can grow even more varieties of fruits and vegetables. Needless to say we are excited for Spring so stay tuned!