The 1,500-square-foot garden on the South Lawn has been mostly neglected since many employees of the executive residence and the National Park Service who tend to the grounds at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. were placed on furlough.
White House gardeners are not allowed to harvest crops, nor are they allowed to weed or pick up vegetables that have fallen off their vines and have begun to rot on the ground, according to Obama Foodorama, the official administration blog for food and nutrition initiatives.
Instead, they can only water and remove trash, and since fallen leaves and overripe veggies don't count as trash, they can't touch those, or chase off the fox and squirrels who live on the grounds.
Though White House Supervisory Horticulturalist Jim Adams, who oversees the Kitchen Garden, remains on duty, weeds and fallen leaves don't qualify as "trash," so the gardeners are not allowed to destroy garden invaders, nor are they allowed to rake," Obama Foodorama writes.
"Also off limits: Trimming, fertilizing, transplanting, and mowing the grass. The vast automated sprinkler system that snakes through the campus can be used, and during last week's heat wave, the grounds were getting a daily drenching."
The garden is the symbolic center of first lady Michelle Obama's signature initiative, the Let's Move! program to combat childhood obesity. During normal operation, the first lady would often invite children to help tend to the garden and harvest its crops, but those sessions, like all of her public events, have been canceled during the shutdown.
According to Let's Move! Executive director Sam Kass, the garden had a startup cost of less than $200 and has produced "thousands of pounds" of food in the past four years.