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While I cheer the return of a first garden, I do have some concern that Mrs. Obama was shamelessly (and publicly) goaded into it by Alice Waters, Michael Pollan and others, and that like many a neophyte gardener, she may be a tad naïve about what lies ahead.

There’s the expectation that the first family (including the president) is going to be pulling weeds, “whether they like it or not,” she insists. Really, now, who could not like pulling weeds?

Let me tell the Obamas something that they are soon to discover for themselves. Gardening is weeding. In fact, I don’t know why we even call it “gardening”; we should just be honest and call it “weeding,” for that’s how you spend 90 percent of your time in the garden. The president has all of 15 minutes a day of leisure time, and his wife wants him to put down the basketball and weed? If you’re wondering why Michelle Obama is the first first lady to have a vegetable garden since Eleanor Roosevelt, here’s your answer: it’s hard work.

Still, I wish the Obamas and their garden well. Maybe this really is Mrs. Obama’s idea. She is exactly right when she says, “A real delicious heirloom tomato is one of the sweetest things that you’ll ever eat.” To which I’ll add, a garden makes a house into a home. And if there’s anything this country needs right now, it’s a sense of place, of home.

- William Alexander in the NY Times


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