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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - First lady Michelle Obama hosted a garden-planting party for elementary school students on Thursday, and the garden may start yielding lettuce and spinach for the White House kitchen within weeks.
"Isn't it nice?" Obama said as she and two dozen children from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington planted seedlings into neat rows. "(It's) easier than ripping the grass up."
Designed as a year-round kitchen garden, the 1,100-square-foot (102-square-meter) plot on the South Lawn is set to produce herbs like oregano, sage and rosemary, vegetables including lettuce, chard and peas, and blueberries and raspberries.
Bancroft students helped break ground for the garden on March 20.
Obama said she hoped the White House garden, the first vegetable garden since Eleanor Roosevelt planted a "victory garden" during World War Two, would encourage Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables.
"And doing this garden is a really inexpensive way of making that happen," she said.
"The lettuce should be ready pretty soon," perhaps in the next week or so, said assistant White House chef Sam Kass. "Spinach in a couple of weeks."
Weeds will be removed by hand and beneficial insects, such as praying mantises and ladybugs, will be used to control pests instead of synthetic pesticides, Kass said.
"We're going to make this garden grow," he said.
Reporting by Charles Abbott; Editing by Xavier Briand