The press is fascinated with stories about communities that go after front yard gardeners. Some areas have covenants or (worse) laws making gardening in one’s front yard a no-no. These often are affluent enclaves where investment-minded owners are nervous about protecting their property values. But not all. Sometimes regular communities, in a freedom-quashing pursuit of conformity, will take up the cause; as if front yard gardens might hurt the price of real estate.
The most recent article is this long look from The New York Times. Time magazine got in on the action last year. According to them, it’s all about “meddling local officials gone off the deep end” and the relative value of all that, care-intensive grass (vs. something you can eat) grown for the questionable purpose of keeping up appearances.
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Of course, this isn’t an issue in every community. While living long ago in anything-goes Venice, California, we grew tomatoes, peppers, basil and squash in hardly-raised beds as well as lettuce and other greens along the path that led to our front door. This was on a walk street, a lane where the houses didn’t face a street but only a sidewalk, and we weren’t the only ones growing vegetables out our front door. One of the neighbors on the same block had rabbits whose cages he moved around to fertilize different areas. Sometimes when he was out there, the rabbits were free to fertilize wherever they pleased.
Many of the yards had tall privacy fences but ours was waist high. We often came out to see neighbors hanging over the fence admiring our ripening tomatoes and the lush greens that lined our walk. We otherwise might have never even met our neighbors, let alone hold meaningful conversations with them. (Since our long-ago leaving, the neighborhood has gentrified quite a bit but I can’t help believe that residents would still tolerate vegetables growing in the front yards.)
The last big case of this sort to gain major coverage was that of a Michigan woman who had four neat, raised beds in her front yard. Maybe it was the fact that she might have gone to jail for growing lettuce (the story had a mostly happy ending). The most recent case comes from Orlando, Florida where city code require a front yard to have a “finished appearance.” But, of course, these problems have a long history.
Now there’s nothing wrong with lawns when properly grown. They are great places for kids to play, dogs to roam or having picnics. But you don’t want your kids rolling in grass that’s been doused with fertilizer and herbicides. And, as anyone who reads the utility bill knows, they can be a major sink hole for water. But the issue here isn’t about demonizing grass. It’s about the right to grow something healthful and valuable on your own property. Check out the arguments in this fine article from the San Francisco Chronicle about replacing your “useless” lawn with an organic vegetable garden. What’s said here is especially appropriate for those urban dwellers who don’t have much yard — front or back — to start with.
To some of us, a well-kept vegetable garden is a thing of beauty. And in these times of pesticide-laden produce and GMO food crops, the right to grow your own food is important to many families. Isn’t it time we let common sense prevail and let those who want to, use their front yards — as well as their back — for growing food?
Eric Vinje founded Planet Natural with his father Wayne in 1991, originally running it as a grasshopper bait mail-order business out of a garage.
Eric is now retired, but is still a renowned gardener known for his expertise in composting, organic gardening and pest control, utilizing pesticide-free options, such as beneficial insects.
Eric believes when you do something good for the environment, the effects will benefit generations to come.
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4 Responses to “Front Yard Vegetable Gardening”
In this economy, growing your own food crops should be rewarded. These “farmers” are ahead of the curve. That food may will fill a real need in alleviating hunger
What is wrong with this government?
What is wrong with trying to feed your family?
What is so terrible about growing GREENS on the front side of your house?
You wouldn’t tell me I couldn’t in the back.. Or would you?
Remember… beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
Having a garden anywhere… front, back, side, decks, roofs, shows you put more care in the place you call home then if you didn’t bother at all. It also shows you care about what goes into your body and the bodies of your family. Folks spend a fortune “grass farming” and its mostly on chemicals you shouldn’t let anywhere near your family or pets. why is that ok and gardens not? I’m not judging you if you choose to grass farm… heck it gives a place to run for kids and pets. I have a lawn too! (Minus the chemicals a few more dandelions, haha) But if a lawn isn’t needed, please don’t stop others from extending their freedom to grow their own food. Its one of the best things we can do for ourselves in the midst of all these GMO crops and farms laden with pesticides. And best of all, its not rocket science. Anyone with dirt can grow their own food! It should be encouraged!
The only legitimate point I could imagine would be if the back yards were enclosed but not the front yards – depending on the crops, unprotected gardens could attract deer, bear, and other animals that could become a nuisance or danger to the whole community. If the gardens are enclosed or in a location unlikely to have much wildlife, though, then food gardens are wonderful things!!!