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The front yard

08/08/2012 in political

Neighborhood czars are attempting to force free spirits to plant turf, and you may end up in court for growing wildflowers or vegetables.

Ferguson MO

In a recent case in Ferguson MO, one of those neighborhood nazies claimed that growing turf in the front yard was plain common sense.
lizard among the carrots
Apparently the fact that everyone plants turf in the front yard means that it’s become common sense to plant turf.

The elder generation had something to say about that…
It went… If all your friends were jumping off a cliff, would you also jump off the cliff?

Seems to be a city of lemmings up in Ferguson Missouri.

Karl won the right to have a vegetable garden this year, but it looks like this battle has only just begun.

Tulsa Oklahoma

A war has been declared on vegetables, There was that sickening debacle in Tulsa Oklahoma, where the code enforcers took it upon themselves to raze Denise Morrison’s yard, trees, herbs, flowers, everything… and they didn’t even wait long enough to do this through the legal system!

Memphis, TN

Adam Guerrero and a few of his students broke the law by gardening and making bio-diesel, operating bee colonies, making soap, and building a small greenhouse.

I don’t know man, seems like something to admire, when a math teacher has the initiative to help his students develop outside interests and skills.
This is the kind of thing that they could put on their resume, or in their college entrance essay.
Used to be kids would learn these skills on the farm, but in an urbanized world, I think that we should applaud their resourcefulness.

Drummondville Quebec

This insanity isn’t limited to the US, there was a couple in Drummondville, Quebec ordered to take out part of their garden in favor of turf. While Josée Landry and Michel Beauchamp got a reprieve, the city council is apparently working on an ordinance banning vegetables from being grown!

This is America! We can go down to the gun store and purchase military grade weaponry, but we can’t remove the turf out of our yard!

Oak Park Michigan

Last year, Julie Bass was threatened with 93 days in jail for growing vegetables in Oak Park Michigan.

Chattanooga TN

Lana Sutton has been going round and round with planning and zoning up in Chattanooga TN for yanking out kudzu and planting native wildflowers!


In 2006 I was cited to Chattanooga City Court the first time for:..
A) Trying to remove the kudzu on about half my yard. The kudzu is considered by the city to be the legal half of my yard. ..
B) Attempting to replace the kudzu and other invasives with a tall-grass, wildflower meadow, food gardens and a native-habitat reforesting project that has been challenged in court no less than three times in three years…

The case against turf

Growing turf isn’t even a desirable thing to do! There’s a drought going on, and grass requires a lot of water!

Then there’s all that noisy equipment. Have you ever tried to visit a friend out in the garden on the day when the turf crew came through the neighborhood? Oughta pass some ordinances about that….

Those mowers, strimmers, edgers, and blowers put out a ton of air pollution, use up our gasoline reserves, and the spilled fuel goes directly into the local waterways…

Turf has other run-off problems, those chemical fertilizers and pesticides end up in the local streams and rivers….

There’s also the the problem of how little capacity there is for soil penetration by rain fall, due to the hard-pan that underlies the majority of lawns.
Rain water runs off into the storm drains, and is a flooding hazard similar to a hard-surfaced parking lot.

I’m always devastated by the loss of native plants and butterfly habitat every time that I see another patch of wildflowers mowed.

Advocating turf removal

It isn’t unknown for that turf to be replaced by something a lot more eco-friendly and useful.
A quick search on lawn removal turns up dozens of articles.
Like this 2008 post from the LA Times which out-lines 4 methods for successful turf removal.

Here’s a post from last week which discusses the drought, and techniques for turf removal, and includes suggestions for alternative uses for that space.

What reasons could there be for these people being harassed?

I posted a discussion of this article at the I-Dig forums to get a deeper level of discussion.

Some ideas for why people might be getting harassed, included concerns about property values, street appeal.

A look at the photographs posted in the articles linked above, quickly dispels that concern.
These yards added character to the neighborhoods, none of these yards were of the expected problematic type… IE: where a home-owner puts in a few vegetables and then loses interest.

These are all well maintained, high-effort, attractive, productive uses for other-wise wasted space!

My own suspicion for why someone would call the law on their neighbor for growing vegetables… is a jealousy issue, on the order of: those people are always out in their yard, call the police, make them go back inside…. They make me feel lazy…

One person posting (Nastarana) thought that the reason that these cases weren’t simply dismissed as wasting city resources, persecuting people who are minding their own business, exercising their freedoms, pursuing happiness by growing a garden on their own property… might be understood by “following the money”.

How many people on these city councils had involvement in the turf maintenance industry?

I hate to say it, but this seems likely.

With new voter-fraud laws recently in the news, taken to court, and the defendants stipulate that there’s no actual cases of voter fraud…
Suggests that people are passing laws to promote their own agenda, without regard for the appropriateness of those laws…. The lawmakers are merely human, using their positions to advance their own self-interests.

A time for action

Julie Bass up in Oak Park Michigan believes that it’s time to contact our local representatives, and bring this turf problem into the political arena.

In her pursuit of the liberty to decide for herself what plants to grow in her own yard, Julie has composed a description of the issue, and requests that everyone who cares about our rights as gardeners use her template as a jumping off place.

She imagines that it could be attached to petitions, and printed up in drives to liberate neighborhoods from onerous garden ordinances.

How about you?

DO you believe in freedom?
Do you want your neighbor to dictate that you grow something that actively harms the ecology of the planet?

What are your ideas about regaining the right to garden according to our own aesthetic?

Do you have other stories to add?

Please use the form.

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14 responses to The front yard

  1. I recently stopped by a neighbor’s garage sale and she said “we need lawn standards in the neighborhood”. I think she was surprised by my response that I’d rather look at a few weeds now and then. Probably not convinced but another neighbor walked in and immediately agreed with me so that should be the end of it. It’s best to start as close to home as possible.

    • stone said on 08/08/2012

      I think the whole terminology needs to be changed.
      I’ve seen tomato plants listed on weed sites.

      In my post When is it a Weed? I attempted to supply that new definition…

      a weed is a plant that is out of control, one that displaces the native plants, and crowds out the vegetation that the birds and butterflies depend on.

      By my definition, all that turf is a serious weed infestation. Rather than demanding that people plant sod, they need to promote alternatives.

  2. My front garden has my bee and butterfly border running the length of the drive, no grass to be seen anywhere, would I be hauled up before your officials! Over here I think we must be a bit more flexible, people seem to be able to do what they like in their front gardens, thank goodness.

  3. love the post! thanks for this! -julie

  4. Donna said on 08/08/2012

    Doug Tallamy’s video was quite good. I agree with your position on the crazy laws out there banning plants that are not considered acceptable, like vegetables. I grew heirloom tomatoes out front last year in amongst the perennials, and the neighbors luckily did not notice or complain. I live in one of ‘those’ neighborhoods too. I have posted often on ‘native’ plants. Unfortunately, as much as I plant asters, and monarda, etc, I will never have a meadow. Honestly, I get a kick out of people planting four foot square patches and calling them meadows. Great that they turn a small area into native plants, but by scale and habitat, it will never be an actual meadow. I did a whole post on this too because at the farm (where I have an office), there are real meadows as comparison. I love going out in the fields at this time of year to photograph. So much alive, hopping, flying, and buzzing.

    • stone said on 08/09/2012

      I went over to your blog, and searched for your meadow post. My mind hurts after reading that.

      • Donna said on 08/10/2012

        Imagine researching some of that info! Thanks for including the link and looking for it on my site. I did not want to be an internet troll and leave the link so others would jump to GWGT. Sometimes I do leave a link, but not that often. The story on the DOT was an eye opener. I think it was NC but I could not remember. They try to do the right thing and who is the pain in the butt? That floored me.

  5. Tom said on 08/09/2012

    I do hope no city people decide to have issues with my yard. I can cut what grass I have with a hedge clipper. The tomato plants out front are large enough to count as a hedge.


    • Donna said on 08/10/2012

      I had to laugh at your comment, Tom. City people WILL have a problem at some time or another. I live in a city and we have some real weenies on our street. I had one come over when I was tending my front garden of mostly native perennials and tell me I was going to attract rats. They never saw the tomatoes. Here is the post on what the neighbor said to me when I was newly installing the perennial bed to replace grass. And, this year, I found a dead rat that was placed on my sidewalk in front of the garden. Wanna bet it was a neighbor!

  6. Great article, Stone. Thanks for finding the Doug Tallamy video. Would have liked to have seen the photos, or links, of the gardens “written up.” I agree that commerce is behind the fight as well as Big Brother attacking our personal freedoms.

  7. Sorry I missed this earlier in the year. Great write up on the situation at hand. It’s a tough fight, but our efforts grow ten-fold (no pun intended, but I’ll take it). Grow Food Not Lawns!!!

    • stone said on 11/13/2012

      I’m working on an update… since the current troubles in Florida … These people are freaking nuts, who think that a patchy weedy lawn is more attractive than a beautiful, productive edible yard!
      These miles of wasted space spent growing useless turf seems like a serious lack of imagination, the only reason that I can think of for growing that stuff is as a place holder… until the homeowner figures out what they actually want out there…
      May as well face it, the only crop worse than turf for a yard would be something like ragweed, or poison ivy, wisteria, Japanese honeysuckle!

  8. jack said on 03/23/2013

    Love your posting! If some of those crazies would see my gardens here along the shores of Lake Michigan – I might be put in jail. Lots of wild vegetation, and some garden rooms among them. The way I like it. More natural and much easier to care for, and more sustainable too!

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