Backlash toward front yard gardens

Madras, OR

Around the country, without CC&R's or community ordinances against them, front yard gardens are under attack. Even those neatly arranged in raised beds and without weeds, home owners are being told to rip them out, or risk arrest. Some have been arrested even though there is no crime. Wondering what lies behind these actions? It seems to be spread across the south mostly, Florida, Missouri, Tennessee

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

I think the idea is that "traditional" -looking yards keep neighborhood property values up. I don't agree - I think it might be harder to sell a property with unconventional landscaping, but if it is well-maintained, it shouldn't affect the place next door. If it isn't in the laws or covenances or zoning for an area, it doesn't seem like residents could be ticketed & fined - let alone arrested.
Appraisals here are often done by computer - it is based on sales of property in the same tract, without even viewing the property. I wonder if property values are down due to the economy, and neighborhoods are just looking for someone to blame?
A few years ago I decided I wanted bundled corn shocks for autumn decorations, and I decided that I would just grow them in situ. So I planted a circle of corn at either end of my front flower bed. All summer long people were stopping to ask what that "cool" ornamental grass was - they were always a bit disappointed that it was plain old corn. But they admired it until then!!
I have lived places that did have rules against veggies in the front yard - and people just hid them in the flower beds. If the inspectors couldn't see them from the street, they didn't bother to write a ticket.

Madison, AL(Zone 7b)

I am super-pro home gardening and food production, and libertarian in terms of property rights. But yet, every time I hear about a "beautiful" front yard garden that's being persecuted, I see pictures of it and think "ugh!" I wouldn't call up the local authorities for philosophical reasons but I also wouldn't be real happy to see it across the street.

What's behind the anti-front-yard-garden stuff? The neighbors. They are terrified their property values will go down. Growing your own food is still perceived as something poor people do, and having poor people nearby is bad for property values. They often have either local ordinances or CC&Rs to back them up. If you buy a home in a Stepford neighborhood, you shouldn't be surprised when people get irate when you buck the status quo.

I think people who want or need to front yard garden in hostile areas would do far better incorporating permaculture practices and edible landscaping than row cropping or raised beds. Many vegetables have popular ornamental versions, like sweet potatoes and peppers; it really isn't hard to stealth garden if you need to. No one has to know that lovely ground cover is producing edible tubers for you.

Gardening and local food is becoming hip & trendy again (formerly known as "normal"), so I suspect we'll see less of this actually happening, but the media will hype it more. We have no such restrictions here -- even if we did with my zoning I'd be exempt -- but I do respect my neighbors' feelings, so the "garden" is out back even though everyone can see it clearly. In reality I grow far more calories in the "ornamental landscaping" then I do in the highly visible garden... but no one notices.

Central, TX(Zone 8b)

If there is "no crime" then it's false arrest; start a "freedom to garden" coalition, band together to ensure your property rights are protected without infringement - find a few gardening lawyers. There is something to be said for "stealth gardening" to forestall sourpuss neighbors - to a point. If they continue to complain when you've broken no laws or rules, and they cause you undo stress - get a restraining order as a last resort.

Local taxing authorities just want the highest evaluation they can get away with and if a neighbor complains you're lowering their property values make them prove it; a property is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it. As long as your property is neat and maintained then it's just a matter of personal taste. I've seen home owners with lots of money - no taste, just big eyesores - and others of lesser means with tons of personality and beautiful gardens.

When purchasing a home in a controlled neighborhood or gated community read the local ordinances and HOA rules carefully before signing on the doted line - see what's allowed and what isn't and compare that to your vision for YOUR property. Talk to potential neighbors to get a feel for their temperament and try to find out who the trouble makers and complainers are. No house is worth putting up with onerous rules or you being the target of a sour grape trouble making neighbor!

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

I have a cottage garden front property taking place for a few yeas and shaping up , but it does not always look neat or pretty , One day ""they""" "will probably say move it or we will ""fine you,, Move it I would , mumbling squeeze it out of a stone ,, and get out of my ear with that.. We all think to much sometimes, other times not at all...
Rules are that ,, thinking to much sometimes
i AM a lesser neither truthfully, IF it makes me happy with a bird ,, toad, frog,and butterfly garden ,that looks a little wild ,as those creatures sanctuary,, (p .. ON ""they'''' and """our"""" rules too!!

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

Yes, know your ordinances before you buy!
When I bought my property here, I also looked at another development with stricter covenants. There was a list of things that could not be "visible" from outside your property. And since the whole development was on a hillside & there was a restriction on the height and location of privacy fences - That meant the both the front and BACK yards were visible. Commuting time was also longer & farther. We didn't buy there, even though it was better designed than Pueblo West.

DeLand, FL(Zone 9b)

Hello Nancy,

I am hearing what you say. My post right under you under "Another gardening friend" is all about this topic. While few have noticed it, I will also be having Okra again in the front gardens this Summer along with all the other Hibiscus' family things I grow.

Before we bought our home here in DeLand, I made sure the deed stated we were not in a restricted HOA situation.

It's an attractive and middleclass neighborhood and we are fortunate our neighbors find our gardening concepts appealing.

There is always a way to blend veggies even in front gardens, and well maintained veggies are never ugly to anyone.

Madison, AL(Zone 7b)

There has been some talk at a nearby city about passing a "Right to Garden" ordinance and some areas have "Food Freedom" ordinances. Depending on the wording, if one has similar laws in your city/county/township they could supersede any CC&Rs. If someone is dealing with a neighborhood association and doesn't have the option or inclination to move, I would encourage them to look at the local laws regarding food growing, too, before giving up.

And if all else fails, find some like-minded folks and lobby for change in either your local homeowner's regulations or join/form a local food policy council and work on changing your local laws. Cities all over the country are passing backyard chicken ordinances -- green beans in the front yard should be no big deal.

Although in reality, moving is probably a lot less work! :)

sun city, CA(Zone 9a)

there is a whole movement called "grow food not lawns" that promotes the front yard garden and has some amazing pictures of what people have done. also, some stories of how people that have been cited are fighting this.

Madras, OR

The gardens in the news, Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi, had no community ordinances, CC&R's or other rules against them. Despite that, there were citations, and one (I believe) arrest. This will no doubt be recused, but still the backlash is interesting. All three of the featured gardens were neat and orderly, weed free,

DeLand, FL(Zone 9b)

I think if people want to grow vegetables they should be allowed to grow them anywhere, front or back in their gardens.

I also feel that if they are planted with good intent and are going to be forgotton and fester to seed in neglect, they should be in the back.

The basic fact for me is. "Anyone who has a true intent to garden and loves it, knows when Its time to freshen the garden." Whatever the plant, take care of it and garden well or get rid of it.

A plain sandy yard is better than a plain sandy yard with ugly half-tended and dying bushes. I bought one!

I think as all veggies, some veggies, or combined in our front gardens goes;...we owe it to our neighborhoods to make our home something to be proud of when our neighbors friends pass by. HOA or not.

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

Our HOA is actually becoming more lenient. I don't think they want "row crops" or rectangular raised beds, but they are less and less interested in a square plot of grass and more interested in variation, including hardscape and yes, front vegetables. One lady here has done a wonderful job in her front yard with a graceful "island" of vegetation surrounded by hardscape, and the green part contains both flowers (perennials and self-seeing wildflowers) and also veggies -- squash, melon and gourd. It's lovely and I asked her if she'd had any trouble with the HOA. She said she went to them with the plans before she started and once they were comfortable that she had a definite "look" in mind, they gave her the okay.

I think "attractive" is the key.

I've been growing some purple romaine in the back yard and it is so ruffly and vibrant that I can easily see it decorating the front yard. Ditto with some curled kale and other greens. My back yard is where the sun is, though, for the most part.

Madison, AL(Zone 7b)

Quote from nancynursez637 :
The gardens in the news, Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi, had no community ordinances, CC&R's or other rules against them. Despite that, there were citations, and one (I believe) arrest. This will no doubt be recused, but still the backlash is interesting. All three of the featured gardens were neat and orderly, weed free,

Can you provide links to the incidents to which you are referring, please?

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

I was searching on Google about vegetable gardening in St. Louis, MO (where I possibly be moving) and found this great article for y'all:
"Ferguson resident wins fight for front yard vegetable garden"

and here is his blog: Ferguson resident wins fight for front yard vegetable garden

Madras, OR reported at least one of the battles. and I see dthor posted another. Some were reported in the media,

Madison, AL(Zone 7b)

Thank you. So they *were* the 3 cases I was aware of. This articles goes into a it more depth on the Oak Park and Ferguson cases:

In those cases there were city ordinances that they were cited for. A judge ultimately ruled the city overstepped, which is good, but city was enforcing existing law as they saw it. There doesn't need to be a specific ordinance for not being allowed to have a giant pile of old recliners in your front yard to get cited for a nuisance.

(An asside: When the city says "suitable groundcovers," I'd bet the law was initially written to forbid swept yards.)

There are also cases in Memphis and Los Angeles which recently were settled on the gardeners' side.

The NYTimes article also talks about the Tulsa, OK case of Denise Morrison, so I looked her up. She hasn't gotten nearly the same amount of press, but I think this case is a much better example of actual garden persecution. She was following the law as written, got a citation and the court continued the case until months later. Then the city sent a crew and removed her gardens anyway -- including fruit and nut trees -- despite the continuance. In the before and after pics, it looks a whole lot worse after the city was done. She also won her case on the garden and last I heard is now suing the city for damages. In her case it wasn't the neighbors that complained; they were supportive. (Fortunately, the city doesn't understand that mowing down perennials only set them back a bit; they'll grow again.)

I hope she has a good pro-bono attorney and smacks the city down!

Edit: typo fix

This message was edited Jan 25, 2013 12:14 PM

Talihina, OK

This happened in Tulsa?? my goodness they can't even enforce the law against murder so I guess a gardener was easier ...Actually some restrictions are good otherwise there would be a cow and pig in every backyard on my street,as a matter of fact last year my neighbors had a cow and a horse in the backyard until the city stepped in and yeah it was getting a bit smelly ..Most of the yards here don't have room to grow anything as there are too many junker cars on the lawns

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> Gardening and local food is becoming hip & trendy again (formerly known as "normal"),

I wonder if that might be why some people are against gardening emotionally. Blaming it on "Darn hippies starting a commune".

Or, if Michelle Obama is in favor of home gardens and healthy food, they're against it.

Perhaps the answer is to resurrect some WW II posters urging "Victory Gardens". Drape some red and white Alyssum & blue trailing Lobelia near red tomatoes.

"Reduce our dependence on foreign vegetables!"

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

My guess is still: property values are dropping due to the economy - some people are upside down on their morgages. People are stressed out and paranoid about money and property values. Alternative landscaping is probably a scapegoat. When people are right-brain emotional, they aren't left-brain logical.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Very true! No need to look farther than our pocketbooks and our fears.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

I'm amazed at this. I guess I'm from the time when you bought something it was yours. I'm also from the San Fernando Valley in CA, which has some of the highest property values in the country, and the property my family owns is not in an HMO. I never heard of that until I moved to TX. When I heard there was propery restrictions, in sub divisions (in the early 90s) I was shocked. I thought if I owned it, it was mine. I did buy in a place that has no restrictions and I'm so glad I did. A few years ago I was talking to some friends, who live in a gated community and pay for it. They were telling me how they didn't know if they could grow certain flowers bc they might get too tall...They had to be really sneaky about the veggies. Lol

St. David, AZ(Zone 8a)

Sorry to hear about the anti gardening neighbors. I recently got "The Edible Front yard." The author stresses all the good looking, edible plants you can incorporate into your garden.

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