Tag Archives: Front Yard Gardening

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Slow News Day: MI Woman Faces Jail Time for Front Yard Vegetable Garden

There are many thriving front yard gardens, not the least of which is First Lady Michelle Obama‘s, which happens to be on the White House lawn, growing fresh vegetables for visiting dignitaries as well as for Washington D.C.’s homeless.

But for all the terrific stories about creative front-yard re-use that turns water-guzzling ornamental lawns into food-producing habitats, like this cottage garden on a sidewalk in industrial Brooklyn and this front yard farm in Benicia, CA, there are stories like this recent one of homeowners associations and community ordinances run amok:

A Michigan woman is facing jail time for planting some raised vegetable beds on her front lawn. Insane, right? Apparently the ordinance in Julie Bass‘ Oak Park, MI, neighborhood calls for “suitable” plant materials on ones front lawn. Aside from the fact that the city does not provide a definition of “suitable”, many may wonder just what is so unsuitable about growing food, as opposed to plants that are (some might argue) merely ornamental. Many, like me, see front-yard gardens as a small act of viability and sustainability, an effort to save the money and the fuel it takes to grow and package and transport and stock and purchase non-local food.

Julie Bass’ garden, above.
Benicia, CA, garden, below.

And if you think Julie Bass in Oak Park is alone, the same thing happened to Asa Dodsworth in Berkeley, CA, a place highly associated with progressiveness and sustainability.

According to Pamela Price at Red, White & Grew, this case should provide a springboard for a national dialogue about protecting  home gardeners by creating better opportunities and fewer barriers for them to simply grow their own food on the land they have. She spoke about the issue at Tedx San Antonio.

The issue is large in scope, Pamela and Holly Hirshberg of The Dinner Garden say. Individual growers fight hunger, save money, gain food security, and feed many others in their communities with their homegrown food and with the seeds they harvest and share.

There is obviously still much education that needs to happen before everyone values the front lawn for practicality and production as much as for a conventional and conformist idea of beauty.

There are some ways to help Julie Bass in Michigan, like this petition on the Care2 site and other suggestions on the Treehugger site. Red, White & Grew and The Dinner Garden are also great resources about the power of home gardens to feed and help many.

Photos by White House, Julie Bass, Susan Sachs Lipman

You may also be interested in:
School and Community Gardens Grow More than Food

UPDATE: Largely due to internet uproar, the charges against Julie Bass have been dropped.

 

 

Slow News Day: Front Yard Gardening in Benicia and Beyond

cornyard1

While wandering around the town of Benicia, CA, one late summer day, I encountered this exuberant example of front yard gardening. This person is really making the most of every square inch. It was a treat to see, especially after posting about the trend of front yard gardening earlier this summer.

I’ve been following some fun and inspiring blogs about front yard and even balcony gardening. (As a longtime deck gardener, in the deer-populated (read: lettuce munching) woods as well as in Manhattan, I’ve always been interested in doing the most with the smallest plot of dirt. Good small-space gardening and urban homesteading blogs include Beyond the Lawn, Leda’s Urban Homestead, Balcony Gardener, Life on the Balcony, Free Range Living, and Path to Freedom.

The last is an especially exciting farmsteading site that I just learned about this weekend when I saw an independent movie called HomeGrown. HomeGrown features a family of four living by the freeway in Pasadena, CA, raising all their own food and completely sustaining themselves and others on a small residential plot of land. The family is very winning and passionate, and they really make a go of urban homesteading, practicing extreme simplicity, conservation, community and resourcefulness — They use a hand washer, make their own biofuel, sell their produce to some of the area’s high-end (and appreciative) restaurants, and often do without. Learn more about them at Path to Freedom.

Still curious about Benicia? In addition to having great sun and soil, I learned that the bayside town was California’s first capitol, predating Sacramento and California’s gold rush. After going inside the old building (now part of a CA state park)¬† and pretending to legislate, we got to lock the old capitol’s giant door for the weekend with an outsized, cartoon-like key. Benicia also has a charming main street for shopping, antiquing, and taking a self-guided historic walking tour featuring old homes and businesses. I will post a travelogue soon.

In the meantime, like me, you can enjoy looking at this special, bountiful yard and wondering if its owners are still harvesting yummy corn into the fall.

cornyard2

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

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