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Government Threatens with Jail Time for Growing Produce in Front-Yard Garden

Elizabeth Renter
September 3rd, 2012
Updated 11/01/2012 at 10:48 pm
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carrotsgarden 235x147 Government Threatens with Jail Time for Growing Produce in Front Yard Garden

You own your home and the lot that it sits on. So, if you want to plant tomatoes instead of bushes, you should be entitled to that, right? While this may seem like a common sense line of reasoning, many cities and towns across our nation think otherwise. They don’t want their citizens using a front-yard garden to grow food – they want perfectly green and manicured lawns.

Using a Front-Yard Garden to Grow Veges? You May Not be Allowed

It seems like every month a few more stories hit the social media grapevines, where home owners are being punished for growing food. Some of these front-yard gardeners have created landscapes that rival those created by high-paid landscaping companies. The difference—all of this greenery is edible.

Whether it’s the HOA rules or a city ordinance, some front-yard gardeners are being forced to pull up their plants and scrap their edible landscape. Why? If for nothing more than to have a seamless line of green yards stretching through the neighborhood.

When we can’t trust what we find at the grocery store, and farmer’s markets are limited and not always within driving distance, growing our own food doesn’t just make sense, it makes perfect sense.

And once you’ve begun growing your own, you will likely begin to wonder why Americans ever moved away from self-sustaining gardens.

Why can’t many of us grow food in the front-yard garden? Many townships say that the ‘issue’ revolves around yard space, where a vegetable garden may only be allowed to take up to 20-30% of a yard area. It may sound crazy that a city government would spend (waste) resources to target gardeners, but it actually happens more often than you would think.

As reported by Dr. Mercola:

  • In 2011, Julie Bass of Oak Park, Michigan was charged with a misdemeanor and threatened with jail time for planting a vegetable garden in her front yard.
  • In British Columbia, Dirk Becker was threatened with six months in jail for converting an acre of his 2.5-acre lot into an organic farm. What’s even more unsettling about the charges in this case is that the lot was literally stripped bare down to a gravel pit before this. The owner spent over a decade healing the land and converting it into a self-contained ecosystem that is now home to thriving vegetable crops, fruit trees, bees, butterflies, birds, frogs, dragonflies and more. But because the area is zoned a “residential” lot, the local government is calling on him to “cease all agricultural activity” or pay the consequences.
  • Earlier this year, city inspectors bulldozed more than 100 types of plants, including garlic chives, strawberry and apple mint, being grown by Denise Morrison in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The inspectors said her plants were too tall, but city code allows for plants over 12 inches if they’re meant for human consumption, which hers were. Morrison is now suing the city for violating her civil rights.
  • Steve Miller was fined $5,200 for growing vegetables in his Clarkston, Georgia backyard, which he not only consumed but also sold at farmers markets and shared with friends.

Where to get Started?

Whether you are looking to grow vegetables in a front-yard garden, out back, or even on your apartment balcony, there are simple ways to get started. Choose the right place, where your plants will get plenty of sunshine and won’t be trampled by the dog or neighborhood kids.

You can dig down, beneath the grass roots to the soil or you can create a raised bed. Planting an amazing kitchen garden entirely in containers, without breaking soil at all, is also an option.

If you are a beginner, choose plants that are easy to grow like tomatoes, hearty greens, and squash. Purchase starter plants for things like peppers, squash and tomatoes, to get a head start and to eliminate some of the gamble when planting seeds.

A little research into your gardening options goes a long way. And if you’re looking to grow your own vegetables, strongly consider going all organic. Organic gardening is a great way to avoid the threat of genetically modified foods, pesticides, and toxic additives. While the garden can be as large or small as you’d like, the benefit of knowing exactly how your food was prepared and therefore what is in it is worth the time and effort that goes into it. Want to know how to do organic gardening? Check out our organic gardening 101 post.

And, if you live in a town where there might be a battle over your new mini-farm, be prepared. Know your rights, keep your garden looking nice, and be ready to stand your ground.

From around the web:

  • Terry Ericson

    This completely doesn't make sense. You pay good money to own the property, yet can't do what you want with it? Seriously, what's so wrong about having an organic garden in the front yard?

  • Dr.kimo

    i like this post

  • Dave

    Thanks for recommending helpful suggestions to start gardening but violating government rules. I've seen in many Asian countries they used to grow plants on the backyard or frontward. It's a good way to save money and I'm looking forward to follow your mentioned ideas to get started to make a beautiful vegetable garden.

  • dianne

    Two years ago, the Washington county weed morons, in NE came into our front yard on our acerage while we were gone for a few hours and butchered our flowering Cherry and Pear trees, medicinal bushes, and blooming Sunflowers. This is a natural habitat for birds, bees, etc. I called the sherrif to report vandalism. He did nothing. The weed dept. said the school bus could not see traffic at the stop sign. I told him if the bus driver would STOP at the sign, he could see just fine. They ended up admitting they went to far, and turned it into the State's insurance company and paid about half of the damages. We were lucky to get that! Ever since, we do not get our road graded or any gravel like the roads around us.

  • Kim Mauck

    I grow veggies in my front yard and my neighbors love it!

  • Brains

    I live in OZ and if they tried that here there would be a back lash they would not want.

    "if you do nothing,nothing gets done" so being diabled I have my say on my site and unfortunately our moronic government listens to their so called "EXPERTS"

    which works out to "an ex = has been and a spert is a drip under pressure.

    Over there you have a great ot more to contend with coz you have more morons in power and those morons who want more power ….

  • Thomas

    I saw your article about gardening.

    I thought you might like this.

    Have you seen this film linked below ?

    When you click the link scroll to the bottom of the page to view the film.

    I have gardened this way, and the results are incredible.

    This is definitely worth the time investment, if you want to know how do effortless, workless/ weedless gardening.

    No tilling of the soil, no weeds, just plant, and harvest.

    Basically what this man does is covers the soil with paper.

    He uses newspapers, but I would recommend using plain brown wrapping paper that you can get from a local office supply store.

    Newspapers have a lot of chemicals I would not want close to my food.

    Then he covers the soil with 8-12 inches of wood chips from a local tree trimming company.

    They need to get rid of their cuttings, that they have chipped, so it should be free, or cheap.

    Ideally, this would be done in the fall [ but it can be done anytime of the year].

    By the time spring arrives everything has decomposed into a nice mulch.

    Then he plants the seeds in the top inch of the mulch, and harvests when the seeds mature.

    This is the most simple, straight forward way to grow food, with the least amount of effort, and the best results.

    I already knew about this, but I totally enjoyed watching this film.

    Also below is a link to a film about a man I studied in the late 70's / early 80's.

    I studied with Michio Kushi [ Macrobiotics] In the late 70's and early 80's

    He had this book as part of his reading list.

    He did the similar farming/ gardening techniques as this man in "Back to Eden" film referenced above.

    I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.


  • Michael Patrick McCa

    George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, and Ray Bradbury could not dream this up with the powers of their combined imaginations. Down and down the rabbit hole we go. It will stop – when we stop it.