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Geek Mom has a report on a family in Oak Park, Mich., that’s come under fire for adding a vegetable garden to their front yard. What do you think – is this a problem to have this kind of garden in your front yard?


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  1. Chrstine says:

    I grew up in a very multicultural area in the Western Suburbs of Sydney Australia. This is common place, so much so that I use to begged by Anglo-saxon parents if we could do the same. Good on them for making good use of their land. My husband and I can’t wait till we have our own garden so we can do the same thing.

  2. Melissa says:

    That’s just silly- its nicely contained and obviously well maintained…. I think she should be applauded for her efforts.

  3. mynda says:

    I read this earlier today and think it’s ridiculous. In an era when food prices are going up and food safety is going down, I think people have every right to have a garden even in their front yard. But it does need to be kept up and looking nice like the ones pictured in raised beds. If the garden is let go just like any yard then critters will move in. Also, lawns are water hogs and at least a garden will produce something usable with the water it uses. Some people use edible plants as ornamental, like artichokes. Are they considered to be growing a garden?

  4. Wendy says:

    I live in Boulder, Colorado, and there are at least 4 front yard gardens on my street. I think it is a wonderful use of land, and a far better use for water than a lawn.

  5. Samantha says:

    I think it’s a great way to use your space. I don’t see what the problem is since it looks well maintained. When I was a kid we had neighbors that lived up the street and they had a garden in their front yard. I thought it was pretty neat.
    I live in the Southwest and I have always thought it was crazy for the owner’s association of all of the new homes to require a lawn in the front yard. We live in a desert! They use more water to try and keep a lawn growing than they would if their front yard was xeriscaped. I think a vegetable garden in the front yard is grand!!!

  6. Julie says:

    I agree with the previous posters. Her neighbors need to get a hobby…like gardening, maybe.

  7. Christina says:

    That is hilarious. Maybe it was in their CC&R’s that no front gardens but that would be a really strange issue to bring up. It doesn’t hurt the property value so why do the neighbors care, in fact, many places this would be a good gathering place for a neighborhood group to form, like a neighborhood watch. DH and I just bought our first home and it includes mostly xeriscape but it also has a huge RV pullup. We don’t want to lose the pullup (in case we need it one day) but it looks drab and has the best sun of the whole house so we were going to put in a raised bed veggie garden. I can’t see the neighbors complaining but I think I would just laugh. Plus the former home owners thought it was a grand idea. Why would anyone make such a big deal about this?? I saw go them, and I hope they have some advice for us!

  8. princesskessie says:

    Our suburb south of Perth, Western Australia (other local council areas are different and have their own by-laws and caveats) strictly forbids anything but grass or proper landscaping visible from the road. Vegetables, fruit trees and the like are prohibited. We aren’t even allowed to pave/lay concrete/have anything but grass on the strip between our property line and the road (the “council strip”) because someone “might trip and hurt themselves”. Like they can’t trip on grass?
    Personally I’d LOVE to be able to rip out our entire (approx 120 sq metres/1300sq feet!) front lawn, terrace the steep gradient and grow fruit trees…but we can’t get council approval to have fruit trees visible from the street :)

  9. Nancy says:

    yeah…maybe the neighbors should better use their time in volunteering to help people who have serious problems instead of bothering someone who is doing something nice…

  10. JJ says:

    I have neighbors that keep goats in their front yard. A garden would be SO much better:)

  11. Jennifer H. says:

    The city claims that it violates city code by not being “suitable living plant material”. When asked what “suitable” means, the answer was basically, “what everybody else has: grass, trees, flowers.”
    I really hope that other residents of Oak Park, MI will band together in support by putting up their own raised bed vegetable gardens in their front yards. I suspect that if a good number of people do it, too, they can no longer say that it’s not “what everybody else does.” And I seriously doubt that they will waste the time prosecuting them all.

  12. Viv says:

    I would be really curious to see what the front yards look like in the rest of the neighborhood. I know I spend more time weeding my veg patch than I do the flower bed. One of our neighbors has a front yard garden (their backyard gets very little sun) and we have herbs in ours. We have veg in the backyard but would not think twice about putting them in the front if that was where the sun was. And aren’t there more important things to worry about?

  13. Gaidig says:

    The garden is clearly nicely maintained and kept in order, so I think the neighbors have nothing to complain about. Honestly, it’s their yard, so they should be able to grow whatever they want. The idea that it’s not “suitable” is ridiculous. Just because it isn’t a grass lawn, someone who is extremely short-sighted ecologically and has cultural blinders on tries to enforce a vague legal code according to their personal taste. Honestly, while I’m sure that the homeowner doesn’t want a protracted legal battle, I can’t imagine that city code standing up to real legal scrutiny. You just can’t write laws that way.

  14. Em says:

    Why would it be a problem to grow food in your front yard? Maybe the sun shines better there. So many resources are wasted on the traditional lawn. So many resources are wasted on commercial crops. Their neighbors should follow suit and start their own vegetable gardens in their front yards as well. They could have a little neighborhood co-op like my neighbors and I do. It’s really great at the end of the season to sit down and have a huge feast together with all the food we’ve been growing. Shame on their neighbors for thumbing their noses.

  15. Kelly says:

    Clearly, not free food, then.
    Honestly, the phrase ‘what everone else has’ infuriates me. I’m glad I live in England where we are able to CHOOSE to keep rusty fridge freezers, delapidated cars with no wheels and plenty of straggly weeds, if we wish. Ha, ha, ha.
    I say, “FIGHT THE POWER!”

  16. DeeAnn says:

    Wow! Out of all the horrible things wrong in the world people complain about a garden? I think her garden is absolutely stunning. In a world where we spend more time tearing down things to build things it’s wonderful to see people who choose to build nature! Shame on the complainers!

  17. Flora says:

    Not only is this a well-tended garden, the city council nuts, etc. It’s a good way to retrofit a neighborhood where the houses are built with big useless setbacks from the road. I could see how lots of neighbors tending their gardens at the same time in the evenings, or on weekend mornings, would make for a great sense of community. It could go along with kids playing on the street, make the sidewalks more inviting to walkers, and all sorts of other neighborly behavior.

  18. Flora says:

    Not only is this a well-tended garden, the city council nuts, etc. It’s a good way to retrofit a neighborhood where the houses are built with big useless setbacks from the road. I could see how lots of neighbors tending their gardens at the same time in the evenings, or on weekend mornings, would make for a great sense of community. It could go along with kids playing on the street, make the sidewalks more inviting to walkers, and all sorts of other neighborly behavior.

  19. travellerscraft says:

    i used to live in perth, wa where they were organising a community garden map, that you could use to just help yourself to what you need from their gardens. maybe someone has lemons and you have lettuce and you can trade. or in return you can do some weeding etc. this would be perfect for that set-up, the more we can use our land to live off of the better, i think we need to learn to do it now-good on ya!

  20. gabby says:

    Front yard gardens have been popping up nationally, often with rumbles from neighbors. Have we forgotten Victory Gardens so soon? food shortages, food security, and simply providing for self necessitated home gardens. The same arguments hold for today. Food is expensive. Organic (or not), seasonal produce can be difficult to find. We should be able to provide for ourselves in our own spaces. But, when we sign leases and mortgages in controlled communities, living in places because they are deemed clean, safe, and so on, we also sign away certain freedoms. Share your lettuce. Change some attitudes.Change the by-laws.

  21. cmoore says:

    My only question is, is the backyard already completely full of vegetables? If not that is probably where the garden should be otherwise kids walking by in the evening will just pick what ever they want to snack on. I know I would have as a bored teen on a hot summer night.

  22. Lisa says:

    I live in the country so no one really cares how I landscape but I love the look of herbs and vegetables mixed in with other plants for landscaping. I currently have sage, oregano, thyme, blueberries in front of the house mixed in with impatiens, a hibiscus and a small meyer lemon tree.
    I think it’s really sad that the city council is choosing to pursue this issue with the woman’s garden. As long as she maintains the garden I don’t think it should matter what she’s growing in it. If anything, this sort of landscaping should be encouraged. Using a gas lawn mower or other lawn tools harms the environment and lawns traditional use lots of water and fertilizer to maintain. A well maintained raised bed garden is much better for the environment with the added bonus of fresh herbs and vegetables.

  23. elaine says:

    Looks fine to me. Very attractive actually.

  24. Terrie Rodgers says:

    A lot of thought was put into making this garden. It is well maintained and a great use of space. Would it be different if they had planted bushes and green foliage in the pods instead of vegetables? I see no reason to complain.

  25. Trish says:

    When I was growing up, a neighbor a few streets over did this and I remember thinking what an eyesore it was. It just looked odd and out of place, not to mention somewhat messy when they started to grow really well. I’d be upset if I were a neighbor trying to sell my house…..BUT….if it is their house and there are no HOA rules….then they are okay. I read a few statements about how we are in a recession and its food-I agree! Its a really hard call. I rather see fruits and veggies than toys and trash on a lawn though and they do have it quite neat (right now). I really despise our HOA’s silly rules but they keep the neighborhoods best interests in mind. Its a hard call…..I honestly can see both sides and kudos to anyone who is going to help the environment and their pocket.

  26. vie says:

    WAY back many many moons ago we grew beautiful
    artichoke plants. We had a whole hedge of them. We were on a conner lot and they went around the yard. It was great they were big enough to keep people, IE kids and even dogs from coming onto the yard. Just inside of them was pea, carrots, tomatoes, corn, green beans etc. they were in raised beds. The rows were clean and neat and it was great to know we could grow our own and eat better and save a little $$. Today with the economy so b ad WE need as a nation to learn to fend for ourselves Because Big Brother is not going to help us much. And no one complained. We did end up helping others to do the same. This was in San Francisco CA.

  27. Joy Carter says:

    The only problem they would get from me is that I’d be trying to steal that yummy goodness!

  28. Penelope D says:

    I think it is ridiculous that it is not considered acceptable to grow vegetables in your front yard. All these complaining folks have lost touch with where food comes from. This family has a beautiful well maintained garden that is a boon to the environment.

  29. Mary Anne says:

    I live in suburbia…and its awful. Everyone thinks a chemically toxic,
    pesticide bathed,
    weed-free,
    water hogging,
    non native,
    artificial looking,
    obsessively manicured,
    green grass lawn
    is what is “neat,” keeps up property values, and neccessary to keep everyone happy.
    Lets bring back gardens (front and back yards), and NATIVE plants! Education is need to get the dreaded lawn banished once and for all.

  30. ClaireP says:

    I live in the UK and we have vegetable beds in our front garden as the front gets all the sun during the day. It’s quite a talking point for neighbours and passers by! We’ve not had any trouble and, surprisingly, no one has helped themselves to anything!

  31. Kathie Swanson says:

    I think this is a lovely garden! What a wonderful use of space and the bees must be so happy! When I take my dog out walking, my favorite places to rest my eyes are on the gardens that have gone rogue, veggies and flowers, fruit trees and roses, they all look so lovely together…thank you for sharing!

  32. Sarah says:

    I applaud this family for making good use of their resources, and wonder how many yards in that neighborhood are covered in water-guzzling grass. Across the world as a whole there are probably many families that would benefit from even half as much land as that. I hope the neighborhood can learn to allow if not follow a good example in their midst.

  33. pedantka says:

    I totally approve of growing vegetables instead of a lawn, and I agree that it should be encouraged as much as possible.
    But I wonder if part of the negative reaction is the look and feel of that particular vegetable patch–it’s neat and orderly and very utilitarian; I wonder if some effort was made to disguise the utilitarian aspect (plant a border of flowers around the outside of the raised beds? Put down patio stones and a creeping groundcover between the beds? Plant a tall-ish border along the front?) there would be less of a negative reaction from the neighbours?

  34. Sherrie says:

    It is crazy to get upset by a neighbour making great use of their front garden. Its very trusting growing veg in your front garden without fear of some midnight bandit running off with your prize pumpkin. Its clearly well maintained, so what is the problem? Some people these days just go a little too far complaining about everything.

  35. Cerise says:

    I gotta say, I kinda like it. Not the style I personally would pick. I think I would set it up more like a flower garden, rather than raised beds all over the yard, BUT I LOVE the idea of using the space for something more useful and WAY more yummy. I think if their is no HOA, then the neighbors should keep quiet. It’s obviously well maintained and maybe if you are nice they’ll invite you over for dinner. Who doesn’t love some freshly picked veggies!?

  36. vie says:

    And thank goodness for that. Lawns use up water for no good reason, We need trees, and food. Not using chemicals. Check out Square Foot Gardening. Beautiful and healthy. The small town mind of the homeowners needs to get in touch with real life NOW .
    I have e-mailed that person to let him know it is time to get real!

  37. chrystal simmons says:

    I saw this a few days ago and it REALLY annoyed me. So, I googled the City of Oak Park MI and found the email addresses for the mayor, city council, even the goof director quoted as deeming the garden “unsuitable”. I told them exactly what I thought (which is that it was ridiculous and their tax dollars and legal system would be better used attending to issues like crime – I’m sure they’ve got some!).
    I hope that residents of Oak Park are doing the same. If there’s enough of a hoopla about it, then they might consider revising their stance if only out of the pressure from upset locals and bad publicity.
    And that would be well worth it! (-;

  38. chrystal simmons says:

    I saw this a few days ago and it REALLY annoyed me. So, I googled the City of Oak Park MI and found the email addresses for the mayor, city council, even the goof director quoted as deeming the garden “unsuitable”. I told them exactly what I thought (which is that it was ridiculous and their tax dollars and legal system would be better used attending to issues like crime – I’m sure they’ve got some!).
    I hope that residents of Oak Park are doing the same. If there’s enough of a hoopla about it, then they might consider revising their stance if only out of the pressure from upset locals and bad publicity.
    And that would be well worth it! (-;

  39. chrystal simmons says:

    I saw this a few days ago and it REALLY annoyed me. So, I googled the City of Oak Park MI and found the email addresses for the mayor, city council, even the goof director quoted as deeming the garden “unsuitable”. I told them exactly what I thought (which is that it was ridiculous and their tax dollars and legal system would be better used attending to issues like crime – I’m sure they’ve got some!).
    I hope that residents of Oak Park are doing the same. If there’s enough of a hoopla about it, then they might consider revising their stance if only out of the pressure from upset locals and bad publicity.
    And that would be well worth it! (-;

  40. Mary Anne says:

    It all depends on the suburb. The zoning laws are one issue…the complaining neighbors are a second issue…and they are loud and huge issues to contend with. For those not used to the crazy rules of suburban living….know that cities do enforce the regulations and fine owners–sometimes a lot of money for not acting and doing the same exactly thing as all the other suburbanites.
    Getting landscape regulations, which have been in place for half a century or more requires a collected whole-hearted fight at the city council level, and good sense, or what is a good idea is not enough to sway them. What is needed across all of America is a national education program to change the idea of green grass lawns. Its so dangerous and so unnecessary to have a grass turf lawn….and it makes great sense to grow food…but the lobbyists for the lawn care industry are very strong in Washington DC too.

  41. Lish Dorset says:

    Wow, thanks for the feedback! I’ll make sure to keep an eye on this story and share developments with you guys.

  42. Jeanxo says:

    I agree with everyone. I sent an email to the person representing the city. I got a chuckle thinking about all the emails he had when he turned on his computer this morning. Ha!

  43. Lizzie says:

    Sorry, I think it looks terrible. Put the vegetables in the back yard. If you want to get rid of your lawn, use native plants like tall grasses, or plant things like rosemary and lavender. That’s what we did.
    In addition, I’m assuming they knew the rules when they moved in. They should have moved somewhere else.

  44. Mary Anne Enriquez says:

    For the comment “it looks terrible”…if you notice…their grass lawn in between the boxes looks terrible. Its all dirt. what would you suggest…going out and buying turf grass sod in the front?
    Also, in my suburban town as in all of them in the chicago region…you cannot have “native plants all over your yard…anything more then 6 inches tallwill get you a ticketed fine.
    IDO agree though, that when you move into a town, and you think you own your property…you really don’t. You have to become just like all the other community members…unfortunately, you cannot paint your house the colors you want, plant the native plants (called here “weeds by the uneducated neighbors), keep bird or wildlife feeders in your yard, and you sure better be mowing and applying toxic chemicals to keep your lawn as crayola green as your neighbors. Welcome to suburban / city living.

  45. John Klingler says:

    Hello All,
    First and foremost, I respect everyone’s opinions! But in this day of getting the most for your MONEY, which should include property, there is nothing wrong with. What she is doing!! In fact I have done it in our front AND back yard! This has virtually DOUBLED our produce production! For a family of FOUR that is a VERY BIG SAVINGS!!
    The difference ti ours is that it looks more like GARDENS NOT RAISED BEDS! Our vegetables are mixed in with flowers that are typically seen in a front yard! What says a front yard should have flowers bed? Get off your high horse and see the visionary that is living in your neighborhood! We MUST learn to open our minds and to look at new ways to utilize available space! Growing flowers for beauty is one thing but feeding your family, CERTAINLY you must see, is a higher priority!?!?
    And to the question that I am sure is on your mind, I live on a CLOSED community with a guard! So it would be considered upper middle class! And we get all kinds of questions and comments on how do you do it, help me start one, Can you show me how? How much do you produce in veggies?
    Keep up the trail blazing! We must challenge always!
    Sincerely,
    John

  46. Seth says:

    Where do other people get off telling others what they can or can not plant in their front yard. If you don’t like it move to condo.

  47. Emily says:

    I live in the city of Toronto, where every other front yard has a veggie garden in it. Honestly, this is a completely normal thing. Not only is it normal, it’s more ethical to take strain of our overextended agricultural industry and to reduce pollution by not buying vegetables and fruit that have been transported for miles upon miles to get them to a nice, shiny grocery store.

  48. Kathleen in St. Louis says:

    So unfair that “big brother” has to stick his nose into people’s life this way. Of course it’s not offensive. Maybe a junk car or cast off washing machine could be considered, but a garden? Give me a break!

  49. Beau says:

    There are all kinds of laws in suburbia. This home is in a Midwestern suburb like my own. Though I wholeheartedly condone growing one’s own food ANYWHERE on one’s property, there ARE more rules and regulations then most folks ever realize.
    For instance…some communities prohibit owners from hanging their laundry out to dry…even in their back yard. One cannot leave trucks, boats, and or cars stored on the side or in the front of their houses. Neighbors can and do complain to city officials. BBQ grills in the front, toys lefts out for days weeks on end….all of it causes complaints. Not to mention the ever present lawn “police” complain to the city about your dandelions, “weeds” and unmowed grass. If you have 4 dogs, and the city limit is 3…someone will eventually turn you in. Neighbors complain about tree seeds and leaves falling on their property from your yard! There are a million gripes.
    I commend ANYONE growing their own food.

  50. Donna says:

    I live in the Atlanta area. My veggie garden is in my front yard. Granted, my front yard is larger than the one in Michigan, but my back yard is completely shaded by trees, so the front yard is the only place with enough sun to grow my vegetables and herbs.
    I specifically chose to live in a neighborhood WITHOUT a HOA or covenants. I don’t appreciate others telling me what I can and cannot do on my property. I believe in not only being green, but being frugal, as well. I hang my clothes outside to dry, I have my compost pile in the back, and were it economically feasible, I’d have chickens.
    My vegetable garden is not unattended or unattractive. My yard is filled with herbs and flowers, as well as vegetables. My family eats from the garden all summer. In today’s economy people need all the help they can get, and having a vegetable garden should be seen as a sign of self-sufficiency, rather than being put down by those who turn their nose up at such.