Poll: Do Front-Yard Vegetable Gardens Offend You?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
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A married couple in Montreal wanted to improve their health, so they planted a vegetable garden (picture at left is a stock photo, not their garden). By growing their own cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, beets, onions and Brussels sprouts (among other fare), homeowners Michel Beauchamp and Josee Landry lost 75 and 25 pounds, respectively, and have improved their diet and their health.
Now, according to CBC News (link includes photos of their garden), the couple is fighting to keep their garden, facing fines between $100 and $300 per day if they don't pull up their vegetables. Why?
Because their vegetable garden is in their front yard. Neighbors complained, and now the city is planning to outlaw the growing of vegetables in front yards.
This isn't the first story of its kind. Last year, the story of a woman in Michigan who faced 93 days in jail for planting vegetables on her front lawn garnered national attention.
This has led me to wonder: Would you be offended if vegetables replaced your neighbor's front lawn?
I can relate to the homeowners in these stories—to an extent. The 0.10-acre lot on which my home sits is tiny. The backyard is completely shaded by large trees that are hundreds of years old—not to mention, my front yard is actually larger than my backyard and gets all the sun.  I wanted to grow my own vegetables for health, financial and environmental reasons, so I really had no choice but to plant them where I had the space: in front of my house (and some on the side, too). It is within city limits, but not subject to any HOA rules. Although I was nervous that neighbors might not like it, I ultimately made the decision based on what was right for me. Most neighbors I've since spoken to about the garden are enthusiastic and supportive of it. They aren't bothered. Some didn't even notice the plants I was growing were vegetables. Others thought it was a great idea.

Vegetable seedlings in my front-yard garden
Had they complained, I'm not sure how I would have reacted. I keep a nice, tidy house and a neat lawn and garden (to the best of my ability anyway). Had the authorities ever gotten involved, I probably would want to fight against it just on principle. In my opinion, it's my right to grow whatever vegetation I choose to on my lawn—or not. I've long held the belief that grass is just a waste of space and resources. Sure, it's pretty, but when so many people are struggling financially, struggling to eat right, struggling with poor health, and struggling with soaring costs at the pump and the grocery store, why not put that space to better use and grow whatever you can on the space you have available? A packet of seeds costs a couple bucks and can easily provide more than enough filling, healthy produce for a family that otherwise might not be able to buy fresh produce at a store. And if you're into the local food movement or want to buy organic foods but can't afford them, it doesn't get more local (or organic) than planting your own seeds at home.

Seedlings and potted plants in my side-yard veggie garden
Granted, vegetable gardens don't have to be in the front yard. Some people have adequate growing conditions in their backyard. And if I did, my garden would probably end up in my backyard, too. But there's also something I like about my front-yard garden. Aside from connecting me with my neighbors more (I see and talk to all of them while working in my front-yard garden—something that wouldn't happen if I was in the backyard), I feel like it serves as a reminder and example to others that YOU can do this, too. That it's totally normal. That where our food comes from matters.
Why should gardening be so secluded or out of the public eye? Who says flowers and shrubs are OK in my planting beds but kale and basil aren't? Who should have the right to determine what is aesthetically pleasing or "suitable" to plant and what isn't if not the homeowners themselves? Growing food has nothing to do with class or socioeconomic status; gardening transcends race, class, education level and age. It certainly isn't bringing down my property values or those of my neighbors. It's something almost anyone can do and benefit from—so why not celebrate (rather than punish) it?
What do you think? Would front-yard veggie gardens bother you if they were in your neighborhood? Why or why not?

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  • 472
    I live in a semi-agricultural area in Italy, and all my neighbors-except the American renters- have overflowing edibles in the front, back, and side yards. Everyone has gates around their homes, but otherwise not a lot of privacy, so everyone gets a peek at what's being grown, and it's lovely. It adds a lot of character to the neighborhood, and I love watching new produce pop up every season. Giant squash growing on a chain link fence, an olive tree in the front yard, grape vines covering a patio, lettuces in the unused patches of dirt outside an apartment building. All the people I see around here are fit, too! No wonder! - 11/26/2014   3:42:51 AM
  • 471
    Living in a rural setting, I don't have to worry about this. I can't imagine though that I would be bothered by a vegetable garden instead of a lawn next door to me. For one thing, if it was organic, I wouldn't have to worry that pesticides and herbicides were being used, which are often used on lawns. And why is it better for every house and front yard to look the same? That reminds me of the song "Little Boxes". And maybe the neighbors would share some of their produce, another benefit. - 11/18/2014   9:28:57 PM
  • 470
    I wouldn't be at all offended. I'd like to see more of it! With the price of food ever increasing, it's financially helpful to grow as little or much as you have time and energy for and it's always tastier. I'd be concerned though that food in the front yard would be irresistible to passersby. For those who wouldn't want a food garden in front of their home, landscaping with native plants might be an alternative. I don't have a lawn and never will. I think they're a polluting waste of resources. - 10/26/2014   1:12:55 PM
  • 469
    The only thing I will say about a garden in the front yard is WATCH OUT FOR NEIGHBOR'S PETS! Be careful about how your garden gets fertilized : ) - 10/26/2014   8:43:49 AM
  • 468
    How ridiculous!
    On the one hand, it is to ME, aesthetically pleasing, but on the other hand, I can see how someone else could think that the melee of plants is a clutter.
    I could SO see city dwellers making veggie gardens on their front lawn rather than flower plants! Not only, to me, is it eye appealing, but it's USEful!
    Now, I did read the news article, and the city said that the yard had to be 30% grass ... how easy is that to put grass in-between rows of veggies?!?! I know - that's how I've got my veggie garden! (Okay, it's more weeds than grass ...)
    Oh, and veggie gardens are easier to maintain than flower beds, AND you get a whole new crop of insects that you wouldn't normally see on a lawn :) - 10/26/2014   7:57:07 AM
  • 467
    I just read the article. Their garden looks fantastic and if what Mr. Beauchamp says is true (he shares his vegetables with his neighbours) I don't understand why they would complain. Also why does the property need to be 30% grass? What good use is grass compared to a robust vegetable garden? - 10/20/2014   3:23:23 PM
  • 466
    Obesity in this country is an epidemic and we're fining people who are trying to grow VEGETABLES?! Maybe I'm just used to it- I live in a part of Ann Arbor, MI where it seems like more of my neighbors than not have gardens somewhere in their yard, many of them taking up their entire front yards. I just don't see how it's a bad thing... are property values really more important than people eating well? I think some people need to take a look at their priorities, because punishing someone for trying to be healthy is completely unacceptable IMO. - 9/28/2014   8:36:32 PM
  • 465
    I think it's insane and wholly inappropriate for ANYone to dictate what a homeowner may/may not grow in their own space (so long as it's legal!). I happen to find vegetables, well-kept, to be beautiful plantings. If they have herbs, so much the better: they smell lovely in addition to being useful and healthy. We spend too much time in our society judging and directing others. You don't want veggies? fine. Don't grow 'em. If your neighbor *does*, and keeps them well, it's not your business! - 9/28/2014   4:02:20 PM
    Our HOA won't allow vegetables in the front yard. I think it's stupid, our community isn't that high brow, if done properly it would be better than a lot of other people's yards. I don't care if I live in a community, I'm very much for personal freedoms. I bought a house so that I could do what I wanted. - 9/28/2014   9:47:59 AM
  • 463
    I would be annoyed by a weedy vegetable garden. But I would be annoyed by a weedy front yard too.

    I don't hold the the opinion that it's my property, I can do what I want. I live in a community. What I do can affect the property value of my neighbors homes as well as mine. If a home is trashy it affects us all.

    That's why I consider HOA rules, as well as laws. When either is ridiculous, change them. Remember that they exist to protect our communities. - 9/28/2014   9:11:16 AM
  • 462
    This just boils my blood and makes me a very *sour raspberry* :( :( :(.......PROPER PERSPECTIVE, PEOPLE..... PLEEEEEESE! Complaints need to be made against *racism*, *sexism*, *ageism* and any other type of *--ism* that is foisted upon people to put them down, keep them down and prevent them from engaging positively in the world - not this kind of petty, elitist, snobby $#!@#! Sheesh! - 9/28/2014   5:59:49 AM
  • 461
    The complaining neighbor doesn't realize that they are showing their own stupidity. Lawns suck up much-needed water, some people use chemical fertilizers, weed killers and insecticides on their lawns, polluting the environment. Grass gives nothing back and takes much. The cranky neighbor should be thanking these people for planting something that not only benefits their health, but gives back to the environment. - 9/2/2014   9:40:06 AM
  • 460
    The complaining neighbor doesn't realize that they are showing their own stupidity. Lawns suck up much-needed water, some people use chemical fertilizers, weed killers and insecticides on their lawns, polluting the environment. Grass gives nothing back and takes much. The cranky neighbor should be thanking these people for planting something that not only benefits their health, but gives back to the environment. - 9/2/2014   9:39:07 AM
  • 459
    Who would have thought that it could be against the law to plant a garden that feeds a person in their own yard? It is appalling... I would grow one just to spite them! I am a country girl and when I was growing up we had a garden, but we had an acre or more property. When I got my first house I had a garden right out my front door instead of shrubs... Had the neighbors complained, too bad so sad! Thanks for the article. This is America, we should be able to grow a garden anywhere... - 9/2/2014   9:19:09 AM
  • 458
    Who would have thought that it could be against the law to plant a garden that feeds a person in their own yard? It is appalling... I would grow one just to spite them! I am a country girl and when I was growing up we had a garden, but we had an acre or more property. When I got my first house I had a garden right out my front door instead of shrubs... Had the neighbors complained, too bad so sad! Thanks for the article. This is America, we should be able to grow a garden anywhere... - 9/2/2014   9:19:08 AM
  • 457
    Vegetables are beautiful and yummy. How could that offend! - 8/26/2014   1:55:06 PM
  • 456
    What a world we live in - who could find vegetable gardens offensive. I would probably ask for pointers from them to get my own garden growing. I don't have the greenest thumb in town. - 8/26/2014   12:59:38 PM
  • 455
    Seriously? People can have garbage, broken down lawn furniture, and unkempt lawns, but a few cucumbers is a problem? I think more of these would actually make the community look better! Like a health conscious community that gardens, and takes advantage of wasted space, making it beautiful.

    If anything, at least have some respect for nature, and all it's beauty! - 6/19/2014   12:29:23 PM
  • 454
    I was almost speechless reading this. That a problem like this even exists is absolutely ridiculous. A homeowner should have the right to plant whatever they want, wherever they want on their own property. It's no one's business but the homeowner's. Really, there aren't more important things to worry about in this world besides where someone's placing their gardens? Unbelievable. - 6/10/2014   12:18:31 PM
  • 453
    Okay, so not many people will agree with me, but I don't think they are being treated unfairly.
    The city is only asking them to reduce the size of their very large garden by 30 percent. They can still fill 70 percent of their front yard with any kind of plant they want! Even if every single plant on that property were of the non-edible variety, the city would still ask them to plant 30% grass according to their existing rules.
    However, the new proposed rule to BAN front yard veggies is completely ridiculous! It is your property and with the exception of known regulations, you should be able to plant any kind of vegetation you want!
    And if the regulations are as vague as the lady facing jail time, then they need to be challenged. - 6/10/2014   12:08:55 PM
  • 452
    I have no problem with it. I tried to incorporate everything into the landscape. I have pots with herbs growing outside and they look nice. I'm trying to get blueberry bushes by my garage. I work hard to keep everything looking nice.

    If you own the property, you should be able to plant what you want and just get the government out. If you don't like what your neighbors have, just move! - 4/26/2014   8:49:07 AM
    It wouldn't bother me at all. In fact, our vegetable garden is in our front yard also. We ran out of sun when our tree grew in our backyard. The neighbors have really encouraged it. - 2/11/2014   11:53:26 AM
  • 450
    The garden was ascetically pleasing to look at and it was a source of food what more could one ask for from a front yard. Would be interesting to see who actually complained since his neighbors benefit from it as well. - 2/11/2014   7:41:05 AM
  • 449
    Ridiculous. The benefits FAR outweigh any possible drawbacks. To me, the same unwritten rules apply as keeping up a front yard. As long as it doesn't become an eyesore, it should be a welcome sight. - 12/20/2013   9:38:19 AM
  • 448
    If your local ordinances (and subdivision or HOA if applicable) does not rule against front yard veggie gardens then go for it! You are part of a community, so must follow the rules of the community even if you don't like them. Believe it or not, some communities do have ordinances against front yard veggie gardens, but ordinances can be challenged and changed. Contact your city/village/town council members. There are archaic rules on the books that need to be and can be changed. Our city recently reversed an ordinance against milkweed in light of the need for Monarch butterfly habitat. This is how you effect change, people! Happy gardening wherever that may be! - 12/14/2013   12:42:01 PM
  • 447
    A vegetable garden is not offensive...and a person is entitled to use their own property as they see fit. I may not care for pink flamingos or rusty cars up on blocks out front of someone's home but it's not my position to say anything to them. The neighbors are probably jealous of the weight loss success! - 12/14/2013   5:59:10 AM
    I could understand if the complaints were if the garden was poorly kept and messy. However I wonder if they find it offensive because they themselves don't want to face the fact that these people not only want to be healthier but are actually taking the steps to fulfill take goal? I think its a great idea and if I could I would also try this! - 11/19/2013   6:51:47 PM
  • 445
    If the neighbor is unhappy ---- move. You should have the right to use your property any way you choose. - 11/19/2013   5:39:59 PM
  • 444
    I'm with you. We should be able to plant what we want for all those reasons listed. - 11/19/2013   4:46:52 PM
  • 443
    We have a big garden in our back yard - we're fortunate enough to have enough land to do that.

    But in the front garden, nothing adds texture like tomatoes, brussel sprouts, and other veggies. (peanuts too!) Just mix them in with the flowers. Then it's not a "vegetable garden" it's a flower bed! (veggies sprout flowers too!)

    I'd just call them "selected heirloom annuals" if anyone ever was grumpy about it! :) - 11/19/2013   11:21:53 AM
  • 442
    It wouldn't offend me at all...Here in my country we always plant our veggies in the back yard or at the sides of our homes....since its fenced and protected from any roaming cats or dogs...and passers by who may pick your stuff...Flowers are always at the front to beautify! - 11/19/2013   10:37:51 AM
  • 441
    I say shame on those people who object to visible vegetable gardens! What IS their problem? Because the plants are useful? Would they object to a fruit bearing tree, too??
    Come ON people, have some manners! It's not your yard, and if it's well kept, it shouldn't concern you.
    Besides, even in front of a million dollar home, there's no reason in the world why veggies can't also be ornamental--just don't plant them in static rows, but treat them like bedding plants, and the results can be absolutely beautiful--AND productive!
    I once lived in a house with a double lot, and had a front and side yard garden... the people walking by who even noticed they were veggies always commented on it, and enjoyed it-- some enjoyed more than they should have: I got up one morning and went out to water and weed, and some "passer-by" had actually STOLEN my 1' high corn plants, soil and all! LOL Must have been pretty desperate to steal half-grown plants, I felt sorry for them...

    Funny, they didn't touch the marigolds or the tomatoes or the beans...Hm. (Yes, marigolds are a veggie, the plants are pretty and useful. Marigold flower petals are edible and make a pretty garnish for salads--and, maybe because they're slightly bitter, insect pests tend to not like them)...
    I live in an apartment now, at the bottom of a hill where the sun rarely reaches the ground. Ferns do fairly well... but growing anything that needs a lot of light is impossible. :-(

    To me, a garden--flowers or veggies-- is a celebration of the sunlight that gives us all life, and belongs where people can see and enjoy it!

    As for neighborhood pets, they don't belong in someone else's yard, and should be leashed or trained to heel when walked-- unless it's an off-leash park or you have acreage of your own. And even if that's the case, I ALWAYS cleaned up after my dog. Even when we went camping. I know it's a nuisance, but it's the right thing for a responsible pet owner.

    Not too many cats are leash trained...LOL But using the right kind of mulching processes and a little decorative fencing can discourage them... I never had much problem, even without all that. I even had a little patch of catnip growing in a distant corner... I have always had indoor cats! Maybe the strays spent all their time in that... LOL

    And besides, part of preparing veggies to eat is washing them...

    I think awards should be given to people growing their own food--NOT fines!
    - 11/19/2013   10:14:20 AM
  • 440
    I can understand some of the negative comments such as the unkempt garden problem and not wanting to let your dogs do their business in someone's veg. garden. However, if an unkempt veggie bed is a problem then an unkempt flower or weed bed should also cause legal problems and why would you let your dogs go "pottie" in a flower bed just because the owners probably don't eat the flowers. Either have them go before you leave home or make them use the sidewalk or roadside and clean it up if you can't take them to a doggie park.
    As far as the gardens go, veggies can be just as pretty as flower beds with the right plants and you can always mix in flowers, they often deter both insects and animal pests. Plus I've never seen a veggie garden that was more of an eyesore than some of the junkyard that people call front yards with old cars, trash, rusted toys from 20 years ago etc..
    Maybe some attitudes, of the officials and neighbours, would change if an number of folks in an area got together and offered to share their excess with the poor and/or disabled of the area who can't grow their own. - 11/19/2013   7:11:11 AM
  • 439
    I always say grow food..not lawns! The MI women who faced jailed time is actually a neighbor of my Moms and we signed the petition to allow front yard gardens for her..it was unfair what happened to her and she had a lot of support from around the US! I am hoping it accepted no matter if you pay $1 mil for a home or $5000 for a home..its you home and your lawn :) - 11/19/2013   6:35:58 AM
    If I was lucky enough to have a neighbor who would build such a garden, I would actually offer my front yard to grow food to in exchange for a percentage of the product. I also live near opposite land, there is a town nearby that at one time gave out grants and offered prizes for the best home grown vegetable gardens. - 10/9/2013   7:41:57 PM
  • 437
    I would NOT be bothered by my neighbors growing vegetables where I can see them! I love growing vegetables myself and would definitely encourage everyone to do the same! It is healthy, saves money and teaches kids everything from responsibility to how things grow to where food comes from to learning to love gardening! - 2/8/2013   9:29:12 PM
    I can see why neighbors might not like a front yard veggie garden, fear of unwanted bugs and critters, neighborhood kids causing trouble, concern of their own property value falling or finding it aesthetically unappealing for their tastes... However, these are all "what if" concerns. Until these issues actually arise, (if they ever do,) it shouldn't be something to get all bent out of shape about. Limiting someone from doing something on the basis of what could happen is ridiculous, especially since so much good can come out of it.

    My husband and I live in an apartment and we are lucky enough to have a shared back porch between apartment units. We always have a small container garden in the spring lasting till fall. Not one person has ever complained about it and I truly hope they never will... I even take precautions and put drip pans under the pots to ensure our downstairs neighbors don't get an unexpected shower when they walk out their front door!

    If you live in a house, rented or not, and you're concerned what the neighbors might think about veggies in your front yard perhaps container gardening would be the option for you... Try it out for a year and get a feel for how your neighbors react. If all goes well, maybe a gardening plot in your front yard is right around the corner.

    In short, I'm not surprised people react poorly to these things... There's a shared notion in society that if everyone can see something, it's automatically up for review and in turn criticism. People can be harsh for no reason but it shouldn't keep you from doing the things that make you happy. - 1/21/2013   2:42:11 PM
  • 435
    THANK YOU! This is an INTERESTING article! I live on a very low fixed income, in a subsidized apartment...with very little exposure to sunlight except on the side of my apartment (THANK GOD I'm on the end of the building). I think I will start a potted veggie garden this Spring...it sure would help stretch MY food $$! - 12/9/2012   2:13:46 PM
    The question of the picture and the easement issue aas mentioned by ¨SSHEEHY1¨ is an issue that is more than just the ownerś decision. Other than that, I have no problem with gardening wherever a home owner wants to. As a renter with someone else mowing my lawn, I had to be careful and get permission so that my efforts would not be mowed over or be an issue to the Landlord . I do think that homeowner assn´s can be overly controlling and the choice of where to live had a lot to do with our family´s homebuying decisions. I think that gardening adds beauty as well as good food. - 11/10/2012   9:35:48 PM
    As a holistic healer and natural/organic food lover, I REALLY want everyone to realize how easy it is to grow your own vegetables AND keep your gardens looking beautiful. A lot of flowers and vegetables are SUPPOSED to be grown together actually. It's a natural form of pest control/soil maintenance, and often times you can eat or use the flowers/plants you've grown. Lots of herbal teas can be made from different flowers or used in salads for their health benefits.

    Companion gardening (mixing edibles with herbs, flowers, and non-edibles) has been used for centuries long before big business rolled around. Keeps the land healthy, protects your plants, and can produce astounding results. It looks good too! Keep up with your gardening! More people should be growing their own food in this economy. Performs a service to your community too by beautifying otherwise drab cities and suburbs, naturally cleaning the air with more greenery, and creates lasting connections between people. - 10/31/2012   3:49:11 AM
  • 432
    There is nothing wrong with it. It's your property you should be able to do what you want with it. Veggie gardens look nice & are usually kept tidy. My neighbor never mows his lawn & that looks a lot worse than any garden. - 8/27/2012   5:05:13 AM
  • 431
    They do not bother me. In fact, I am looking across the street at my neighbor's tomato plants. She is 94 years old and we would rather have her gardening out where we can see her. If she was in back, we would never know if she had fallen or not. - 8/24/2012   1:27:20 PM
  • 430
    My husband is a county agriculture agent and they like to promote edible landscaping. What is the difference between an apple tree or vegetables? In WW 2 85% of all domestically consumed produce was from what they called victory gardens. Do I support them? You bet I do! - 8/7/2012   1:41:10 PM
  • 429
    Definitely should be able to plant your garden anywhere on your property you would like. Isn't it better to have a healthier planet than one that has unrealistic rules that don't make sense? - 8/7/2012   12:20:54 AM
  • 428
    I agree that you should be able to plant what you like in your yard! Especially with the food shortages that are going to raise prices due to the droughts in the Midwest. - 8/6/2012   7:45:49 PM
  • 427
    I think we should be allowed to plant what we want where we want in our yards, as long as we keep it up. I'm planning on ripping out the English ivy and replacing it with sweet potato plants next year. The sweet potato plants vine, have a beautiful flower and produce I hope lots of sweet potatoes, since I prefer them to potatoes and candy bars.
    - 8/6/2012   8:11:09 AM
  • CLEO27
    I wouldn't be offended by it. I actually considered starting my own garden, but I don't have a fenced in yard and there is no guarantee that kids and or animals wouldn't be trotting over my plants.

    If someone owns the property they are planting on then they shouldn't be fined, it's their property. - 8/5/2012   10:48:16 AM
  • 425
    Its becoming more common in my Colorado mountain community. Its the wave of the future. - 8/3/2012   11:50:35 PM
  • 424
    I love the look of their garden--it's bushy and thick, but not unkempt! I took my parents' extensive suburban farm when I lived at home, and now I wish I'd both appreciated it more and learned to garden from them! When they bought their house, they tore out the front and back lawns, terraced the front lawn into exterior and interior fruit, vegetable, and flower gardens, and set the backyard up for fruits and vegetables almost all the way around the house. As years passed, more and more people in our neighborhood, and then throlughout the city, did similar terracing and planting in their yards! I love seeing it! At my own house, I never wanted a lawn to begin with because it's a waste of water, especially here in the Sonoran Desert, but when I found out we'd have flood irrigation that would cost only about $50/year instead over over $100/month that most lawn owners in my city pay, I was all for it, planted fig and citrus trees, and made a raised veggie bed in my backyard. I'd veg and fruit it all out if the flood irrigation weren't so extreme and I just had more know-how! - 8/3/2012   5:42:53 PM
    Back in the 70s, my husband was stationed in Germany and we lived in an apartment that was not on the base. The apartment next door to us had a vegetable garden in the front yard and we soon learned that this was a normal thing. It is the most natural thing in the world. If I could have one, I would put it in the backyard though.I am very much in favor of personal gardens. - 8/3/2012   2:38:52 PM

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