Gardeners around the world were outraged by the recent story about the American woman who was fined and even threatened with jail time for simply building a vegetable garden in her front yard. The municipal by-laws in her town of Oak Park, a Detroit suburb, stated that front yards must be covered with suitable plant material, and her five tidy raised beds filled with petunias and tomato plants were clearly unsuitable. The charges have since been dropped, but it was a great story which has inspired many people to follow her lead.
So what is suitable for a front yard, anyway? A lot of folks think planting veggies and herbs in the front yard is perfectly suitable, and perfectly attractive.
I myself have planted tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs and scarlet runner beans in my front yard in the past when I lived in a house with a very shady back yard – it was the only space on my land that things would grow! The scarlet runner beans in particular were an absolutely lovely climbing vine that covered a trellis in bright red flowers that later turned into tasty beans.
A lot of cities are also starting to mix vegetables with flowers in municipal ornamental plantings. On a recent trip to Minneapolis/St Paul I saw lovely planters full of swiss chard, Thai basil, nasturtiums and purple peppers. Closer to home, we have the intrepid Halifax City Gardener, David McLearn who has been quietly adding vegetables to public flower gardens for years and was recently awarded with Halifax Regional Municipality director’s award and a chief administrative officer award for his efforts. All the vegetables grown on these plots are donated to Hope Cottage – over 200 grocery bags full in 2009! (Click here for a recent story on David by The Coast.)