Sunday, July 10, 2011

Updated - Don't Eat Your Vegetables In The Front Yard!

I wrote an in-depth article on Edible Landscaping for Green Builder magazine on "Edible Landscaping 02" pages 31 - 37.

7/18/11 Update: Drudge Report is now reporting that the city of Oak Park, Michigan has seemingly dropped the anti-veggie fines but now wants to impose an unlicensed dog fine equivalent to the same fine and incarceration time. Sounds like a vendetta to me...

After Oak Park City failed in its bid to charge Bass with violating a local ordinance for using her front garden to grow organic vegetables, no doubt put off by gargantuan media attention on the case, they are now pursuing Bass for a similarly ludicrous misdemeanor that carries an identical penalty, 93 days in jail, for owning unlicensed dogs.

However, Bass’ dogs are fully licensed, the city is merely reinstating an earlier charge that Bass has already complied with.

7/15/11 Update: The city of Oak Park, Michigan is delaying any further action on the Bass's front yard vegetable garden.

7/11/11 Update:
My interview this morning with Julie Bass on WLBE 790am (  was very informative. Not only did Mrs. Bass check with the city of Oak Park, Michigan regarding any ordinances restricting raised beds, they told her there should be no problems if she did it. There is Michigan legislation that protects people who want to grow their own food.
And he gave it for his opinion, that whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together.
- Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels
Has the world gone mad? In an amazing turnip of events, Julie Bass, homemaker, mother of three, and simple gardener, could go to jail for three months for growing vegetables in her front yard. The Oak Park, Michigan resident was only trying to make a sustainable garden out of the front yard that had been demolished by the City of Oak Park utilities fixing the sewer system in the spring. Passers-by admired her efforts. A single complaint from a neighbor not green with envy - but with mean-spiritedness - encouraged the Code Enforcement department to issue a warning to Mrs. Bass to remove the raised beds of warm season annuals and vegetables.  When Mrs. Bass didn't comply, she was issued a ticket and charged with a misdemeanor. She goes to a pre-jury trial on July 26th. 

"In order to live off a garden, you practically have to live in it.
- Frank McKinney Hubbard
The reason for the citation is a code that says a front yard has to have suitable, live, plant material.  Oak Park City Planner Kevin Rulkowski stated: "That's not what we want to see in a front yard."  Is Mr. Rulkowski a horticulturist, landscape designer, or a landscape architect?  Does the City of Oak Park have a horticulturist on staff to help them dig through all the dirt on what is a suitable plant or not?  Is it based on USGBC green certification, best management practices, asesthetics or personal opinion?  Is turfgrass a suitable plant? Are cookie cutter designs a government regulation? Everbody has to have the same landscape?

See Julie Bass's edible front yard here.

Edible landscaping is still a popular gardening trend in the United States with 43% of households surveyed by the Garden Writers Association Foundation planning on establishing a vegetable garden this year. Vegetable gardening is even being encouraged by the White House - why does the City of Oak Park even want to get involved in such a pickle?

This is not the first case of gardening interference between a regulating body and residents.  Confrontations between HOA's and homeowners has increased over the last few years with homeowners emboldened by new water conserving ordinances.
I'm interviewing Mrs. Julie Bass on "In Your Backyard" tomorrow, at our new day and time: Mondays at 11:30am to 12:30pm.  Please plan to tune in  about this outrageous attack against individual homeowner's property rights. You can also check out the Bass family's Facebook page: Oak Park Hates Veggies.  You can also sign the Bass's petition to stop the persecution.
The word 'vegetable' has no precise botanical meaning in reference to food plants, and we find that almost all parts of plants have been employed as vegetables - roots (carrot and beet), stems (Irish potato and asparagus), leaves (spinach and lettuce), leaf stalk (celery and Swiss chard), bracts (globe artichoke), flower stalks and buds,(broccoli and cauliflower), fruits (tomato and squash), seeds (beans), and even the petals (Yucca and pumpkin).
- Charles Heiser, Seed to Civilization

More with Teresa on edible landscaping: Edible Landscaping: So Good You Can Eat Them Right Up
More resources: 
The garden should be adorned with roses and lilies, the turnsole, violets, and mandrake; there you should have parsley, cost, fennel, southern-wood, coriander, sage, savory, hyssop, mint, rue, dittany, smallage, pellitory, lettuces, garden-cress, and peonies. There should also be beds planted with onions, leeks, garlic, pumpkins and shallots. The cucumber growing in its lap, the drowsy poppy, the daffodil and brank-ursine ennoble a garden. Nor are there wanting, if occasion further thee, pottage-herbs: beets,herb-mercury, orache, sorrel and mallows, anise, mustard, white pepper and wormwood do good service to the gardener.- Alexander of Neckham, Of the Nature of Things, 1187


  1. Destiny Farms, Brighton Michigan.
    First off, We love your style and attitude in reporting these things. God Bless you and keep up the good fight.
    • Their is no better Veggies than the ones you grow yourself. Growing your own is as natural as breast feeding a baby. Unfortunitly, we have found that most people believe that it is a sign of poverty or blight and have the thought " not in my neighbor hood "
    We talk to people all the time that talk about how bad farmers are for poisoning the land, say they want Organically grown produce and then go home and spray or spead poison all over their yards on the chance a weed is about to pop up.
    That neighborhood should stand behind the efforts of that family. I am sure the kids are learning things that they will never see any other place, Maybe ever as we as a society get farther and farther from the farm.
    May God Bless them and we hope they continue to stand up for the right to grow your own on the land that they have been blessed with. A Basic human right....Their is no protection for producers that do not intend to sell what they grow. I think our founders, even George washington thought that governments would never try to stop familys from having a garden. Ya Think ?
    Also, Even if the city has the right to tell you where you can put a garden, Isn't like way over the top that they can tell you what you can plant in that garden? The Inmates are running the assylm, God Help us....

  2. Anonymous12:12 PM

    This is the first time of I have ever heard of this. Seems rather silly to me.

  3. AS if Michigan can afford to loose any more people. They have all gone crazy. So glad I left when I did. You go girl!