If you spend half as much time on the internet as I do, you have probably already come across this story of a Michigan woman who faces jail time for the crime of planting a garden in her front yard.

The "unsuitable" garden in question

That’s right. According to the Oak Park, Michigan city planner, a vegetable garden is not “suitable” for a front yard. Maybe the city planner should do a little research into the benefits of so-called “front yard gardens.”

1. Reduce the use of toxic chemicals. Grass is hard to grow in a lot of climates. In order to get that perfect, “golf course” green lawn, many homeowners use weed killers, chemical fertilizers, and other chemicals. According to beyondpesticides.org, 19 out of the 30 most commonly used lawn chemicals “are linked with cancer or carcinogencity, 13 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 26 with liver or kidney damage, 15 with neurotoxicity, and 11 with disruption of the endocrine (hormonal) system.” When people put these chemicals on their lawn, many of them leach into ground and/or drinking water. They kill fish, disrupt our ecosystems, and basically wreak havoc on the environment. Yes, there are organic fertilizers for grass, but a better option is to get rid of grass altogether. Planting deeper-rooted plants (like fruits and vegetables) reduces erosion and runoff, and people are simply more inclined to use natural products on things that they are going to eat.

2. Build community. Simply put – if you garden in your front yard, you will spend more time in your front yard. Spending more time in your front yard allows you to meet your neighbors, and your vegetables are an instant conversation starter. Meeting neighbors, talking about food and other passions, this is what community is all about! I know it’s worked in our neighborhood. The Little Apartment garden has helped me start conversations with several of my neighbors – who I might never have met otherwise. More people in their front yards also creates a safer community – like a neighborhood watch, grandma style. Could front yard gardens stop crime? Maybe!

3. Reduce dependence on oil. Most of us buy our groceries at big chain stores. That’s just the way it is. (Do I like it? No. But I accept it, for now.) Most of our vegetables are trucked, shipped, or even flown to us from all over the world. It takes a lot of oil to get those fresh strawberries to you in the middle of winter. Gardening in our front yards takes little or no oil. You might need to use a truck to bring in fresh soil, or to get your fertilizer. But all those fresh veggies growing right outside your front door? Not nearly as energy-inefficient as most of the produce in your local grocery store.

4. Fostering individualism. Honestly, I think this is the one that scares people. Somehow, during the rise of the suburbs after WWII, we as Americans got the idea that all our houses should look the same. Little boxes on the hillside, right? For a country that is supposedly built on the rights of the individual, we get caught up in a lot of stress about homogenizing our society, starting with our front lawns. It reminds me of a book I read in elementary school, The Araboolies of Liberty Street. (Incidentally, I love books that teach kids it’s ok to be different.)

I know I promised you pictures of my garden, and of meeting Shauna and Danny, but I haven’t been home long enough to upload them. I did however, get to eat a fresh snap pea off the vine on my way to the bus this morning. Joy!