In April of 2008 I wrote an editorial piece called “Bring Back Victory Gardens” when the recession was just beginning to take hold. I based it on our country’s history of coming together and growing food in times of crisis, but it seems that I may have been a little off-base if current news stories are any indication. You see, there are people all over the country who are being taken to court for growing their own organic gardens at home, on their own land. What’s more, in some locales, the law is against them!
In some urban and suburban neighborhoods, Homeowner’s Associations or HOAs have oddly specific bylaws that dictate exactly what can and cannot be grown in the resident lawns regardless of who owns the property.There are cases across the US where this has happened, too. This article in Mother Earth News talks about a couple in Orlando, Florida fighting the city over their garden. This one is about a woman fighting the same fight in Tulsa, Oklahoma. There are even battles being waged in Quebec and Australia, all over home gardens and what we can grow in them.
Does your city have laws about front lawn gardens? You might be surprised; In my own neighborhood there is a rule that states that no less than 60% of our front lawn must be grass, and any tree that is planted must be no less than eight feet tall. If I were to plant my front lawn in vegetables this spring, they HOA could reasonably take me to court. Before you enthusiastically rip out your lawn for a new organic garden, check local laws and ordinances to make sure that you are in compliance.