caged tomato

Gardening doesn’t usually make the news — but when it does, it can be surprisingly scandalous. Take the two recent cases, one in Michigan and one in British Columbia, where residents were cited and threatened with jail time for growing vegetables in their front yards.

As a home gardener, I was shocked to hear these stories. What sort of person could find fault with a vegetable garden? Apparently, Oak Park, Michigan’s city planner Kevin Rulkowski is that person. “A tomato vine on a tomato cage is just not attractive,” he told the Detroit News. “Add that to the big wooden boxes. It’s not the first impression people often put in front of their home… or want to see in their neighborhood.”

Granted, vegetables are rarely as lovely as ornamentals. Still, it’s surprising that any official would focus on something so innocuous instead of working to eradicate more serious crimes. In Los Angeles, urban organic gardener Mike Lieberman is worried that his balcony container garden might land him in trouble. He recently got a visit from a building inspector — but rather than giving in, he’s making a stand.

“There are much more pressing issues in our society that tax dollars should be going towards than some lettuce and tomatoes that someone is growing,” Mike says. “People should be outraged that this is where their money is going.”

Mike has no plans to tear out his garden (which, it should be noted, does not block the passageway). Instead, he’s advocating for the right to grow his own food.

He’s not alone; gardeners throughout the U.S. have spoken out against anti-garden regulations. And after weeks of press coverage, phone calls and letters, the charges have been dropped against the Michigan gardener.

If you believe that gardening is not a crime, get involved in your own town. If local regulations on “acceptable” landscaping don’t permit food gardens, contact your city council and make a change.

Or just start your own edible revolution: replace your lawn with a food garden.

 

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Photo: alpha du centaure.