There i was, sitting by the fire, eating some dinner, when there’s a knock at the door.  To my surprise, it’s the neighborhood commissioner there to inform me that there has been a complaint filed about the front yard, that i was negatively changing the character of the neighborhood, that DC inspectors might get involved. Needless to say, i was more than a little put off and confused.

She also went on to say that i can garden in my back yard, and join a local community garden.  I’m all for community plots: the catch is that there is a  2-4 YEAR wait list to get a plot, even though there are dozens of them in the D.C. metro.  Besides, if i have my own land, why should i take the plot away from someone who lives in apartment or is renting?

Now, i knew that replacing a perfectly normal lawn

with raised beds was going against the grain, so this starts the awareness and dialogue phase of the garden.
Doesn’t this look so much better?
Front Yard Veggie Garden
And a yard like this is much better for the environment, according to the EPA.  1 Hour of lawn mowing creates the same pollution as driving 100 miles in a car?!  Yikes: to think that you’re breathing those fumes as you push the mower around…

Luckily, there’s the semi annual block potluck next week, so i can hopefully asuage some fears of the yard being neglected and turing into weeds.

Part of the inspiration for this garden project was the idea of building community.  I was fortunate enough to attend a lecture by Roger Swain who is an advocate for strengthening your community through front yard gardens.  The gist of it was: Why put the flowers and interesting plants behind fences in the back?  Having gardens out front not only adds color and variety to the local landscape, but it gets people out and really talking to each other.

I can attest to this: when putting in the front beds last month, 3 folks from down the block at separate times came and introduced themselves, next thing you know, we were swapping stories of vegetable gardens we used to have, favorite flowers, tips for growing tomatoes.  I lived here for nearly 8 months and instantly doubled the number of people who i now know on the block.  And i haven’t even planted a single thing yet!

The important thing here is dialogue: let them know my intentions, experience, and commitment not to mention sharing the harvests.  I plan on not simply digging in (pun intended…) my heels, but to have a conversation and compromise if need be.


About Ryan

Urban gardening at it's best (sometimes it's worst)! Adventures and learnings from going 100% lawn free in a D.C. row house.
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7 Responses to Complaints

  1. Ben says:

    Controversy!! Now this blog is getting juicy. Though I’m sure the tomatoes will be juicy when they arrive, too.

    Also: more cute animal pictures, please!

    • Ryan says:

      I was hoping to avoid some of the controversy, but i guess it’s what the kids want. I’ll get some photos of Ziggy’s new 2 story bungalow when the weather clears up a bit. She’s a very happy bunny!

  2. Elizabeth says:

    The last community garden I belonged to had a rule that you couldn’t get a plot if you owned land…there’s so much demand. Maybe you can find the person who complained and shower them with free veggies this summer.

  3. Eva says:

    I saw your post over on DC Urban Gardeners yahoo group/email list. Check with the District Department on the Environment for more information. They are a great resource and are actively trying to get people to do more than lawn. Specifically, I’d check in with the people at the River Smart Homes program.

  4. Polly Brown says:

    Soldier on Ryan! Sounds like it was one (only one) pissed off neighbor. Your task is to find that neighbor and shower him with veggies. You can do it! Please keep us updated. AND…bring something really yummy to the potluck. If that includes gratis pollystyle graham crackers or shortbreads, I’d be happy to help out!!!

  5. Tracy says:

    Ry – if an inspector actually gets involved, let me know if you need backup. I have a contact at DC DOE. You don’t live in a historic district, so they don’t really have any legal basis for their complaint about your yard.

  6. Stacey says:

    What I wouldn’t give for your front yard! We should start a front yard garden blog and chronicle who has them. There are quite a few gardens over here in Tenleytown that are in the front yard. Enlist the kids! Once you have birds and butterflies and bees in the yard, everyone will be enchanted.

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