Complaints Part Deux

Thanks to the flu, i missed our meeting with the neighborhood commissioner this afternoon, but Liz was there with a listening ear, and a bunch of questions.  Overall, the meeting didn’t shed much light on any regulations in question as the commissioner wasn’t familiar with them off hand.  She stated that she’s in charge of nearly 900 homes, and we’re the first to put in a front yard garden like this one.  This may intimidate someone, but we were flattered and excited at the potential!

In terms of regulations, she eased off a little bit since our first conversation.  She didn’t cite any single violation, though she did mentioned that we might want to look into encroachment onto city property: which we’re not since we’re well in the bounds of our property line.

She mostly had questions for us, so Liz used the meeting to take a walk through the front yard and tell her our plans.  The commissioner was surprised to hear that we were so willing to compromise with neighbors (such as put a self imposed height restriction on front yard veggies- tomatoes and trellis in the back yard), and that nearly 40% of the whole yard is planned for flowers.  Liz was suprised to learn that some common complaints were about “growing corn”, “this is the city not the country”, and “what if everybody’s yard looked like that?”

If only we could be that lucky!  think of it, no more lawn mowers waking me up at 7 am on the weekends, less sidewalk flooding, less water, air, and noise pollution, more birds and butterflies, more biodiversity, shorter lines at the grocery store!

The thing that go to me most was that the commissioner seemed to be fine with us planting only flowers, even in the raised beds (which she initially had issues with)!  What about squash, tomatoes, egg plants, potatoes, beans, and just about every other vegetable? They have pretty flowers too! Frustrating!

I answered the door this afternoon, when i was more ‘with it,’ and had a nice 10 minute chat with our block captain, who also received some complaints                     (i think he gets called first, then passes it up the chain to the commissioner).  This was a much more informative coverstaiton, and shed a lot of light on folks’ concerns.

The gist of what he said was that he knows that he can’t make me change my yard (legally), it’s just a negihborhood preference: “we like our lawns”. I told him that i appreciate where’s he’s coming from, and that, although we’re willing to compromise a little, there will be a garden in the front.  He told a story about a person up the street put in a small garden in the front and grew corn, and how that really had the block in a tizzy a few years back.

No wonder everyone’s terrified of our project: they think we’re turning the yard into an 8 foot tall cornfield!   Not that we shouldn’t be allowed to…but we’re not going to.

Overall, it seems that we’re OK to do what we’re doing, just that people are hesitant to the change, and being protective of the neighborhood and home values.  This is understandable: we’re very new to the neighborhood and what we’re doing to the yard is quite different.  I think it’s all about trying to find a balance.  Just like you have to balance what nutrients go into a garden bed, we’ll try to find balance in this situation!

To help that process, we’re going to put a few notices and a suggestion/comments box on the front garden wall.  I’ll show you what we come up with next time…


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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5 Responses to Complaints Part Deux

  1. Kim says:

    Maybe if you make a presentation including photos of what you plan to do (kind of like what’s posted on the blog) it would help give a better idea…Good luck! Rooting for you guys!

  2. z says:

    I really admire your positive attitude here. I live in NE too, and if it would help, I could call the commissioner and say I think vegetables out front are really nice and look just fine. Especially if you are going to make an effort to make it look good. Certainly nicer than a lot of the front yards I see here in Eckington which seem to be completely untended and basically filled with trash and abandoned furniture.

    I do have some concerns about rodent/pest management. I’m not planning a front garden yet because I want to see how it goes in the back, if I need to create some sort of cage over the plants or what, and that wouldn’t look good out front. Do you have any experience with that?

    • Ryan says:

      We’re trying to keep it going in a positive direction: so far so good…as far as pest management, the biggest issue i’ve had in DC has been slugs and other bugs. i haven’t had problems with squirrels or birds really: most of those issues would be in the beginning of the season when there isn’t much else for those critters to eat. I’d say plant it with out netting and see what happens, or plant a little extra knowing you’re going to loose some either to weather, bugs, or vermin. the good thing about veggie gardening is that they’re relatively cheap to experiment with, unlike orchids at $30 a plant!

  3. Eva says:

    Glad to hear the update, and the positive movement! I try to be tolerant of people who “like their lawns” but I just don’t get it. It’s a difference of opinion on aesthetics, so I just bite my tongue.

    I’m definitely the “eccentric” on our block. No one seems to mind, or at least keeps it to themselves; and we do have the best wildlife on the block. I got to watch a goldfinch eating breakfast this morning, just outside our kitchen window. Happiness is…

    • Ryan says:

      agreed: just make sure you don’t bite too hard! the birds are really going to town in the yard, maybe i can train them to pick catepillars and slugs off my cabbages?

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