For the past few months I have been harassed and stalked by some neighbors who seem very upset. They’re upset that we have a cultivated garden in the front yard. Back in March I got a letter in the mail from the government saying there was violation of code because there was tree brush in the yard. Granted during the harsh winter we had, there was some neatly contained spruce brush I hadn’t gotten to. Though I immediately cleaned it up right then. We contacted the city and spoke with them; they said there wasn’t really anything to worry about and I would have to do an appeal.
A couple weeks later, we found out the same lady had complained again. We knew then the issue wasn’t at all about the spruce brush. It was about the garden. However we were told everything was to code and the lady could call until her fingers went numb.
A few weeks ago we were working in the yard when a city official pulled up. It was the man we had been talking to and who was very nice about everything. He said he got a complaint that morning that we had tall grass. At first, we thought he meant the lady a few houses down because her yard hadn’t been mowed at all. We were all confused because we don’t have grass in the yard and we had just mowed the backyard. He said everything looked great.
Last week we began noticing a man who seemed upset about something too. At first we didn’t know what was going on. He would kind of slow down in front of the house, veer off to the shoulder, and honk many times. He did it several days in a row and several times during the day.
A couple days ago a lady stopped in front of the house and from her car was taking pictures. We hope she was taking the photo to show others of a great habitat garden. However, we have our doubt.
Yesterday we were again working in the yard and an older man who we think may be honker man, pulled up to the house and very creepily looked at the yard and starred at us very intently and didn’t say or motion anything before driving off.
We aren’t the only ones in town who have received complaints about the front yard not being mostly lawn grass. We’ve heard of others who are doing the same thing, creating habitat gardens, and neighbors being unhappy even when everything is to code.
All kinds of people and gardens are getting bad reputations across the US. There is most controversy about front yard vegetable gardens. Most of these controversies happen in the suburb. The whole issue evolves around city codes, the design, and neighbors. I’ve seen many front yards around town that have all gardens in the front, vegetable or flowers. People seem to love luscious landscaping in front of the historical homes downtown. Many of them are listed on garden tours. In Europe gardens are highly regarded and the more the better.
National Front Yard Complaints
There have been some front yard gardens in the news receiving some publicity, such as this lady who made her yard all sand. Another man had to mow down his meadow, he’s a pilot and isn’t always home to be able to mow. This article on Garden Rant, a lady put some native shrubs for wildlife in her yard and got complaints. There are even more numerous articles on front yard vegetable gardens. These people had a very nice and neatly done vegetable garden and had to get rid of 70% of it in a few days.
What To Do Before Front Yard Gardening
- The first thing to remember when making a front yard garden is to call your local government and see about any code violations. This is crucial. You may only be allowed to have a certain % be vegetables or have to have a % of lawn. You may also have to create a buffer of lawn between the sidewalk and the garden. Also read about easement plantings and codes about weeds. Some places say you can’t have weeds over 10″ tall, but do not define what a weed is. Read documents created by the city and make sure to call the proper department and speak about any potential violations about the garden you want to create.
- Check your neighborhood association for any restrictions and talk with your nearest neighbors. You certainly want to be ok with your next door neighbors. Even if some people are in disagreement, you can at least say educate about what you’re doing and why.
- Have a design plan. There are some resources online to help you incorporate a wildlife habitat while keeping it looking maintained. You can slowly create a garden so it doesn’t shock people at once. Also good design will incorporate borders, decorative barriers/fencing which will help blend traditional design with a habitat garden. Hire a garden designer or landscape architect for a consultation or design.
- Guide from NJ Audubon
- Guide from HGTV
- Guide from PSU Extension
- Guide from Wild Ones
- Have signage and show people. If you would like to certify your garden as a butterfly garden or wildlife habitat, look into certifying it with the Monarch Watch, National Wildlife Federation, or the North American Butterfly Association. You can have it on a registry and purchase a sign which will show people what you are doing and your intent with the garden. If you don’t want to certify it or don’t qualify, you can purchase a sign from WildOnes.
- Keep everything very maintained and looking nice. Do keep weeds pulled, things pruned, paths cleared, debris cleaned up. Put some curb appeal into your property by keeping a nice color palette and a consistent design through texture, style, materials.
There are some neighbors out there who are working together in their gardens. Take for example these neighbors who blended their gardens in Colorado. Thankfully I have been able to meet a lot of neighbors just by being in the front yard working. Many ask about the garden and are amazed that rain gardens and Monarch waystations exist. Many have said it’s beautiful and welcoming.