Friday, December 30, 2011

Nonconforming Freely

A casual perusal of my blog will show pretty clearly that my garden is right out in the front yard. The backyard is dark with trees, so I didn't have many options for garden location when I set out to grow my own veggies. There are a lot of neighborhoods, though, where this choice would be a major problem.

One of my friends gave me a great little book over the holidays that, on one page in particular, illuminates the reason behind so many neighborhoods' lawn-care rules. The book is "Weeds," by Richard Mabey, and this is the relevant passage about lawns in the United States:

The pressure to conform to orthodox standards of lawn perfection are huge. There are no hedges to hide behind. Your tolerance of a tuft of plantain is not just a sign of your own slovenliness, but a public insult to your neighbors. Your lawn is a visible extension of the whole community's proudly maintained estate. If you default on its maintenance, you have opted out of the social contract. (page 175)

A big, nonconforming square of corn out in the front yard is probably a much larger blight on a "proudly maintained estate" than a few tufts of narrow-leaf plantain! Luckily for me, the social contract in my neighborhood isn't a formal document that lays out rules concerning appearance beyond keeping that lawn below ten inches high and not using the lawn as a parking lot.


  1. Well said, well said indeed!! You are ahead of the crowd, for sure, the next generation will agree they have no choice. One day all those mansions will be filled with many families living off the front yard. Great post, peace

  2. Ruth,

    Not sure whether I am ahead of the crowd or just a little weird, but I do think it's a good idea to have some food growing in the yard, for a whole lot of reasons.

    Regardless of the reasons, though, in the past, almost everyone grew a little food. I'm not sure how those earlier gardens looked - the victory gardens I've seen photos of all looked like standard rectangles with the crops laid out in rows.

    There seems to be a lot more information available now on incorporating food plants into the landscape in attractive ways, so that growing food out front doesn't have to be unattractive or signal a lower-status home. I hope the next generation agrees soon! Food fresh from the yard is so very tasty and so healthful, too ...

    Thanks for stopping by and for taking the time to write!



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