Nearly a year ago, I bought my first house. A 70s-era split-level on a half-acre of land, approximately an hour west of DC. The house is part of a subdivision, and is surrounded by other 70s-era split-levels. Children ride their bikes past my yard. Neighbors wave at one another, and chat about their kids and jobs and dogs. When a winter storm brought a tree down into my driveway, the guy across the street showed up with his brand new chainsaw and a wheelbarrow. I was floored by his generosity. He thought nothing of it.
This is a nice neighborhood. Friendly people live here. When I walk my dog, I look for Ozzie and Harriet. This seems like the kind of place they’d choose to live.
How do I repay this neighborhood for its kindness? Its leave-it-to-Beaver niceness? I break the rules. Worse, I feel absolutely no guilt about it. These rules are silly:
Article VI, Section 10: Vegetable gardens shall be allowed in the rear or side portions of said lots only.
That clause is excerpted from my Home Owner Association’s bylaws, and clearly forbids vegetable gardens from the front yards of my neighborhood. You wouldn’t think it would be a problem. I’ve got a half-acre lot, and most of it is backyard and side yard. Shouldn’t be any trouble slipping a vegetable garden into that HOA-approved space. Except. Well. Vegetables need sunlight, and the side and back of my house is practically forest. On this single half-acre lot, there are five maple trees, one hickory, one towering elm, two dogwoods, one slender cherry, one aged apple, three gigantic white pines, one blue spruce and more than a dozen eastern cedars. The shade is great for providing comfort during Virginia’s hot summer days, but it’s not so vegetable-friendly.
If this house was to have a vegetable garden, it would need to be a front yard affair.
Which brings us to here and now. It’s mid-August, and my “flower garden” is bursting with stately dinosaur kale, purple-flowered eggplant and ground-covering melons and strawberries. It’s a vegetable garden. An edible garden. Only, incognito.
As far as I know, my neighbors have no idea. Yet.
I know I’m not alone. HOAs regularly ban front yard veggies, choosing uniformity over utility and beauty. Some towns have taken things a step further, writing legal code that literally outlaws front yard vegetable gardens. These wrong-minded regulations should be challenged. Changed. I’m already plotting an assault on my HOA’s bylaws. That anti-veggie clause has got to go. In the meantime, there’s no reason my front yard can’t nurture a few tomato plants. Or, a dozen.