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Plantgasm - I love plants too much. By Derek Powazek.

I’m With Julie

Julie Bass lives in Oak Park, Michigan, with her husband Jason in a humble single family home. Their front yard had to be ripped up to replace some pipes, so instead of replanting the lawn, they decided to put in five raised beds and grow vegetables. Their yard is a favorite of neighborhood kids, who come by to lend a hand.

But it turns out that their front yard veggie garden could be against Oak Park guidelines, which require that front lawns contain only “suitable” plants. City planner and hater of freedom Kevin Rilkowski said, “That’s not what we want to see in a front yard.” When a local reporter asked what he’d say to people who think this is ridiculous, he said that people don’t think that. The news report then cut to a Daily Show-style montage of neighbors saying it’s ridiculous.

Bass received a written warning, then a ticket, and now she’s been charged with a misdemeanor, which carries a potential 93-day prison sentence. For growing a vegetable garden. On her property.

The city mouthpiece seems to love grass lawns, but I wonder if he knows how dangerous they are.

In American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn, Ted Steinberg documents America’s weird addiction to lawns, as well as the environmental and social costs that come with it. According to the book, “using a power lawn mower for an hour spews as much polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons into the air as driving a car 93 miles.”

Lawns are also not easy to grow, so many turn to chemical assistance. According to Eartheasy, “Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, 19 are linked with cancer or carcinogenicity, 13 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 26 with liver or kidney damage, 15 with neurotoxicity, and 11 with disruption of the endocrine (hormonal) system. Of those same pesticides, 17 are detected in groundwater, 23 have the ability to leach into drinking water sources, 24 are toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms vital to our ecosystem, 11 are toxic to bees, and 16 are toxic to birds.”

There’s even a “delawning moment” afoot. And the Lawn Reform Coalition is trying to get people to think differently about their lawns.

Lawns, in a word, suck. So why not plant a vegetable garden? They’re beautiful, they’re educational, they can become a focal point for local community, and when harvest time arrives and you wind up with way too many vegetables, you can feed your neighbors!

This is happening in Michigan, where 1,083,000 people use food banks each year. That’s 1 in 10 people. But city conformity compliance officer Kevin says, “A tomato vine on a tomato cage is just not attractive.”

Julie goes before a judge on July 26. I wanted to show my support, so I whipped up these banners in the Andre has a posse style. Feel free to grab one and put it on your site, too. You can follow the drama on Julie’s blog. There’s also an online petition and a Facebook page.

Let Julie Grow I'm With Julie Julie Has A Posse

Hang in there, Julie.

See Also

12 Responses

Love what you’ve written here, you are 100% correct. Let’s hope the officials in Oak Park realize how foolish they look and sound and are willing to admit that they are wrong. I’m with you, I’m with Julie too!

Posted by Penny Butler on 10 July 2011 @ 4pm

I am on Julie’s side. The city should not have a say what you grow on your front lawn as long as it is in good taste and not wild looking.

Posted by Michele Rosen on 10 July 2011 @ 7pm

Thanks for putting this together. I will post to Lawn Reform Coalition

Posted by Saxon Holt on 10 July 2011 @ 11pm

I visited with Julie this weekend, and while she doesn’t want the attention, she is grateful for the support and good thoughts. Honestly, what a sweet and modest soul.

Thank you for bringing her case, and the no-lawn movement, more attention.

Posted by Lea on 11 July 2011 @ 5am

Do you pay your taxes? Do you own your property? Then I would tell the officials to go fly a kite!!! Go bother someone that has tall grass, weeds, garbage, junk in their yard…. Is the city doing this for media attention? If so, they are getting negative all the better for you!!

Posted by Deanna on 11 July 2011 @ 6am

the things folks want topick a fight about!the woman is growing veggies for petes sake!! I think its a great idea, and 100% on julies side!Life is too short folks and there is more serious things out there to worry about!

Posted by joan on 11 July 2011 @ 9am

Tell Julie to call it a ‘Victory Garden’. Then her Property Owners Association and the city will be unpatriotic if they harass her or take her garden away.
She is doing the right, logical, patriotic, and caring thing. leave her alone.

Posted by H. Burton on 11 July 2011 @ 9am

what about planting berry bushes or some “acceptable” cover shrub along the street so people cant see the veggie garden.

Posted by juniper on 11 July 2011 @ 10am

I agree with H. Burton about calling it a Victory Garden. Politicians are afraid of being “unpatriotic”. Call on the First Lady. As someone pointed out, our own President has a garden in his yard. This needs media attention. It is absolutely ridiculous!

Posted by Sara on 11 July 2011 @ 12pm

Check out this award-winning article (Assoc. of Food Journalists Award) about “blended” gardens in place of lawns. It was written by Margie Grace, herself the winner of the International Landscape Designer of the Year Award.

We have offered our help to Julie — testimony, letter of support, whatever — because blended gardens are GOOD for the land, GOOD for fostering a sense of community, and GOOD for your health!

What’s wrong with that Oak Park bunch, did they fall on their heads?

Posted by Karen Strickholm on 11 July 2011 @ 6pm

What about all the front yards I see now with absolutely NO grass? It’s all wildflowers and garden doo-dads and crystal balls. I know you don’t want the attention, Julie…I was raised in Oak Park and now live in a city next door. Keep steadfast in your ideals and we will support you.

Posted by Kathi S. on 13 July 2011 @ 5pm

thank you for such a wonderful article! i am so touched by how kind you are! thank you!!! -julie bass

Posted by julie bass on 13 July 2011 @ 6pm


Plantgasm is where Derek Powazek chronicles his botanical antics and misadventures. More.