March 1, 2013

Patriot Garden

I went to the home of Jennifer and Jason Helvenston in College Park on a small dead end road that stops at I-4. Walking through the suburban neighborhood, I saw many blue yard signs that promote "Patriot Gardens". I was at City Hall the day before at a demonstration where people demanded the right to keep their vegetable gardens. The Helvenston's grow dozens of vegetables organically in their front yard in Orlando. But in November, the city—which aspires to be the “Greenest City in America”, notified them that their harmless garden violates city code, and they have to tear it up and replace it with grass or face fines of $500 a day.

I looked up their home with a Google map street view and the photos showed a barren yard before the lush garden was planted. The garden is now bursting with an abundance of vegetables and herbs. Jennifer backed her car out of the driveway as I was sketching. She recognized me from the protest at City Hall and she explained that many of the citizens that went to the City Counsel Meeting got up and spoke eloquently for the right to grow food. She felt the meeting went well but the battle wasn't yet won. City government is a slow moving beast upholding decades old landscaping codes drafted before homeowners recognized the advantages of using native plants, creating natural habitats for butterflies and birds and sustainable organic gardens that put food on the table.

Sketching, I was surprised by the deep trenches between rows of vegetables. I assumed this was extreme raised bed gardening. Jason came out and explained that the soil had developed plant parasitic nematodes, or round worms. They had dug the ditches extra deep to try and eliminate this garden pest. Next week the garden will be completely overturned and replanted, He plans to plant the rows in rainbow arcs radiating away from the home so that the rows will no longer be noticed from the street.

All the Helvenston's want to do is use their property peacefully to grow their own food. Their front yard garden has become a battleground in a national debate.  Planting the garden changed the couples life because they now interact regularly with their neighbors. They spend most of their time in the garden stopping to talk to all the people coming by, which they love.  Who stops to talk to someone mowing a lawn? Having sketched the lush garden, I can say it is far more interesting than a lawn of grass. Americans spend an estimated $30 billion annually on lawn care with huge amounts of water and fertilizer wasted. If you have a sunny spot on your front lawn, consider planting your own Patriot Garden. Plant a seed, change the law.

- Analog Artist Digital World


Debo Boddiford said...

Inspiring sketch and story! I hope they soon win their battle...thanks for using your pen and brush to help fight injustice.

Lawrence Holmes said...

Love your sketch, and thank you for your story behind it. This Spring I will begin re-landscaping my front lawn to remove most of the grass. I will now incorporate herbs and vegetables. I have no idea what the city will say but we shall soon see.

matthew_c said...

Great post. At an average price of $600,000 for a single family home I'll never be able to afford a house in Victoria, but if I could I'd love to have a garden.
My Grandmother from Croatia had a huge garden on her double lot near Niagara Falls, with cherry and plum trees as well. She jarred the fruit and vegetables to put in a root cellar for use in the winter. Always excellent food at her house.

3eCheval said...

Different latitudes, same battles. A couple up here in Drummondville had to deal with the same nonsense, municipal regulations that ordered them to pluck the garden out. Where has the common sense gone ? Love the drawing and thanks for bringing attention to this issue. I would rather look at garden in front lawns then patches of green grass.

Murray Dewhurst said...

A law banning vegetable gardens is madness! I hope your fantastic sketch helps local government to think again.

Richard Sheppard said...

I tore up part of our front lawn a few years ago and planted lemon cucumbers. I didn't have any complaints but the thought had occurred to me. Then I ripped out a section of grass in my back yard and planted a veggie garden last year. Amazing veg! I'm expanding this year. people who plant grass should be the ones who get fined.