Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Fighting over front yard gardens, wild native plants, and you

You may recall the fight between two gardeners and the Village of Miami Shores in 2016[1]. The two gardeners were growing vegetables in their front yard which violated the Village's zoning code Sec. 536 (5): "Vegetable gardens are permitted in rear yards only."[2]

The case almost made it to the Florida Supreme Court[3] but the justices refused to hear it[4]. They were represented by attorney Ari Bargill of the non-profit Institute for Justice[5]. Florida State Senator Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island) has taken up their cause this session, filing SB 82: Vegetable Gardens last week.

Relevance to Native Plant Enthusiasts

Ordinances restricting gardens in front yards reflect a reliance on outdated standards of landscaping that favor manicured green lawns that are ecologically sterile and provide little habitat for native bees, butterflies, and birds.  Ordinances and zoning codes restricting ecologically or nutritionally beneficial landscaping are often justified by "aesthetics", intimating that growing plants in your front yard for anything other than their ornamental value can be restricted by overzealous local governments.

Many of our members are native plant enthusiasts and grow native plants in their front yards to benefit native pollinators and birds as we, Xerces Society[6], and National Audubon Society[7] recommend to address our worldwide invertebrate decline[8][9]. Restricting the cultivation of plants in front of a house to those that serve no purpose other than to decorate is regressive. This arbitrary restriction enforces harmful norms that equate high property values with expensive, lifeless lawns that provide no food for people or pollinators.

Further research

Many of the least-protected plants in the world are not listed as threatened or endangered and are used for food, according to a new study published in the journal Ecological Indicators. Most food crops grown in Florida are not native, however, there are numerous wild plant species that are foraged for food, fiber, medicine, and decoration here in Florida and throughout the US and the world[10].

Growing heirloom vegetables and herbs that are suited to your area contributes to crop biodiversity, particularly if you save your seeds and replant them the next season. Additionally, growing native plants that are the wild relatives of crop plants maintains that important biodiversity that is highly sought-out when breeding disease resistance into domesticated food crops.

Conclusion

Local governments are currently allowed to restrict your ability to grow useful plants in your front yard. Senator Rob Bradley's bill would prevent local governments from restricting your right to grow edible plants in your front yard. If you support the premise of this bill, you can thank Senator Bradley and contact the Senators that represent you to encourage this bill through to the Governor's desk.

[1] Ovalle, David. 2016. Court upholds Miami Shores ban on veggie gardens. Miami Herald.
[2] Miami Shores Village, FL Zoning Code. Accessed 2018-11-27
[3] Fox35Orlando Staff. 2017. Supreme Court asked to rule on front yard garden ban. Accessed 2018-11-27.
[4] News Service of Florida. 2018. Florida Supreme Court turns down Miami-Dade vegetable garden case. Accessed 2018-11-27
[5] Institute for Justice. 2017. Florida Appellate Court Upholds Ban on Front-Yard Vegetable Gardens. Accessed 2018-11-27.
[6] Xerces Society. Bring Back the Pollinators Campaign. Accessed 2018-11-27.
[7] Krupp, Lexi. 2018. Yards With Non-Native Plants Create 'Food Deserts' for Bugs and Birds. National Audubon Society.
[8] Schwagerl, Christian. 2016. What's Causing the Sharp Decline in Insects, and Why It Matters. Yale Environment 360.
[9] Marchese, Halle and van Hoose, Natalie. 2018. Florida monarch butterfly populations have dropped 80 percent since 2005. Florida Museum.
[10] Mattson, Sean. 2018. Wild coffee plants, Christmas trees and chocolate's tree are surprisingly poorly protected. CIAT.

by Valerie Anderson, Director of Communications and Programming

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