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More Useful Tips for Avoiding Jail Time While Vegetable Gardening Your Front Yard

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Last week I wrote in reference to the post on our sister blog, Eat Drink Better, about the Michigan woman who is being threatened with financial penalties and jail time for daring to grow vegetables in her own front yard. Editor Becky Striepe recently posted an update, and apparently urban gardener Julie Bass is still not off the hook while the prosecutor reviews the ordinance.

Therefore, I think more useful tips are called for to help those stubborn gardeners who insist on growing vegetables where impressionable small children risk being exposed to them, namely, in their front yards. But why is growing your own food a criminal enterprise?

I am privileged to live in a city where shamelessly flaunting veggies in my front yard is considered progressive, or at least not punishable by law. A bold display like this one below in the wrong city would have me doin’ time before I could finish picking my string beans:

Warning: this could lead to criminal charges: beans, squashes and tomatoes

So while you are waiting for the laws to change I suggest a more covert approach with lovely edible beans that could pass for ornamental vines: behold the Italian Butter Bean. This vigorous climbing bean is actually a runner bean, Phaseolus coccineus, and like the Scarlet Runner Bean it has lovely showy flowers, and will reemerge in Spring from its tuberous roots.

Italian Butter Beans have abundant snow white flowers

I’m partial to vining plants that can be showcased on a trellis, and climbing beans do very well grown this way. The bean pods are also easy to harvest on a trellised plant. And when the bean pods form you can always pretend to be surprised: “oh my, look at that, I wonder if they’re edible?!”

They certainly are edible; Italian Butter beans are a gourmet dry bean and are similar to Cannellini beans. Just let the pods mature and dry on the vine, then harvest the dry pods and shell the beans to store in a jar in a cool dry place. You can also try them freshly shelled, when the beans have plumped but the pod is still green.

A colorful front-yard harvest: tricolor string beans, ripe strawberries and cherry tomatoes

Another favorite I’m growing in my front yard this Summer are colorful string beans. The purple and yellow beans pictured above are bush beans, and I’ll bet they could pass the “suitable plant” test for your front yard. Try planting some among your strawberry plants, and I challenge anyone to accuse you of planting unsightly vegetables!

The beautiful bush bean, Purple Queen could pass as an ornamental plant

Here is another perfectly attractive flowering herb to enjoy for its beauty and to use in your bean dishes, Silver Thyme. You’ll want to plant several throughout your garden for the delicate silvery foliage and true thyme flavor for your vegetable dishes.

Flowering Silver Thyme has pretty, delicate foliage and great flavor

I find it disgraceful that our near-magical crop plants, which offer up nutritious gorgeous fresh food, are something we are supposed to hide. Instead, we should be teaching our children by example that food plants are to be propagated, cherished and celebrated. Our lives and our very future depend upon them.

Urban Artichoke’s garden is part of the Fifth Annual Edible Landscaping Tour, a self guided tour of ten home gardens this Saturday, July 23d.  This event is a benefit for Common Ground Organic Garden Supply and Education Center.

Photos: Urban Artichoke
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