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how to respond to City of Saint Paul damaging my permie garden  RSS feed

 
Kelly Rued
Posts: 40
Location: St. Paul, MN, USA
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We got a nasty surprise just in time to ruin our Independence Day BBQ. City of Saint Paul workers plowed through our permaculture garden with a string-trimmer on July 3, while we were at work.

They destroyed around $45 in plants (so mangled to the ground that they look like the whole shrub went through a chipper) and slashed/gouged over $300 in other plants, including at least 6 young fruit trees (all within inches of the ground so we can't even prune out the damage, just have to wait and see if disease takes hold from all the damage). Most personally upsetting was the cropping to the ground of a 16' wide row of blackberries that had fruit just starting to ripen. We won't be getting any blackberries this season, and can only hope the plants will recover (they were just planted last season). Most of this damage occurred in our backyard which is surrounded by wood privacy fence on 3 sides and a custom-built super heavy duty espalier framework on 1 side with 20 espaliered fruit trees (planted 2 years ago). Because of the arrangement of our lot, you would need to be in our yard or our direct neighbor's yard to even know we had a garden back there.

Were there some grass and "weeds" taller than 8"? Yes, though we don't have that much grass left, and right now the neighbor directly next to us has the exact same height (and mix) of weedy grass still blowing in the breeze on his front boulevard. They trimmed ours right up to the property line, leaving his equally-overgrown grass standing tall, though on our boulevard they had to go around the $150 of newly-planted junipers (and $42 of russian almond shrubs we planted 2 years ago). All of our neighbors have spent (from what I can see) close to $0 in the past 3 years on making their boulevard look nicer because it's all just grass (except the second house west of us where the entire yard and boulevard are planted day lilies and other clumping perennials and tall weeds).

Did they give us written notice? Yes, but we don't think it was sufficient notice to actually address the problem. The notice was dated 6/23 informing us that someone complained about grass and weeds taller than 8" on our property. It gave us 72 hours to weed everything before an inspector would come and authorize the city workers to come whenever (there was no report from the inspector or notice of when the city workers would come). Now, for someone who just has to pop out after work with a lawn mower and plow everything to the ground on a tiny city lot, this is probably a reasonable request, but we have a ton of raised beds and most of our paths/areas without plants are well under 3' in width. We MUST hand-trim and pull weeds. We don't use commercial herbicide for weed control. We don't use a mower, and we barely have any use for a string-trimmer due to the amount of planting we have done. Our focus is edibles and native plants to support beneficial wildlife, and we have invested well over $3000 in our garden since we moved here just 3 years ago.

A little background: I love the eastside. This house was a cat 2 vacant property that was formerly a rental and it took several months of work and tens of thousands of repairs before the city let me move in. It cost less than $40k (the typical home in our neighborhood is between $110 and $160k). We consider ourselves some of the "good guys" in the neighborhood for rehabbing a blighted property AND moving in (not flipping or renting) AND investing in long-term landscaping.

Also, I am a certified permaculture designer (the geoff lawton online course) and I plan to open my yard for community ed classes in the future (once we have finished installing everything, have mature systems to demo, and have tested/proven methods to share). I spend many hours every week, even in the winter, doing something for my garden, even if it's just research and planning. I am not neglecting my yard because I don't care, don't know any better, or am too lazy (though not that it matters under normal garden circumstances, I have a disability that limits my stamina so I can only do physical labor in shorter bursts, not all in one big marathon session).

There is actually good reason our weeds and edge areas are overgrown (yes, present tense, because the city workers spent so much time completely cutting down raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, leadplant, oikos less-sting stinging nettle, dandelion, white and red clover, borage, asters, milkweed, roses, strawberries, horseradish, and dozens of herbaceous natives we got from Prairie Moon Nursery last year, they had NO time to cut the actual, unwanted, volunteer weeds that are like 6' tall outside our fence in the back alley). Ironically, our garden time lately was spent building, staining, installing, and planting up over $600 in new raised cedar beds and trellises (this year's "infrastructure" upgrade, along with a new second set of deck stairs once we get the permit). We prioritized the raised beds over the weeds because we wanted to get the growies in early enough for a good harvest this fall. With this much work and expense, it really sucks to get a letter from the city scolding you for not making your neighborhood a better place.

I understand the ordinances, and read them ALL before planning our garden. I am not mad that someone reported us because it looked weedy and messy (it did, we were neck-deep in landscaping work until last weekend, now we only have the potato boxes to finish so we have time to catch up on the weeding and pruning chores). I'm not mad that we didn't hear back from the inspector or have any way of knowing when the work crew would come out. Their notice system is probably semi-automated and the inspector didn't even have get out of the car to see we still had tall weedy looking stuff all over. The $160/hour fee? Totally fair, this is a revenue source for the city and there is labor involved in enforcing these ordinances. I am into ecologically sound gardening but I'm not anti-government hippie, I think the ordinance and enforcement was basically a fair process up until the point they damaged a bunch of non-grass non-weeds.

What I don't understand is why they did SO MUCH damage to our garden. You can plainly see we are avid gardeners. There are raised beds and fruits and veggies everywhere. There are gardening supplies and baby fruit trees and a giant wood compost bin. When you see this and then see that even the areas AROUND the raised beds have non-grass flowering and fruiting plants everywhere (recognizable stuff like strawberries, borage, clover, tons of flowering native herbs), wouldn't you stop and think before you run a string-trimmer through everything willy-nilly? Whoever did this work could not even tell a 4' tall sprawling rose bush (with hot pink 4" wide roses still hanging on it) from grass/weeds. Can't recognize a 16' hedge of blackberries with flowers and fruit all over them. Can't see that 18" is not enough room to run a trimmer past a bunch of tiny espalier tree trunks without flaying the bark right off them, etc.

But what can I do? I don't want compensation, I just want changes so this doesn't happen again. I will pay any fine and I will do the work as fast as I can (and you can be damn sure I will not let the weeds get overgrown like this ever again), but now I am scared they will see us as a cash cow. The notice said that we are responsible for more fees for work authorized by inspectors without notice in the next 12 months (hinting they will recheck us until they catch something they can bill for again). How can I comply if they say "weeds" over 8" when almost everything they consider a weed is something I am cultivating on purpose? How can I comply if the dumb shits they send to do yard work can't ID a useful plant from grass and weeds even when the plants look nothing like grass and weeds. I mean they weed-wacked a 2x2 ' highbush cranberry shrub (with the huge maple-sized leaves) down until it was just a mangled twig sticking out of the ground (not even a leaf on it)... if they can mistake that plant for an overgrown weed, what can I do to protect all of my plants that don't look like the same dozen ornamentals all my neighbors have? I feel like most of my garden is at risk and the city can show up any time and just cut down anything because "weed" is so poorly defined.

Any ideas? I called and left a message for the contact listed on the initial notice. I will definitely get on top of the weeding so we hopefully don't attract more trouble, but I am now so scared because I feel like we are now "on the radar" and they will be stopping back looking for problems. I've seen the horror stories of other cities removing entire food gardens from people's front yards and don't think Saint Paul would ever be that backwards but what happened here and the amount of damages we suffered seems really disproportionate to any problems we caused our neighbors by having weedy grass (that is actually the same height as the neighbor next door's boulevard, which we photographed today next to our bald super-short city-trimmed boulevard edges).

I feel like there needs to be a variance or something for people who are gardening in a permaculture style (like the equivalent of a religious objection to complying with mandatory health care laws, I would like to make an ecological objection to complying with the expectation that our yard contain little more than trimmed grass and obvious ornamentals). I would gladly pay an annual permit fee for a Natural or Permaculture Garden (so inspectors could come check on me, if they were EDUCATED and could recognize what was actually growing here, not just see all non-ornamentals as weeds). I just don't want my valuable food plants damaged again (it doesn't just cost us money to replace it costs us yield/grocery $ because it will now take even more years before we get yields from anything that has to be replaced).
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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I know folks have had this same problem here in Phoenix. At one point, a woman from our guild put out a flyer for city workers so that they could identify wildflowers from "weeds" during wildflower season.

Your experience is extreme compared to other instances of this behavior I've heard of. If it was me, I'd:

--document the damage in photos
--document the non-mowed "weeds" left behind
--see if you can get in to speak with whomever is in charge
--explain very clearly what you are doing (emphasis on educational work and neighborhood benefits like no toxins, food production, etc - especially if this is a neighborhood that St. Paul wants to "rehabilitate") I would also let them know the benefits to the city - no toxins entering the air/water supply, etc.
--I personally would ask to be compensated for your trees, bushes and food plants.
--And I would ask them how I could comply in the future given that the notice you got and the damage done were to different plant groups entirely.

If you go through "channels" and don't get satisfaction - I would then appeal to a local news show to air your story. I think you would garner the sympathy of many as food gardening is very popular right now. You may have to be the yard that is the tipping point for how permaculture properties are treated in your area.

And I really can't believe they are allowed onto your personal property to do this "mowing" - wow.
 
Cj Sloane
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See if you can get the local newspaper or TV station to report on it. Especially if the neighbors properties look "weedy."
 
Kelly Rued
Posts: 40
Location: St. Paul, MN, USA
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Thanks for the advice, Jennifer. We took some pics right away but I was almost crying and we were also trying to get ready for a family 4th of July BBQ (we didn't notice the damage until Friday morning) so I need to get back out there with a notebook and check everything again. The damage $ totals were just from casual inspection and then looking at my receipt emails (almost all our plants were ordered online so it's really easy to search back and see what we paid for stuff).

I think you are right that I should request an in-person meeting so I can show them my permaculture design documents, my species list, my damage photos, and they can see I'm not just whining about the $160+ fee (like I imagine they hear all the time).

I'm starting to think what I really want to push for is less vague language in the ordinance/notices. The word weed is not specific enough. I think that it should be more specific about the types of plants you can't allow over 8" tall (and maybe the context, because it obviously didn't apply equally over the entire yard or neighborhood or they would have cut down all our weeds and those of the neighbors).

I also don't see where overgrown grass is such an emergency that they need to do the work a week after the inspection rather than giving the home owner a month to get everything tidied up and then recheck (and fine again, sounds like more revenue and less labor expense than how they do it now). When you have a tail light on your car (which is arguably a bigger public hazard than overgrown grass) the cops just ticket you and you have to get the light fixed (or risk getting ticketed every time another cop sees it's still broken). Nobody sneaks into your garage while you're away from home and fixes the light for you. I think inspecting/fining would be enough to pressure compliance.

Asking for compensation is a nice idea, but it's not something I would waste energy on. I want the system to be improved so we can both crack down on truly neglectful property owners (slum lords/absentee owners) while not burdening people who are just trying to live more sustainably and support local ecology by planting natives, edibles, and other less-than-tidy looking but very valuable plants.
 
John Elliott
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Take them to court!

That's the only thing that they will understand, when the City Attorney has to invest time and money into a case.

If you do it yourself (what the lawyers call 'In Pro Per' or 'Pro Se'), you won't have to be shoveling out money on the case, just your own time, but you can still be a pain in their side. Which is what you want to be. Think of it as advertising for the Permie cause. If people see what you are doing, you will get a reputation; reputations will bring new customers. If you don't think you can fight City Hall, you need to think like Ron Finley -- he took on City Hall and won:

 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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Kelly - do keep us posted on your progress and even document your trials here as you are not the first to go through this and you won't be the last.

When I think back on the progress of permaculture in Phoenix and Tucson, I note that all the good stuff - the water harvesting earthworks landscapes, the guerilla curb cuts for harvesting stormwater runoff, the understanding of weeds v. wildflowers, vegetable growing in front yards, chicken-keeping, greywater harvesting laws (don't even need a permit for most installs) and soon - legally permitted composting toilets in the city - all of these were once "illegal" and someone took the time to experiment and then challenge the perception of city stakeholders. And now, policies have changed! It's pretty awesome.

All this because someone(s) was able to put their case to the city entities in a way that illustrated the many benefits for the city, state or neighborhood. (less water use, cleaner air, less pollutants, yadda yadda).

I would also hook up with any local permaculture groups to see if they have had experiences similar to you and how they addressed the issue.

Best of luck - I'm cheering you on!
 
Kelly Rued
Posts: 40
Location: St. Paul, MN, USA
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Cj, I am a very private person so media circus would be extremely uncomfortable for me. I do really care about this issue though, so I will have to think about it.

The neighbors on this particular block have well-mowed lawns with the standard few Home Depot bought shrubs, arborvitae, hostas, daylilies, etc. hugging the house foundation, maybe a ring of decorative rocks around a tree here and there. There is a lady across the street who introduced herself to me as a Master Gardener, and her front yard looks the same as anyone else's with just the typical lawn bordered by a handful of low-maintenance perennials. I often see her "weeding" on weekends (walking around with a sun hat spraying Round-Up on dandelions in hers and the neighboring yard). But overall, it's not like we live in an upscale suburban HOA with amazing landscaping. Almost every block here has at least one rental property so overgrown grass at various times is not uncommon at all.

To put our neighborhood in perspective, when the home inspector came out to do the presale home inspection for us, he left his truck parked outside and ran some stuff into our place to set up, went back outside and his truck was gone. He had to do the police report and then finish our inspection. So... I'm not saying a super high crime area justifies us neglecting weeding for a few weeks, but given that I've got a neighbor selling weed 24/7 as their main family income... yeah, it is a little obnoxious that the city was so quick to come mess up our "weeds".

More than anything I came to permies today because I realized I just wanted to tell people who would understand how painful this was for us. We put so much hope and money and planning and positive energy into this garden because we really believe in permaculture. We are low income but thought it was IMPORTANT for us to do this, to make it more common to see this in our neighborhood, to take responsibility for our land and our place in the ecosystem here. It's just a bunch of plants, but it feels like we lost more. Security, freedom, something.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Kelly - you may or may not want to do this but if you DO go to the City, I would also mention that you are a person with a disability that makes it hard for you to do marathon weeding, etc. I have a disability as well where I must do things in short bursts. I actually kept a diary at one point after the City hassled me about trimming my Oleanders in the alley. I happened to be outside when the inspector came to put the citation on my door. I explained to her that not only did I have a vision disability (my eye was bandaged from my 3rd eye operation in as many months) but I had other limitations that would stop me from meeting their unreasonable deadline (for one thing - due to the nature of the eye surgery, I could not bend over for any significant period of time or lift anything heavier than 10 lbs for fear of damaging the scleral graft on my eye). When she gave me an extension of one day, I got a bit ticked off and sent the City a letter along with my "diary".

The City then extended the deadline a week. The real kicker came when I discovered it was not my oleanders that were the offending plants but my neighbors! Ugh.
 
wayne fajkus
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Either support from community outrage or a presence at city council meetings or both.

What is the definition of a weed. What is the process for arbitration If I get a summons. What is the time frame from notice to compliance? How do you determine a weed vs a shrub. Are the people doing the cutting capable of making that decision? If not, why are you allowing non qualified people onto my proprty, etc. Create enough red tape that the process is slowed down dramatically.

You are probably better off paying the $160 as you intend to do. Not doing it usually puts a lien on your property which can turn into a mess down the road if sold or inherited.
 
D. Logan
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If I had to make a guess, your 'Master Gardener' is the culprit behind your plight. Seeing herself as being so good at the craft, anyone who does differently is probably seen as encouraging weeds. Add to that the fact she is spraying someone else's lawn (I would be throwing fits over that if it were my lawn) says she is highly concerned about other people's business and also that she expects what is in the other person's yard to end in her yard (not entirely false given the mobility of dandelions), so seeing what she doesn't understand in your yard probably screams dangerous weeds to her. Then again, it might have been someone who never says a word to you. I am really sorry you have to deal with this regardless.

Whoever was sent out to deal with your yard had no gardening experience probably. They mow lawns and trim hedges down, but that is probably most of what they know unless it was a common flower. When I worked with a tree-trimming company, I was floored by how little my co-workers knew about the trees they were cutting down. Most of them couldn't identify more than one or two trees, they couldn't tell you growth patterns or how tall the tree would get. All they knew was to cut a big circle around power lines and if it leaned to cut the whole tree down. Don't even get me started on the 'weed spraying' along roadsides. Ugh.

The city and the workers in it are often just average people going by what they have been told. Someone calls in to complain about weeds. Eventually a worker is sent out to glance over the yard. If it looks like anything but flat grass, they check a little box that says yes it is weedy. That form then gets processed and city maint. workers get called in to 'cut the weeds' in <insert specific yard> and so they go to the house in question. They probably only recognize traditional gardening and laws, so they see a bunch of brambles (your berries), 'weedy' trees, and random plants they don't recognize as decorative, so they just go in and chop out anything unfamiliar. They don't touch the lawn next to you that has real weeds because that isn't where they were told to go and they only get paid for doing the job they are told to do. They don't do the alley because that isn't part of your lawn. Satisfied that it is now somewhat level and made ugly enough that they expect you will go in and finish anything they missed, they leave. Report is filed as job done and that is that. Through the whole thing, the same person never sees your lawn twice and the ones who do are almost certainly unfamiliar with anything that isn't typical suburbia. Don't expect a lot of helpful responses on the lower rungs of the ladder. They will just repeat what they are told to repeat (albeit nicely enough most likely) about how the city maintains certain standards. Eventually you get moved to talk to a manager who then gives you someone to call or send a letter to. With enough time (and sometimes media pressure) you get someone who you can talk to at length and show what you were working with. That is when things start to happen in your favor. Persistence is going to be vital, so don't get flustered when the ball starts rolling slowly. Never once is anyone involved trying to be malicious. They are all just doing what they know and working with the understandings they have.

Did you happen to have good pictures of the food systems in place prior to the butchering of your yard? Having pictures of what you were working on as you explain it can be a huge help when you start talking to the right people. Also having a planting map of your yard to show what you were doing can go a long way.
 
Ann Torrence
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Complain loudly to the neighbor who you suspect turned you in about how much damage they caused, if you can do so without even suggesting she had anything to do with it. Anyone who claims to be a master gardener would be appalled.

I'd start communicating in email to the person in charge of the work crew, who obviously needs to do more training with the staff. Also keep your city council representative apprised. One of their jobs is to advocate for the citizens in their district when dealing with the bureaucracy.

Then I'd probably put up a for sale sign, but that's me. This could be a long fight and that's not my thing.

PS. Take your original post and shorten it by two thirds as the basis of your first email. Government people get bogged down by too many words. Own responsibility for the weeds, but the grounds people who can't tell a blackberry from a dandelion aren't welcome back.
 
Ben Stallings
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Kelly, I respect that you are a private person, but this screams out for a viral video. Failing that, a City Pages exposé.

IMO the only way to keep this from happening again is to educate the people who actually enforce the mow orders, and you'll have to get to them through their managers, and that will take some degree of public outrage and/or bad press.

Good luck! For my part, your story is going straight on my Facebook page.
 
Terri Matthews
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What I did was to get the weeds cut, and then call them and have them re-check the yard. I also pointed out that I had peonys and and a rectangle of vegetables under the electric wires, as well as a second vegetable garden, (because I did not trust them to know the difference between a peony and a weed! People who deal mostly with buildings do not necessarily know plants(!

Then I called again a few days later to ask if I had passed. Because I was terrified they would do in my yard what they did in yours.

Man, NEVER put off a written notice from the city!

I got one notice about the "abandoned building" in my yard and it was a greenhouse! I had taken the top off because it is too hot inside in the summer. It was full of strawberries and onions but an inspector could not have identified the plants from the sidewalk: from that distance all he could see was a building with no roof! (I also had a permit for the greenhouse. But he did not realize that it was a greenhouse)

 
John Polk
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It is a shame that so many city employees will just blindly follow their orders, regardless of the outcome.

I feel that you do need to go to the city and talk to somebody if you do not want this to happen again. You are now on their radar, and they will most likely reappear to do a follow-up inspection. Who to talk to? Well, I would probably start with the person who signed the violation notice. And if you are told that he/she is not in the office right now, then ask for his/her supervisor - go up the ladder, not down. Don't let yourself be directed to somebody who has no decision making authority. You need action to be taken.

I would go well armed. And I do not mean to carry an assault rifle. I mean, have your facts in order, know what you are talking about. Read the city's ordinances regarding this, so that they cannot throw you any curve balls. Take copies of any receipts you have for anything you have spent money on for outside the house. This demonstrates that you are acting in good faith (and establishes a liability on their part).

Another part of your 'arsenal' would be your state's list of noxious weeds.
See: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/plants/badplants/~/media/Files/plants/weeds/noxiouslists.pdf
Are any of your destroyed plants on this list?
Even if they were, the city has destroyed the evidence, so you could still claim "I have none of those on my property".

To add insult to injury, you could also carry a copy of this 54 page handbook the state publishes to identify noxious weeds. Having this in your possession indicates that you know more about the problem than their weed whackers do.
http://www.dot.state.mn.us/roadsides/vegetation/pdf/noxiousweeds.pdf

 
Russell Olson
Posts: 184
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Sorry to hear about your damage.

I think a call to the city would be good to try and get more info on the situation.
I definitely would have been on the phone the second I got that notice though. The city workers don't know/care about what you have planted, especially if it's not a classic looking garden. They've probably had experience with wild raspberries/roses/elderberries etc being a part of overgrown lots.

I have a few ideas/thoughts:
Definitely contact the city to clarify the situation, St. Paul has a habit of doing this to native gardens/grasses. i remember a high profile case of them whipping a whole yard of some highly manicured decorative native grass, simply because the owner didn't communicate what he was doing.
Let them know you are growing food for yourself and neighborhood, they'll probably ask you keep it neater, you can either abide by that or try to educate a city admin who likely doesn't care. Call again and again if you get another notice, they'll do it again I'm sure.

Maybe throw in some paths, timbers, even garden signs that your neighbors can relate to. Your master gardener across the way believes beauty is a weedless lawn and pristine woodchipped flower beds, and you're not going to convince her otherwise(my in laws are the same way)
Put a wooden painted tomato/cucumber/squash, or small signs indicating what's planted nearby and you might appeal to the organic homegrown food movement that definitely is popular in Minnesota these days. Food gardens are probably more easily forgiven for being weedy to these types IMO.

Lastly, I'd bet your garden will recover better than you think, though it will take time. I've had massive injuries/dieback to some of my beloved fruit trees, etc. if the roots are happy and thriving, they have a good shot at popping back. I've had blueberries, pears, chestnuts, paw paws, kiwi, apples, and even a jujube look dead and grow several feet by the end of the summer.
Good luck,
ERO
 
Leslie Kaup
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Location: Minnesota z4b
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Kelly, I'm so sorry to hear that this happened. I had a very similar experience, 3 or 4 years ago, in the city of South St. Paul. We never received a letter from the city. We were out of town, got a call from a relative asking about why we cut down all the gardens in our front yard, and raced back to see it. We immediately called the city, and had two city employees meet us at the house to view the damage. Apparently, they had sent a letter telling us to mow the lawn, we didn't receive it, and so they sent out one of their mowing contractors to "mow the lawn". (My partner spoke to this contractor on the phone, trying to figure out what happened, and the contractor swore repeatedly and loudly, eventually hanging up on him, but not before admitting that he cut down our gardens.) But instead, he took the string trimmer, used it at an angle, and mowed down shrubs and perennials, many below the crown and so they didn't survive. Rhubarb, rhododendrons, horseradish, mint, willows, echinacea, raspberries, elderberries, hostas, lily of the valley, and dozens more were slashed to the ground. He even cut down the few veggies I had planted in a small raised bed in the back yard, which was shielded by privacy fences. Very little grew back. (A notable exception was the horseradish, which actually spread around the yard more. . .)
We carefully documented all the species and their retail value, took tons of pictures, then studied the ordinance, and realized they had made a mistake: the letter they claim to have sent was supposed to be by registered mail or served in person, and instead was just sent as regular mail. The person in charge of mailing admitted this. Also, the contractor was only supposed to cut the grass.
We never had to attend a city council meeting, but we eventually (one year later) were compensated for the cost of (some of) the plants. In addition to this compensation, the person who destroyed our gardens lost his contract with the city, and they changed the ordinance so that registered letters were no longer needed. This last is not a change for the better.
The next spring, we sheet mulched our entire front yard, leaving only perennials, so this couldn't happen again. I know that the neighbors still hate our yard, but at least they can no longer complain that the grass is too long.
 
leila hamaya
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i'm so sorry to hear about this, that you have to go through this. its not right, but this story is familiar to me unfortunately, i have known others having to go through this same thing. and its true these ways are so unfair.

at the very least perhaps you can take some comfort in your gardening methods, with the lists of plants you mentioned it seems likely to me that most of them will come back and maybe even be more resilient! i know your blackberries, most of the berries, and the roses will return, and most everything else you listed has a good chance of coming back after the major cut down.

i once had some really malicious people totally destroy some of my gardening efforts, not quite the same but i felt really bothered by it. afterwards though i got to think of it...kinda like how i think about when the deer or other animals come along...and eat and damage the plants and young trees. you know afterwards when they spring back i think how they are more deer proof or animal proof, and that after i had that garden cut down and come back so well...i figured my garden was also a$$hole proofed! ah silly human animals, we can be so destructive unfortunately.
 
Zach Muller
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Posts: 778
Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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This is a very familiar occurrence around here in ok. Cities seem to love throwing tax dollars at firing up mowers, string trimmers, and poison sprayers. I have had complaints filed for my weedy lawns and general overgrowth multiple times in the past. It angers me so deeply that I can be frightening if people start exerting control over my plants.

One thing I have done as a precaution is registering my property as a wild life refuge with the NWF. I am sure the city would not check with the registry before destroying plants, but if you put up a sign that says you have a certified wildlife area it could ward off some unwanted attention from ignorant neighbors. Plus I figure that if the city does destroy my plants the certification could be used as evidence that I am really trying to care for the environment, rather than just letting my lawn go and being a nuisance.
These ideas are untested since my neighbors have been minding their own business as of late, and no tax paid city goons have been interloping in my landscaping affairs.
My heart goes out to you, hopefully you can find peace, and grow food.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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Zach - good point on the NWF registration - my property is registered too! This seems to provoke interest in what I'm doing and deflect problems.

 
Jen Van
Posts: 48
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I am really very sorry for your trouble! It is one reason why I have not done too much to our front yard here in Minnetonka! I am not sure what you should specifically do but I encourage you to visit with the city officials and educate them about your goals and beliefs. It will help all of us here--in and around the Twin Cities--by bringing light to an alternative way of creating and growing our communities! I support you! Jenny
 
D. Logan
gardener
Posts: 587
Location: Soutwest Ohio
100
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How have things been progressing on this? I read an article about similar situations where cities were changing laws to allow for food production in yards after facing legal troubles for their actions and it made me think of this again. Has there been anything that could be called forward movement?
 
Amy Kru
Posts: 1
Location: Minneapolis & McGregor Minnesota
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When my friend gets these notices from the city about her overgrown plants in the alley next to her garage she calls her alderman and says they are part of her religious practice and asks him to call off the hounds. It works every year.
 
robert e morgan
Posts: 35
Location: ne kansas
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im reading your tale of woe for the first time . in the county just south the local ditch maintaniers sprayed roundup or some kind of brush killer. the drift killed many acres of newly planted grapes . when the lawsuit was done they recovered many thousands of $ now all you need to do is place a sign along the road with 2 words
NO SPRAY these local nits only understand one thing money. i suspect you could have found an attorney to take them on.
 
Elizabeth Karre
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This topic just came up on the Facebook group Saint Paul Perennial Exchange (this is actually just a general gardening group now) because someone in the group got a notice. Someone else posted a link to your story. Many of us are horrified and talking about action. Come join the discussion!
 
The only taste of success some people get is to take a bite out of you. Or this tiny ad:
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https://permies.com/wiki/48625/digital-market/digital-market/Mike-Oehler-Cost-Underground-House
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