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Gardener fears citation after 'busybody neighbor' reports them to authorities: 'What do I do?'

"Everything in our yard serves a purpose."

"Everything in our yard serves a purpose."

Photo Credit: iStock

One Redditor got an alarming letter while in the middle of turning their yard into a food forest.

Food forests are an incredible way to maximize the usefulness of a green space while creating a healthy, balanced artificial ecosystem that enriches the soil and produces clean air. They combine plants of many different sizes, from full-sized fruit trees to ground cover, in an intentional way that allows each plant to support the others — and all of the plants produce food or other useful products like medicine.

Of course, that means having many different kinds of plants grow closely together and between trees, which isn't what most people in the Western world think of when they imagine farms and gardens. For this reason, food forests are often misunderstood, and some gardeners face pushback during the growing process.

"I am three years into building a permaculture/native plant garden in my corner lot," said this Pittsburgh Redditor. "Enter an unidentified busybody neighbor who complained to the city, which resulted in us getting our first citation, which states that our 'entire property is overgrown' with weeds. Which is 100% not the case."

The Redditor has a variety of useful plants, large and small. "I bought this house specifically to start my food forest and create an ecological safe haven," they said. "My garden is not the perfectly manicured garden of suburbia. And it's a huge work in progress — we put in a half dozen fruit trees over the last couple years that will take time to get established."

Nevertheless, their plants were not weeds, they said. "I was recently certified by the Audubon Society of Northwest Pennsylvania as a Backyard Habitat," the Redditor explained. "We do have some plants like goldenrod that might be seen as weeds, but are not, and are intentionally cultivated. … Everything in our yard serves a purpose."

After being cited for weeds, though, the Redditor feared having to abandon the project. "What do I do?" they asked.

"Contact the inspector and explain the situation," one Redditor suggested. "Give them the Audubon info and contact as well."

Ultimately, that's what the original poster did. In an update, they said, "The inspector replied to my email and clarified that the part about the entire property being overgrown is standard messaging. … He also agreed to take us out of violation."

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