‘We can’t do this on our own land’

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A gardener in Virginia was left heartbroken after the city council removed fruiting trees and bushes from their property.

Tim Saunders told WFXR that a code enforcement officer issued a warning for him to remove weeds and trash from his garden. 

While Saunders noted he had an upturned yard chair and a bucket in the area, there was also “a bunch of vegetation, a lot of trees and perennials that were hibernating” that were mistaken for weeds.

With that, Saunders cleared up the debris but left the flora, which included two pear trees, blackberry bushes, and medicinal plants, all of which he harvested. 

But the city officials still weren’t satisfied, and in February, he received a phone call from his mother telling him a crew had arrived to cut down the bushes and trees.

“If people want to grow food and try to provide for their families, that should be a pretty simple thing for a citizen to do,” he told WFXR. “If we can’t do this on our own land, especially when times are tough and food is more expensive, then where can we do this?”

Saunders began growing the fruit trees in 2014, and by the time they were ripped out, he estimated that they would have been worth around $1,000. 

“Mismanagement in government bureaucracy comes in two varieties: incompetence and malice,” one Redditor commenting on the story said. “Both are native and invasive.”

“I think the glaring issue here is that the city puts people in charge of departments that have no experience or education in what they’re claiming oversight of,” another added

It’s not the only example of officials tearing up gardens they deem overgrown or unsightly. One person under an HOA was similarly distraught after the community organization contracted a landscaping company to rip up a garden that was growing cabbages, tomatoes, and herbs because it didn’t follow the HOA’s rules. 

Even though this garden would have been a money-saver — much like Saunders’ plot — the HOA was more intent on keeping the area’s lawns up to unreasonable standards despite monoculture lawns typically being worse for the environment. 

Although it won’t help to bring back the plants these folks lost, speaking to a council or local HOA might help to change perceptions on what constitutes a healthy garden.

Native plants, for example, don’t require as much maintenance as monoculture lawns, encourage biodiversity, and are better equipped to deal with flooding. Even though they may look overgrown to the untrained eye, they could be far more beneficial for the community.

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