Garden battle: Quebec City woman told she can't grow veggies in her front yard

As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. A Quebec City woman believes her vegetable garden, which is on her front lawn, is a living work of art. Her neighbours believe the exact opposite.

Véronique Chapier has until Aug. 1 to comply with city's bylaws or will face fines

Véronique Chapier wants to grow vegetables on her front lawn, but her neighbours say her yard is a mess. (Cathy Senay/Radio-Canada)

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, they say, and a Quebec City woman believes her front-lawn vegetable garden is a living work of art.

But Véronique Chapier's neighbours don't quite agree with that assessment. And neither does the city, which has informed her that her garden breaks a number of bylaws.

Chapier, who lives in the Quebec City borough of Charlesbourg, has been growing vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes and asparagus on her front lawn for years.

Her backyard is shady so she can't grow certain plants she wants to back there, she explained.

Chapier said she likes to use her garden as a way to teach children and others about what it takes to grow food. She also considers it to be something of a community initiative.

"I went to get some lettuce that was ready and it wasn't here, and I was happy about that," she said.

Her neighbours, however, think her work of art is just a mess and complained to the city.

Chapier now has days to move her garden to the backyard or side of her house, or face fines. 

'Nothing aesthetic about it,' neighbour says

Two weeks ago, a city inspector informed Chapier that her garden breaks a number of rules, namely that:

  • The vegetable garden can't be on her front lawn.
  • Some plants are too tall and the landscaping is messy.
  • Some are planted beyond her property line.
  • There are wooden pallets and plastic containers on her lawn that constitute a nuisance.

Her neighbour Louisette Alain has reported the garden to the city once a year for the last three years. Alain says she has been trying to sell her house for two years and prospective buyers are put off by the garden.

She said she has no problem with it when it's maintained, but right now, "it's not a garden. There's nothing aesthetic about it."
Louisette Alain and Claude Aubut are Chapier's neighbours, and complained about her front-lawn vegetable garden to the city. (Radio-Canada)

Chapier's problem is reminiscent of a similar conflict from five years ago, when a Drummondville couple with a front-yard vegetable garden fought and succeeding in changing the city bylaw that prohibits the practice.

Such gardens are not allowed in Quebec City, Longueuil and Laval, but Montreal and Sherbrooke are OK with its residents growing food elsewhere than their backyards.

Chapier has already started moving her plants to the backyard and cleaning up. She has until Aug. 1 to finish the job, or her case could end up in court.

She said she is hoping the city will change the rules.

Marjorie Potvin, a spokesperson for the city, says though vegetable gardens at the front of residences are prohibited, they are tolerated as long as no one complains about them.

She said the city is looking into adopting a policy on urban agriculture, but there is no guarantee this issue will be part of it.

Based on a report by Radio-Canada's Cathy Senay