Natural Landscaping and City Codes (with Edible Weeds Fish Tacos Recipe)

Reader Contribution by Blythe Pelham
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I was removing the pervasive field bindweed from my garden in a meditative zen sort of way during the early morning hours. I looked up to see a fellow villager strolling along with her daughter. We smiled, greeted one another, and then I asked her a simple question. I spread my hands wide and queried, “Do you think this is ugly?”

Without pause, she responded, “No. But I know that you’re doing that natural landscaping thing.”

I have no idea who this neighbor is. However, I got the sense that she knows about the vision I have for my yard from whatever scuttlebutt is going through our wee town. You see, the Council has once again decided that I need to return to compliance. My grass is too tall and I have noxious weeds on my property.

If you’ve poked around my home website or you’ve known me more than a couple of years, you likely know about my travails with our local village and our lawn mowing.

City Codes and Lawn Care

Quick snapshot of the situation: My husband and I wanted to take a more active role in helping out the planet 2 years ago, so we decided to purposely mow less yard. We planned out pathways through the lawn with new beds in place and more beds and vignettes planned, then let the rest grow.

Ohio had, at that time, a limit of 12 inches on the height of lawn in any municipality that adopted their code or didn’t otherwise amend it to their own desires. Our village adopts the Ohio Revised Code, as is, each year when it is revised. Municipalities can choose their own height. Parma, Ohio, sets a height of 6 inches.

Anyone who knows healthy lawn maintenance will tell you that that length borders on absurd and unreasonable because the grass is measured from the base. We maintain our healthy, mowed sections of lawn at about 4 inches. Most folks mow much shorter and end up with brown lawns by summer’s end.

This month, while at the council meeting, I was informed that we were going to have to both mow and remove all noxious weeds from our yard. Last year, we were able to maintain our garden as we wished, and it was glorious to spend time in this intentionally created sanctuary each and every day.

A Humble, Natural-Landscaping Request

I’ll get to a dinner recipe in a moment. First, my humble request.

I assume that most MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers know and understand the concept of natural landscaping. If you don’t, read up on it a little — it’s a fascinating subject. There are plenty of sites and links on the internet. There are also a growing number of books on the subject (which includes de-lawning). My Humble Request: Please don’t keep this understandable and sustainable way of gardening to yourself. Share your knowledge with others.

If you are like me, you have family members who follow more traditional routines of yard maintenance. They may be like my Council, typical Midwesterners who love a great expanse of mowed lawn. I understand that they can’t comprehend how my garden is sacred to me — very literally my church. However, I can’t help but think that if more of you, dear readers, would share these ideas with friends and relatives — if that neighbor who understood my concept of gardening did the same — perhaps our powers-that-be might come to know that this isn’t one strange member of their community but a growing movement around the world.

My land is a very spiritual place to me. I am one with it. The wildlife sharing this little patch are my family. I talk to the spiders, birds, insects, and plants — we nurture each other. For cryin’ in a bucket (as Ohio-born in-laws used to say), I’ve actually been feeling the vibrations in some of the plants over the past few days. But, I’m different and so is my yard.

My Council members only see what they want to see and have no tolerance for my “oddball” choices because, you know, they’re ugly. Judge for yourself, I’ve created a video. It’s a quick 5-minute walkabout.

Regardless of what anyone else thinks, I have an intimate and spiritual connection with my garden and will continue to do so no matter what they believe. The question is how much healing my land and I will continue to have to do. I have a feeling if they heard from enough of their friends and relatives — felt just a little pushback — they might start to see there are more ways than theirs.

On with the food!

Noxious Weeds Fish Tacos Recipe

Beside throwing plantain leaves (one of those aforementioned noxious weeds) in my smoothie each morning because I’m still battling poison ivy, I added some to my fish taco for dinner. I also added some noxious, chopped curly dock leaf — it added a delightful zing of bitterness.

I highly recommend that you acquaint yourselves with any plant and its attributes (or dangers) before adding it to your menu. We don’t want any accidental poisonings!


• Corn tortillas
• Tilapia, poached in olive oil and garlic
• Tomato, chopped and seeded
• Red bell pepper, chopped and seeded
• Cabbage, thinly sliced)
• Carrot, grated
• Zucchini, finely grated
• Fresh lime, quartered for juicing
• Topping, chopped: plantain leaf, cilantro, flat parsley, basil, curly dock leaf


1. Prepare all ingredients (see photo above).

2. Warm tortillas and layer in a foil pouch to keep warm. Serve.

3. Build your taco as desired. I loved the lime juice dousing all the ingredients.

My meal was excellent paired with the mild bitterness of Lagunitas Lucky 13 Ale. Because my husband can’t wrap his head around fish tacos, I fried him up a filet of panko-breaded catfish with sides of two different deli potato salads. He said his dinner was scrumptious and called it his Ohio Fish Taco. I’m more than content to stick with my divine noxious weeds.

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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