Green Arm of the Law: Common Garden Bylaws
If you live in a populated area and want to begin a garden, there are a number of things to consider before you start, including your local bylaws. Heather Rhoades highlights common municipal laws implemented to keep gardens agreeable between neighbors.
As the population grows and more people live closer together, there has been an increase in the number of garden laws in cities and localities. A gardening law can cause your best laid plans to go head-to-head with local law enforcement, so it is important that you check to see if your locality has any laws that affect your yard. Below, we have listed some common garden and yard care laws.
Fences and hedges – Among the more common urban garden ordinances are ones regulating how high a fence or hedge can be. Sometimes, fences and hedges can be banned altogether, particularly in terms of the front yard or street facing yards. Garden boxes must also be a certain distance from the sidewalk in most municipalities.
Length of grass – If you have dreamed of having a wildflower meadow instead of a lawn, this is one gardening law you need to pay attention to. Most areas forbid grass being over a certain height. Many legal cases have resulted from cities mowing down a meadow yard.
Watering requirements – Depending on where you live, the yard care laws may forbid or require certain kinds of watering. Typically, where water is scarce, it is forbidden to water lawns and plants. In other areas, you can be fined for letting your lawn turn brown from lack of watering. Before filling a rain barrel, check to see if they are allowed. The last thing you want is for a full barrel to tip over and flood your neighbor’s basement.
Hell strips – Hell strips are the sections of land between the street and the sidewalk. This hard to tend purgatory land belongs to the city by law, but you are required to keep it maintained. Trees, shrubs and other plants put in these areas by the city are your responsibility to care for, but you normally do not have the right to damage or remove these plants.
Birds – Many people do not realize that most areas forbid disturbing or killing wild birds. Most areas even have laws restricting caring for these birds, even if they are injured. If you find an injured wild bird in your yard, call a local wildlife agency to come get the bird. Do not move or disturb nests, eggs or fledglings.
Weeds – Urban garden ordinances often forbid growing noxious or invasive weeds, either knowingly or unknowingly. These weeds change from area to area depending on your climate and conditions.
Animals – Other common urban garden ordinances apply to farm animals. While it might be a nice idea to keep a few chickens or a goat, this may be forbidden under many cities’ garden laws.
Compost piles – Many gardeners keep compost piles in their backyard and almost as many cities have a gardening law about how those piles should be maintained. Some areas ban these beneficial garden aids all together.
No matter where you live, if you have a neighbor within throwing distance of your house, chances are there are garden laws and yard care laws that apply to your garden and yard. Checking with the local city or town hall will make you more familiar with these laws and help you to stay in compliance with them.