Warmer weather is finally here, and many homeowners are getting into their annual lawn care and maintenance routines. Could that include gardening in your community? Check with your HOA management and neighbors.

If you live in a traditional community association, chances are you have dealt with its rules and regulations. While the goal of any association is to protect the value of your land by enforcing the rules, sometimes those rules can seem a bit unfair to those who like to grow their own food. Some communities limit gardening to back or side yards only, while others prohibit it altogether. (Of course, if you’re lucky, your HOA may not have any limits on growing edibles.)

 

Before you plan or plant your garden, here are five things to consider:

Find out what’s allowed.

Your first step to co-existing peacefully with both your neighborhood and the HOA is to know what regulations you’re expected to abide by. Read all bylaws, covenants, and deeds. These can sometimes be found in your mortgage documents, or you may request a copy from your HOA. In addition, most associations now post these documents online. If you are considering a move to a new neighborhood with an HOA, ask for a copy of the bylaws before you commit, so you’ll know what you’re getting into.

Know your limits.

If you’re new to the community, find out how strict your association is by asking neighbors how the bylaws are enforced. If you overstep your boundaries, will you be charged a costly fine or just receive a courtesy call? Some HOAs are relatively laid-back and might consider making changes to existing laws. Others, however, are stricter and may even have the power to foreclose on a home.

Bond with your neighbors in a positive way.

If the bylaws prohibit your gardening the way you would like, find out which neighbors share your point of view. Appeal to fellow would-be gardeners, yes, but also those who simply seem friendly and reasonable. They may be willing to back you up if you decide to lobby for a rule change. (The easiest way to educate and inspire? Share your bounty, of course!)

Get creative with your gardening.

Of course, you want to abide by your HOA’s regulations. But perhaps you can look for creative methods to use your green thumb!

  • Replace declining shrubs with ornamental edibles like blueberries and rosemary.
  • Add flowering trees such as crabapples and cherries.
  • Replace annuals with peppers or kale, depending on the season.
  • Line walks and paths with a fragrant, beautiful herbs such as parsley, dill, and lavender.
  • Train tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers and other willing-to-climb veggies on trellises painted to match your home’s trim. Nestle them among sunny perennials and shrubs to add interest and texture.
  • Get creative with containers. Pair Swiss chard with pansies, mint with marigolds. Fill hanging baskets with strawberries rather than geraniums.
  • Go above and beyond the call of duty to keep the yard looking great always.

Be an agent for change.

Document your process and make note of what worked and what didn’t. Take photos, keep records of yields donated to neighbors and churches, and be ready to show others how to do it themselves. When the time comes to review bylaws, you’ll have smart ammunition to build a “growing” case for gardening with an HOA.

Consider a community garden.

Community gardens have become extremely popular in recent years, and the benefits are obvious. Many HOAs have designated areas to use under-utilized spaces in a beautiful and productive way. Community gardens provide fresh products and plants as well as contributing to a sense of community and connection to the environment and an opportunity for satisfying neighborhood improvement.