Urban Gardens Legislation

Urban gardens can provide great benefits for those who participate and for the community at large. Over the past few years, the concept has captured increasingly wide attention. For some, it has grown from a hobby to a passion. However, there are community-related concerns that local governments may need to address in order to keep them becoming nuisances to neighbors.

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The rising interest in urban gardening

Mention the word “garden” in an urban area and most people are immediately going to think of flowers, not eggplants. But in recent years, particularly since 2020, a rising number of urban dwellers have developed an interest – and even a passion – for growing their own fruits and vegetables.

With the supply chain issues of the pandemic where some food items became very difficult to get, including poultry, milk, corn, pickles, and canned soups, people began thinking about how to be more self-sustainable. Tomato plants, cucumber patches, rows of corn stalks, and other fruit and vegetable plants started showing up in backyards and driveways or as community gardens worked by a group of neighbors. Suburban and city residents had discovered their inner farmers and a trend for more urban agriculture took root.

How does your garden grow? And is it legal?

What many backyard farmers (or “urban homesteaders”) have found out, however, is that how they use their properties isn’t entirely up to personal preference. Even if the area they live in isn’t regulated by a homeowners association, most cities and towns have ordinances in place that apply to gardens (vegetable and flower).

These laws and zoning ordinances may limit where a garden can be located, how it’s designed, what structures are allowable, what odors are considered intolerable, and even what attire they’re allowed to wear while working their pepper patch.

Encouraging benefits without the nuisances

There’s no question that urban gardens bring a bounty of benefits. Studies have shown that locally grown food promotes healthier eating, supports the economy, and helps protect the environment. And when “community gardens” are cultivated, they can, among other things, bring neighbors together, reduce areas known as “food deserts,” and make productive use of vacant lots.

And when municipalities legislate with these advantages in mind, urban gardening can be safe, healthy, and economically favorable. A review of current ordinances can be helpful to achieving positive results. Property maintenance and brush, grass and weeds regulations could be hindering your community from realizing the benefits of urban gardening by restricting certain plants or applying deterring zoning regulations. An editorial and legal analysis can identify these issues in a municipal code and make it easier to enact legislative changes.

Useful examples of urban gardens legislation from the eCode360® Library

If your community is interested in legislating or updating ordinances that regulate urban gardens, here are some useful examples that can be found in our eCode360 Library:

Updating your municipal code is vitally important

Submit your code updates as soon as possible and ensure constituents and local government officials are always referencing and working with the most up-to-date resources. Make it part of your Board meeting close-out process to send your adopted legislative changes to General Code when everything from that meeting is already right at hand.

Clients can easily send legislation to [email protected]. For tips that will allow us to process your code updates most efficiently, click here.

Best practices for managing your codification budget

Many of our client communities find it helpful to be on a code update schedule to help manage their budgets throughout the year. Our Client Care Advocates can work with you and explain the options and benefits of scheduled code updates. Give them a call at 800.836.8834 or send an email to [email protected]. They’d be happy to help or answer any other codification questions you might have.


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