Landscaping is a great way to add to your property value while enjoying your home more. If you have a green thumb, you might want to build a raised garden bed in your backyard. But do you need to apply for a permit before you can build your raised garden beds?
As a general rule, you need a permit to build raised garden beds, especially if you disturb a substantial amount of soil (2500ft2/232m2) or change the slope more than 24in (61cm). Specific laws change between states. A permit is also required if your raised beds require tree removal.
Keep reading to learn more about what permits are generally required when building a raised garden bed and other legal limitations you might need to consider.
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Always Check With Local Authorities
A general rule of thumb to follow is that every state and county will have different laws that residents must abide by. This is especially important if you have moved homes recently – you may already know that building raised garden beds in your hometown does not require a permit. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the same laws apply in your new residence.
As such, it is always a good idea to check with local authorities for the most precise information. Do not rely on what neighbors may tell you – laws may change over time, and word of mouth is not always a reliable source of information.
Features of a Raised Garden Bed
Before you decide to build raised garden beds and start growing your own food, you may want to know the various features that can be restricted depending on the law in your area. These include:
- Location: Generally, laws specify where raised beds on a property should be located. Most communities prefer to limit vegetable gardens to backyards, leaving the front of a house for flower gardens and more bushes.
- Fence height: There is usually a limit on the height of the fence around raised garden beds. The specific height requirements vary, but usually, there is a limit that keeps the fence around waist-high. Most people opt for lower fences, so this regulation is rarely a problem.
- Fence type: The materials used to make a fence are usually regulated for aesthetics. Some homeowners associations (HOAs) have rules that state only specific types of wood can be used to build fences around raised garden beds, while others may allow galvanized metal and other options.
- Size: To protect property value, many HOA bylaws and government regulations restrict the size of garden beds on a property. Typically, only a set percentage of a property can be used for raised garden beds, while the rest must be used for a lawn or another form of decorative gardening.
- Additional structures: If you are planning on building vertical gardens or adding any structures to your raised garden beds, there may be more laws restricting what you can and cannot build. For example, vertical gardens may only be allowed to grow to window height and no more.
There may be fewer regulations in some states, and some features may not be mentioned at all. Check the specifics regarding your area for the most reliable answer regarding these regulations.
Check the Rules of Your Homeowners Association
Although a homeowners association (HOA) is not a governmental organization, it does impose many rules and laws that residents under its jurisdictions must follow. If you live in an area that is governed by an HOA, you should consult their guidelines on gardening permits.
Generally, HOA laws in the United States allow for vegetable gardens (often in raised garden beds), but there is a strict clause on having them only in the backyard. This may or may not impact your landscaping plans, so it’s best to check out the laws of your HOA.
When reading the gardening laws of your homeowners associations, try to find out the answer to the following questions:
- What type of gardening can you do?
- What are specific rules regarding raised garden beds mentioned?
- Are there limitations on the type of gardening you are allowed to do?
Keep in mind that if your landscaping plans do not fit squarely within the rules, you may find some pushback from neighbors and members of the HOA. It’s best to keep things civil and avoid conflicts over the issue.
Most HOA rules tend to limit gardening and might only allow a small area for raised garden beds. If that happens to be the case in your community, you will need the support of your neighbors to change bylaws.
Be friendly to them, and share the fruits of your harvests! Once you do, you’ll be surprised how many people will stand with you against the HOA bylaws.
Consider Hiring a Landscaping Architect
To take the guesswork out of your landscaping plans, consider hiring a landscaping architect before building a raised garden bed. They might be able to help you go around any set rules that require a permit (source).
For example, your plans may specify that you will be disturbing more than 2500 square feet (232 square meters) of soil. As mentioned above, this will likely require you to apply for a permit, delaying the construction of your raised garden beds.
However, a landscaping architect should have enough experience in the field of gardening to bring that number down slightly using some clever landscaping.
This will allow you to follow the rules set forth by the homeowner’s associations and your local government and reduce the red tape involved in getting your vegetable garden ready for planting.
Furthermore, landscaping architects will generally better understand local laws and regulations than you do. They’ll be able to identify any issues in your plans and head off any mistakes you may have unknowingly made.
It’s best to check the laws in your community for the specific answer regarding a permit when building raised garden beds. It’s safer to assume you need the permit rather than to start building without one.
Some communities allow raised garden beds within a specific set of regulations to standardize the area’s aesthetics. Hiring a landscaping architect can help you abide by the various bylaws set by governing bodies or HOAs while gardening.
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