Gardening with an HOA

Gardening with an HOA

By Michael Jenkins

Home Owners Associations—colloquially known as HOAs—are an increasingly common feature of the urban and suburban landscapes. Many if not most new developments have some form of HOA in place before the homes go on sale, and home buyers are required to agree to the HOA’s rules. While this is a tool meant to maintain the neighborhood vibe and property values, but many HOA regulations can be a hindrance for gardeners. So what can we do to make gardening with an HOA creative and fun? How can we work within an HOA’s rules to create our dream gardens? It’s a big question, but don’t worry—we’ve got some ideas to get you started. Let’s dig in and learn a bit more about gardening with an HOA!

Tips and Tricks for Gardening and HOAs

If you’re neighborhood has an HOA, there are some tactics you can use to make your gardening experience as creative and fun as possible while still working with the HOA’s guidelines and framework. Every HOA is different and every gardener has different goals, but there are some general approaches that help you understand the situation and what you can—and can’t—do.

First and foremost, read and learn your HOAs rules and regulations for gardening and lawn/home maintenance. This sounds basic—you need to know what you’re working with before you get started—but a rock-solid understanding of the rules for gardening and landscaping can prevent ugly surprises later. As these surprises might include fines and requirement that you remove the offending garden or landscape feature, knowing the rules in advance can prevent headaches and tears as your gardening project unfolds.

The next step is to talk to your neighbors and other gardeners in the neighborhood to find out how the rules are enforced in practice. Language is subjective and humans even more so, and finding how how your HOA’s board interprets and enforces the rules enhances your own understanding of the regulations in question and helps you avoid some of the less-obvious pitfalls that may await. Plus, it’s a good way to get to know your neighbors, other gardeners, and better connect to the community in which you live.

Don’t forget to learn the laws regarding what your HOA can or cannot do or require you to do. Different parts of the world have different laws restricting the power of HOAs, and you should know what your state, province, or municipality permits your HOA to require and how far the HOA can intervene on your property. For example—California law prohibits HOAs from disallowing food gardens in back yards, while HOAs in other parts of the country are allowed to prohibit food gardens completely. Just as you learned the HOA’s rules, do the research and learn the laws governing HOAs.

Getting involved with your HOA is another great step that you can take relatively easily—joining the board, attending meetings, getting involved with various committees and just being present can really help build community and understanding while also helping you steer the discussion as to what’s allowed and what isn’t when it comes to gardening and landscaping. Action is faster than reaction and being proactive in building rapport with your HOA helps a great deal in improving your HOA gardening experience.

Now it’s time to garden! When working with an HOA we find it best to develop detailed plans and then to present them to the HOA board for approval before you break ground. This is especially true for any garden or landscape feature that’s visible from the street—these are most like to attract attention and scrutiny from your HOA board. If you have approved plans and a paper trail showing the approval process, you’ll avoid any last minute disruptions to your gardening, landscaping, or hardscaping work.

While this suggestion is a bit more circumstantial, sometimes creating your garden or landscape in stages can really help mitigate HOA complaints and critiques. Doing this gradually gives your HOA a chance to give you feedback and make course-corrections along the way.

Again, check your HOA’s rules but we can tell you that many HOAs have looser regulations for container gardens or indoor gardens than for in-ground gardens and landscaping. This can allow you to keep your green thumb and creative mind active while keeping your HOA happy, so consider container or indoor gardening for your new space.

Starting a community garden is a great way to work with your HOA and your fellow homeowners in order to raise fresh produce in the community while still obeying the HOA’s regulations. Community gardens do so much good in the neighborhood—they bring neighbors together, create a shared sense of value and community, and also provide fresh produce and learning experiences for all involved. Again, this is something to talk to your HOA board and your neighbors about, but it’s a worthwhile and enjoyable venture!

Working with an HOA to fulfill your garden or landscape goals might seem daunting, but with a little prep work and some cooperatives, creative thinking you might find that you can still bring your vision to live while working within the rules and guidelines set by your HOA. If you’re currently gardening with an HOA, let us know and send some pics! Gardzen is all about community and we love to hear from you!

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