Where is gardening illegal?

January 29th, 2017
Posted In: Garden style & living

Gardening illegal? Surely not!

But when I was recently ‘researching gardening’ (otherwise known as ‘wasting time’) online, I discovered that one of the common questions about gardening is ‘where is gardening illegal?’

I had to find out.

Fake news hits the world of gardening

We all know about fake news. Facebook and Twitter circulate reports of what governments and celebrities have said or done in the past. It looks outrageous. People often share what they see without checking first.

If you see something surprising, it’s always a good idea to try to find out where the ‘fact’ originated from. Sometimes people have changed the figures or taken them out of context.

You can also find scams by doing an internet search to find out more about it. Often you’ll find warnings.

Is gardening illegal in New Zealand.

Is gardening illegal in New Zealand? Er…no!

The gardening world’s fake news item was that New Zealand had made gardening illegal. This started out as a joke thread on Reddit, not a deliberate attempt to mislead. It went viral.

So gardening is legal in New Zealand.

Local or area regulations

Many areas have local or area regulations, particularly if they’re new-build estates. These regulations are designed to make sure that people look after their properties. In Britain, you’re not allowed to have a garden shed in your front garden.

Technically, you also need planning permission to have a front garden fence higher than one metre, but I don’t think many councils bother with that.

There are also quite a few regulations around fences and hedges in the back garden.

Check your local front garden regulations

Front gardens have more regulations than back gardens.

In the US, there are areas where you’re not allowed to grow vegetables in your front garden.

There’s a lot of online debate around this topic. Some gardeners sensibly point out that if you keep your front veggie patch well designed and tidy, then people are less likely to ask the authorities to stop you. If you share your fruit and veg with your neighbours, they may also support you. They may even start growing themselves.

You’ll find more rules around keeping animals. Once again, these seem more prevalent in the United States than elsewhere.

Check the local regulations for keeping hens

Are your hens legal?

But if you want to keep chickens, ducks, geese or goats, you might want to check your local regulations wherever you live.

In the US, some areas have tightened regulations in the past few years, making it illegal to keep chickens in a private garden. In other areas, they have relaxed again, according to Middlesized Garden reader, Carla Black (see comments).

The online opinion is that this is as a result of pressure from the big food companies who don’t want people to grow their own food.

But Carla thinks that the real reason is that people didn’t want to be woken by roosters crowing.

Guerilla gardening

Tiptoeing out at night to plant your roundabouts and road verges with flowers and plants is illegal. Going onto and planting any land you do not own is illegal, in most countries in the world.

However, very few people have ever been prosecuted.

Councils are in a tricky situation because there are health and safety issues around people gardening on roundabouts at night. They can’t be seen to condone it.

It seems reasonably clear, however, that most authorities take a sensible and relaxed stance. If people enjoy the results and no damage is done, they turn a blind eye.

Guerilla gardeners plant streets that are not looked after by councils

Street planting in France. Not by guerilla gardeners.

In Munich, Germany, guerilla gardening has now been legalised and you can apply for a permit. Does that spoil the fun?

Use of gardening equipment

There are loads of rules and regulations on when you can use noisy garden tools or have bonfires in many places all over the world. Ask your local council for yours.

Or wait till someone objects to what you’re doing. However, bonfires can cause serious fires during a drought, so it’s important to know when bonfires are forbidden.

Is it illegal to bury or burn a body in your garden?

Well, yes and no. You can’t just stash Granny six foot under beside the apple tree as soon as she pops her clogs. And you certainly can’t burn her. Granny, legally, would be considered ‘hazardous waste’.

But as Middlesized Garden reader, Lyn Newman, points out, it’s actually surprisingly easy to be buried in your garden in Britain.

You must register Granny’s death legally, then apply for permission to bury her in the garden. Apparently, you’re more likely to get this permission than to get planning permission for a new garage.

Technically, you can’t personally dig the hole, and must use a ‘licensed operator’ instead – presumably a funeral director. But, apparently, many councils are happy to waive that requirement.

Burial is generally considered unsuitable for middle-sized gardens, though. You have to notify the presence of the body on the Deeds, which might put people off when you come to sell.

And how would you manage to visit Granny’s grave?

Is nude gardening illegal?

If your neighbours can see you pruning in the nude (in Britain), they can ask the police to arrest you for indecent exposure. Obviously, you’re more likely to be arrested for nude gardening in the front garden than the back garden.

In the back garden, your defence will rely (I think) on whether your neighbours had to climb into a very awkward position on the chimney and use a powerful zoom lens.

The World Naked Gardening Day is the first Saturday in May. It triggers off a lot of tabloid headlines and pictures of gardeners holding watering cans in strategic places.

Meanwhile, for the upmarket version, see the BBC’s coverage of World Naked Gardening Day at the Malvern Show here.

As I don’t personally celebrate WNGD, there are no photos for this bit. No pix for the ‘bury a body’ section, either.

Growing illegal substances

If it’s illegal to buy it, it’s illegal to grow it. In Britain, anyway. And most other places. You can grow cannabis in your garden in Uruguay, though.

The commercial growing of cannabis is about to be legalised in California. There are concerns that this is going to put old hippies out of business. Apparently, however, the old hippies merely remarked: ‘Oh, man, change happens.’

Oddly enough, however, you can buy books on Amazon about how to grow cannabis. I haven’t bought them, haven’t read them and haven’t tried growing illegal substances.

But I am an Amazon associate so if you click on this link and buy a book on cannabis growing, then I may get a small fee. Just to make all that clear.

Turmeric grown indoors

Turmeric grown indoors under ‘marijuana lighting.’

Some friends of mine use cannabis-grower indoor lighting to get their seeds started early. It’s a great way to get your delphiniums going…

Are rhododendrons illegal?

There was a terrific hoo-ha in 2014 about a new EU directive about alien species. Reputable bodies, including the RHS and Horticulture Week, expressed concern that a blanket ban on invasive alien species could risk criminalising innocent gardeners.

Headlines in the press suggested you might be arrested for growing rhododendrons, even if they’d been in your garden since Victorian times.

Victorian garden in Australia

This garden in Australia was planted in Victorian times. There are lots of rhododenrons – which are legal!

I asked the RHS what the position was now. They say that the EU has issued a list of alien species that are illegal to grow, buy or sell. But the EU has no plans for any retrospective action on gardeners. It’s not a blanket ban, but a specific list. Rhododendrons aren’t on it.

The EU have no plans to add rhododendrons. You can find the full detail here.

But you could be arrested for…

However, it is a criminal offence to ‘plant or cause to grow’ invasive plants on the list. It could attract a large fine or up to two years in prison. The list includes giant hogweed, Japanese knotweed and water hyacinth, plus a dozen or so other plants. But you won’t be arrested for just having them in the garden, provided you take steps to prevent them from spreading.

That’s about it, I think.

Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, and this post is not legal advice. Consult a qualified lawyer if you need to know the law about a particular situation.

You may know other instances of gardening being illegal. Do let me know, if so!

And spread the word by sharing using the buttons below. Anything that gets people to check fake news before passing it on must be a good thing. Yes? Thank you!Save







15 comments on "Where is gardening illegal?"

  1. Rob says:

    In the lawful situation where there is an absence of any
    sexual context in relation to nudity and where the person
    does not intend the behaviour to be, and is not aware
    that it may be disorderly, it will not be appropriate to take
    any police action.

  2. Lucy says:

    I do not think gardening may be illegal anywhere. There may be certain animals which are banned in certain places.

  3. There is a great deal of illegal activity in gardens involving homemade and ‘organic’ remedies against pests. If it’s in your kitchen cupboard people tend to believe it’s safe to use in the garden. But it will never have been tested or licenced for whatever nefarious purpose you might have outdoors. (see Outwitting Squirrels) Xxx

    1. Ah, another interesting way to break the law in your own garden. We shall need an entirely new branch of the police to be formed to subdue these out-of-control gardeners…

  4. The deeds to my house (built in 1991) provide that I may not keep more than two “milking cows” in the back garden and I must allow a “Mrs Evans” (who would now be about 200 years old) free access to feed her chickens and must also collect and keep any eggs for her (there are no chickens but the part of the garden that was once an historic chicken run has some of the most fertile soil I’ve ever encountered).

    1. Lovely! Presumably Mrs Evans’ inheritors in title can’t claim the ‘free access’ should they wish, as you have blocked it for over 12 years, which I think is ‘adverse possession’… I think…we lived in a house where the ground rent, set many hundreds of years to an unknown person or body was one white carnation a year. We were able to take out an insurance policy against them ever claiming.

  5. Great article…….a number of properties in the UK particularly those in historic conservation areas have covenants in the property deeds preventing the ownership or keeping of “fowls” on the property. In practical terms these would be rarely enforced as they would generally be between the current property owner and the historic landowner, but worth noting nevertheless.

  6. Libby says:

    Love this post! And yes, in the U.S. and in housing “subdivisions” some of these things are illegal. We live in one such place and are not allowed to hang laundry outside!! It was almost…..a deal breaker when we were signing! However, I have made do with a laundry line in my large, windowed laundry room. Anyway, this was fun to read and separate “fake” from real news!!

    1. I think that some European countries also have certain days when you can’t hang laundry outside, too. I imagine that there are more regulations about such things in the US as the houses are generally newer – as so much of Britain’s housing is Victorian and before the age of tumble dryers, it would be quite difficult to start imposing covenants on what you can do.

  7. Reader says:

    Slightly odd, but true: it isn’t actually illegal to bury a body in your garden – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/3630221.stm

    1. Thank you for passing that on, I’ve done another check, and you’re right – although technically ‘you’ can’t bury a body in the garden but you can be buried in your garden…Once you’ve registered the death, you have to notify the authorities that you intend to bury the body. Technically, then, it has to be done by a ‘licensed operator’ (presumably they mean funeral director), but many local authorities do waive that requirement. I will re-word the post! Thanks.

  8. Carla Black says:

    You made a fun list, Alexandra! I think the chicken issue in Seattle, anyway, was not so much about the fear that people might actually feed themselves, but rather, the possibility of roosters joining the hens and converting all the neighbors into early risers. Keeping chickens is now legal, but don’t think of adding a rooster to the flock!

    1. Thank you for letting us know!

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