Where is gardening illegal?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!