FL City Code Bans Garden


Deed Restricted communities and local ordinances may dictate what landscapes you are allowed to have on your property. This was usually done to promote a cohesive look to the area and protect your neighbor’s property values. As times and ideas on landscaping are changing, home owners have run into legal problems. Jason Helvingston’s vegetable garden has just come into the cross-hairs of the city of Orlando, after being reported for a code violation. He planted a 25′ by 25′ garden in his front yard and the city has ordered it removed by the 7th. As of yet, it has not been removed and the gentleman is fighting to keep it. He is petitioning to change the City code, so it will allow for front yard vegetable gardens. He has collected over 200 signatures in support, including his neighbor’s and will meet with the Code Board in December. The ordinance currently requires that the front yard contain ground covers, planted in a way that gives off a finished, inviting appearance. Mr Helvingston, is part of a growing movement to reduce the use of demanding grass lawns. He would like for home owners to be able to replace their unproductive sod with useful, edible plants. His is not the first case. There has been much publicity recently over similar gardens in Oklahoma, Missouri, Michigan and  Quebec.     **Update:  The city has decided not to pursue Jason Helvingston’s code violation and after a large public response, they are looking into changing the code language. Report here.

Lawns have been the picture perfect image of the American home for ages. However their constant and costly upkeep, is starting to make people think twice about this part of the American Dream. Nationwide, irrigation is estimated to account for almost a third of residential water use, equalling more than 7 billion gallons per day and up to 50% of both commercial and residential irrigation water is wasted due to evaporation, wind, improper system design, or over watering. This is a major concern, in drought plagued Florida. A lawn on compacted soil can also be up to 75% impervious to water, meaning that even the rain mostly ends up in storm drains, instead of in the soil. The University of Florida estimated that the turf-grass sector alone took in $57.9 billion. In the current tight economy, with concerns over the rising price of food, its quality and the distance groceries travel before arriving at the grocer’s shelves, many people are returning to a style of Victory Gardening and want to express that sentiment to the world, via their front yard.

There are also people who prefer to scrap the lawns and return their landscape to a more natural appearance. This style determines the actual used turf area and then turns the remainder into wildflower meadows, landscaped “rooms”, or just contemporary style landscapes utilizing resilient native plants and ground covers. Native Plant Landscapers are a new segment in the professional landscaping industry. According to noted author Doug Tallamy, if America converted 1/2 of its lawn space in this method, we would increase needed wildlife habitat by over 20 million acres. That is an area larger than the top 12 National Parks combined. And the good news on this front, is that the State of Florida has been proactive. In 2009, the legislature passed a law protecting homeowners who wanted to install Florida Friendly landscapes. This law also prevents Home Owners Associations from fining homeowners for brown lawns, when they are abiding by water shortage rules. There are even Florida Friendly ground covers that will still give the green lawn look, while not requiring as much labor or inputs. And if you love your grass unconditionally, you still may find organic lawn practices beneficial.
So take a moment to consider your lawn and your lifestyle, and if an alternative might work for you.


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