The thought of a little backyard garden is quaint and enticing. Bonus points if you have the green thumb to put it into action!
But before you go crazy buying seeds for your next homegrown salad, make sure you know what’s possible to grow vegetables in your backyard.
Local laws and regulations may somewhat hamper your plans, so knowing what’s legal in your area before digging in the dirt is crucial.
- Legalities of homegrown vegetables
- Restrictions at various local levels
- Rules surrounding the selling of produce
- Types of produce allowed
Keep reading to find out what’s allowable in your area so that you can grow the vegetable garden of your dreams. Then – bon appetite!
Can I grow vegetables in my backyard?
It is generally acceptable to grow vegetables in your backyard, regardless of where you live. Outside of private property, community gardens support this freedom with their bounty of harvests available to the public.
But the longer answer to this question is not so simple because each state has its own rules governing homegrown items. In some places, the rules come from the city; in others, smaller communities or jurisdictions hold sway.
For example, the question is often not whether or not you can grow vegetables in your yard but if there are other rules surrounding them once you do.
Some areas have height restrictions, and some require you to grow other materials besides vegetables in your garden. Others have rules about front yard growing, but the backyard is fair game.
Finally, you want to make sure the vegetables you grow are legal in your state.
Why are there rules about growing my own vegetables?
In recent decades, city centers have grown at a rate that doesn’t allow for much extra space in each allocation of private property. If you are someone who lives in a metro area, chances are your local jurisdiction has restrictions on what, how, or what size you can grow your own food.
Much of this has to do with containing urban sprawl. Suppose one homeowner or renter plants an enormous garden in their backyard, but their next-door neighbor prefers a pristine space. In that case, the law will protect the neighbor from dealing with creeping vines or other unwanted green growth on their property.
Zoning laws and other perimeter guidelines usually outline what is allowable from street view. Even in less populated areas, restrictions may apply for aesthetic purposes. For example, a garden is fine, but it may be illegal to preserve a beautiful block section.
In more uncommon situations, vegetable-growing laws may be in place to prevent illegal seeds and invasive plants from spreading.
Be sure you know what types of plants are allowable in your area to keep the local ecology healthy and in check.
What do gardening laws entail?
Depending on the area, laws surrounding vegetables could have to do with their type, size, watering requirements, or how they affect the local wildlife. There are also specific rules for natural compost, as well as animals that you might keep in conjunction with vegetable growth.
Some zoning laws dictate that you don’t include tall plants like sunflowers or corn in your garden due to the blockage their height can cause. The same is true for fences and hedges, which are sometimes banned outright.
In areas where water supply is sometimes limited (such as the Southwest), plants that require regular watering may not be allowed.
Even though you may think you know the guidelines in your area, it’s always a good idea to double-check at the beginning of planting season, as zoning laws are subject to change.
Why are front yard gardens illegal?
The short answer is, they’re not! This is a common misconception stemming from the idea that backyard gardens tend to be less regulated than the rest of the yard. Good news for enthusiastic growers who get more sunlight on that side of their house!
Front yard vegetable gardens mostly fall under the same rules as anywhere else in your yard. The difference is that front yard growth is visible from the street.
So for visual tidiness and to prevent neighborhood sprawl, some areas limit front yard gardens – but this is a minor detail if your plot is clean and attractively planted.
Can you grow vegetables on a fence?
Some veggies are happier with a trellis or other support to climb as they grow. Tomatoes, peppers, and peas will creep outwards and upwards, meaning you need to plan out your area to allow their growth without encroaching on adjacent land.
It is perfectly fine to grow vegetables on a fence, as long as you watch how tall and how far they spread. Know the rules of your jurisdiction, and your neighbors will thank you – plus, you’ll stay out of trouble with local zoning laws.
In what states is it illegal to grow your own vegetables?
As mentioned before, legalities vary from state to state. Much of this has to do with whether an area is urban or rural, the local climate, and whether water is scarce.
Fortunately, it is not illegal to grow your own food in any state! Even in places with more severe restrictions, passionate citizens can overturn them. Let’s look at some of these instances according to specific areas in the U.S.:
- California – The somewhat complex Assembly Bill No. 1616 is a lot of material to wade through, and the phrasing isn’t always straightforward. But in summary, this enacted specific aesthetic regulations to yards and gardens for tidiness without hampering the ability of Californians to grow their own food.
- Florida – In July 2020, after a lengthy battle, residents of Florida were finally permitted to grow their own food in their front yards. Senate Bill 82 prevents any local government from prohibiting food growing on residential properties.
- Missouri – Kansas City had a ban on “row crops” in front yards until 2010 when the Planning and Zoning Committee changed its tune.
- Ohio – A group of farmers created the Urban Agriculture Alliance to protect their rights to treat soil with mulch piles.
Can I sell the vegetables I grow myself?
In areas where there are bustling farmers’ markets, it may be tempting to think you could take your backyard squash or tomatoes to the public and get a few bucks for your effort.
But keep in mind, growers who make a profit on their vegetables usually have permits for doing business.
Farmers who regularly sell their items go through lengthy procedures for sanitation, quality assurance, and financial overview to ensure they comply with local regulations.
If this interests you, great! Just do your research so you can be aware of the process.