How do you approach you homeowners association or community about replacing grass lawns with more sustainable plants?
I just found this education brochure on the EPA website – yes, that’s right – the Environmental Protection Agency. I was shocked but in a good way .
The whole idea of getting rid of the postage stamp green lawn in favor of billowing wildflowers, blueberry bushes, and creeping thyme is seen by many as unkempt and downright radical.
But I’m thinking that even the most hardcore mainstream municipal lawn ordinance enforcer would find it hard to argue with the EPA. Distributing this brochure to the local ordinance writers and community members 'might' get them thinking about more sustainable ways of maintaining the community.
I’m going to attempt to upload the brochure ///Edited to add: I found another good brochure. While I don't necessarily agree with EVERYthing in the brochure, getting rid of the monoculture grass lawn seems to be a good first step in the direction of permaculture.
The sad fact is, that if you look at the City Council, or Planning Board of almost any city in the US, you will find them dominated with wealthy land owners and developers. They want to "improve" their properties so their wealth can increase. When they see fruittrees and corn stalks, they begin having nightmares about Jedd Clamppet, or "The Grapes of Wrath". They see destitute farmland filled with starving Okies. It ruins their image of their community as a collection of stately manors.
I hope that I am right when I predict that we will have a paradigm shift soon. The status quo is not working.
Sorry, that was not very helpful, I guess...but I absolutely detest HOA's...and the codes bureauRats, and people stupid enough to think they are going to keep me from gardening...and cities...it just spins me up.
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
I agree, I would not buy property within city limits or in an area that has a homeowners association, However…..
There are people who come to this thread that are already in that situation and cannot afford to move. Maybe, like me, they once wanted the golf course lawn but have since learned about more sustainable ways of doing things.
Now they must work with what they have.
Starting this thread is an attempt to provide these people with some positive approaches and ideas about educating people in their communities to try to bring about change.
They could sit back and accept their situation and just complain about it or, as in the case of Pat Hill in my hometown of Elgin Ill, they can start an educational campaign using a positive approach. These things are not easy and don’t happen overnight but one persons positive attitude can infect another person and slowly, over time, change can happen.
Pat Hill is a long time friend of my mother and when I visit Elgin I always make a point of going to see her garden.
For more about Pat Hills natural urban landscape: http://naturalmidwestgarden.com/
Agreed. Many people living in in certain areas are under stupid rules, usually incorporated by some nitwit who has preconceived ideas about what is good or bad.
A guy I used to work with said that when his parents retired, they sold their home in New England, and bought a home in Florida. They thought "At last we can grow many of those things we couldn't before". They were so happy with their move that they merely glanced through the HOA manual.
After they planted a lemon and a lime tree, they were informed that no citrus trees were permitted in the community (I'm in Washington...try telling me that I can't have an apple tree). They had also replaced most of the contractor's landscaping with asparagus, herbs, and other plants that they had long wished for.
They were given a citation, and decided to wait until the next "Community Meeting" to see if this could be resolved without uprooting their prized trees/plants.
At the meeting, after opening ceremonies, etc, but before the 'members' were allowed to speak, or bring up questions/suggestions one of the committees announced the results of an owners survey: Their house had been voted as the "Best Looking Yard in the Community".
Needless to say, their trees/landscaping remained. He told me that the last time he visited, half the houses on the block now have citrus trees.
I live in an HOA. The way that we approached it was to find an "expert" who could talk to them about what the cost of the current situation was. These people respect an expert , ( we are not it), and they have less and less money to spend each year due to foreclosures. We brought in the local city water department head who is trying to conserve water. He explained to them how much they were spending on water and how that amount was going to increase each year. He explained to them that our current landscaping was unsustainable and told them to plant natives. They listened.
Because of the drought in our area this type of thinking is growing and the state government has now said that HOA's cannot stop homeowners from planting drought tolerent plants. Theoretically then, we can permie our yards.
Fantastic news, Wyomiles. I think if you plant a food forest in your yard including some natives and keep it neat as a pin (not a "weed patch") your neighbors shouldn't have a reason to complain. I can't stress enough the importance of keeping things neat and even going out of your way to make it look "landscaped." I think you can still include all the elements of a food forest, just maintained a little more intensively. Covering your "chop and drop" with chipper mulch is an example of a little extra effort which can make the garden look a lot more like what people are used to seeing.
Wyomiles, sounds like you have an excellent approach to the problem. Tyler also made a very good point about the 'neat' factor.
I have a total of 6 shrubs and one arbor in different areas of my yard that give the ILLUSION of neatness and order. Two are simple topiaries, and four are just shrubs trimmed in the shape of a box. Big deal. But it works. Combined with the muscadine arbor and archway people think it is 'manicured' when anyone with eyes can see my place is beyond disorganized. And don't let my project pictures fool you - or -- maybe you should let them fool you -- that is the whole idea
I agree that keeping things neat will help stop the complaints, but if you have a HOA you really do need to work on how people think. I really liked the idea of bringing in an expert to make your case for you. Someone with all of the facts and figures can go a long way to change how people think. Town councils are another issue all together, they normally do not like change, feel that changing ordinances cost them money as well as maybe costing them votes. It is much easier for an elected offical to do nothing, that way they do not make waves. You need a friend on Council, or on the zoning board etc, you need some one in your pocket so to speak, a friend that will help push your case. That requires leg work, talk to everyone on the board personally, make your case privately to every member, hear their objections, then get the ammo to shot down those objections in a public meeting. Get the facts that make your case, be prepared, but do not go in with a chip on your shoulder. Be nice, be friendly, be personable, make it hard for them to hate you. You may still not get everything that you want the 1st time out, but you will be planting seeds, and you never know what may grow from those seeds. Isn't that the Permiculture way? You need to know where the Bear Poops in your community, and more importantly, you need to know who the Bear is so that you can get around that problem. That is the best advise I can give you. Good Luck
Never doubt that a small group of dedicated people can change the world, Indeed it is the only thing that ever has. Formerly pa_friendly_guy_here
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