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TIDY, NEAT, urban gardens.

 
pollinator
Posts: 1559
Location: Denver, CO
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Lots of us are in urban or suburban areas. The problem is that neighbors, HOAs, and zoning officials want neat tidy looking yards — not weed polycultures, algae culture ponds, grey-water systems, chicken runs, and plant guilds.

I will be starting my own "Paradise Lot" on a small yard soon. Fortunately, my neighborhood is not as "tidy" as some. But I still have to be careful. And I am wondering; how to get around this, and what it would look like. I will place pictures of the development of my lot once it gets going. It would be great seeing pictures and explanations of urban systems; grey-water that looks like an ornamental pond, for instance.

 
Posts: 567
Location: Mid-Michigan
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Gilbert Fritz wrote: And I am wondering; how to get around this, and what it would look like.



Well, one thing is, even just a little bit of mown grass can make it look like it's all kempt. You can use it to give the impression of, "This is a regular mown-grass lawn, with some big irregular plantings on top." Even if the big irregular plantings are 95% of the square footage.

Let me see if I can find a picture of what I mean.

Kind of like this:


Or this:


Maybe this:


Or here's really what I was thinking:


So you spend a little bit of time with the lawnmower to please the HOA, but you still get to use almost all your available land for productive purposes. That's the approach I'd take!

Mike
 
steward
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Most HOA rules and city ordinances apply to the front yard only - what is visible to the people on the street or sidewalk.
What happens in the backyard is usually ignored unless you have busy body neighbors who don't like you.

Even in the front yard, you can usually get away with a lot more if you make it look intentional.
It is the haphazard, jungle looking yard that will draw the most controversy.

I always like to recommend asparagus for front yard settings. It provides delicious nutrition for a few weeks, and then provides fern like plants until frost (or you) trim it back. You may already have asparagus ferns in the neighborhood - they are popular landscaping plants.

Another trick is to provide a neatly trimmed hedge (preferably edible) to obstruct view beyond it. A short picket fence can do the same. Either of these help make the appearance that this is planned, intentional garden, not just somebody that is ignoring their weeds. That can go a long way in keeping neighbors and officials satisfied. The worst they can do is think you have a lousy eye when it comes to picking plants. lol
 
gardener
Posts: 787
Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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I have had some problems with codes about plant height and ended up making some compromises initially. Iam sure in some places there is very little you can do in the front outside of a well manicured lawn and maybe a row of annual flowers or something. Although, around my new urban area I am surrounded by condos mainly so no one cares even a little about my stuff as long as my rooster isn't crowing outside of business hours. In some close by neighborhoods I have seen a new style (for this area) of landscape that is accepted by the hoa and it could work for you. Essentially the yard is covered almost completely in wood chip mulch and then perennial flower plots are scattered throughout. Depending on the strictness of your area you could taylor this style with mowed grass paths and edges, and plan the visual aesthetic by planting shorter stuff in the front and taller things behind it. Keeping things trimmed and pruned can also go a long way in making things look acceptable to eyes used to seeing only grass and flower beds.good luck.
 
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Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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A lot of permie craziness goes on on my 1/6th acre plot in the middle of the Phoenix Historic District. Fencing in my front yard with an appropriate style picket fence and getting a "certified wildlife habitat" sign from the National Wildlife Federation both help me retain my status as "the crazy garden lady" and lets me be mostly free of people who get upset with my garden. Mostly people have come to love my place and I've had homeschoolers stop by to observe the ever-changing flowers, birds and insects that make their home in my front yard.

Fencing limits my perceived "public" land to that strip along the sidewalk. The sign is all "official" looking and seems to appease those folks who are overly concerned with "rules". It's easy enough to get the sign - check it out here: http://www.nwf.org/How-to-Help/Garden-for-Wildlife/Certify-Your-Wildlife-Garden.aspx?campaignid=WH09ASLP&s_src=CWH_GoogleMini_certification

001-(2).JPG
[Thumbnail for 001-(2).JPG]
Fence and sign
 
Gilbert Fritz
pollinator
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Location: Denver, CO
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Great ideas! I like the idea of having winding strips of lawn or wood chips. And the idea of a sign and fence.

Eventually, I will post pictures of my yard transformation— once I have something to show.
 
Zach Muller
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Yeah I am glad you mentioned wildlife habitat certification Jennifer! I forgot to say that I got the yard certified at my old house, just to have some kind of official recognition if there ever were any serious complaints, luckily everyone around was fine with what I had going on.

I have seen another place where a wilder looking front yard bed just had a home made wooden sign that said butterfly habitat garden. I guess that was enough to stop any complaints or city action because it has been there for a long while now.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Zach Muller wrote:Yeah I am glad you mentioned wildlife habitat certification Jennifer! I forgot to say that I got the yard certified at my old house, just to have some kind of official recognition if there ever were any serious complaints, luckily everyone around was fine with what I had going on.

I have seen another place where a wilder looking front yard bed just had a home made wooden sign that said butterfly habitat garden. I guess that was enough to stop any complaints or city action because it has been there for a long while now.



It's weird how much difference a sign or picture can make. When I first installed that fence, someone called zoning on me. Why? Well because my parents and I built that fence from scratch. When my dad sunk the 4 x 4s for the sections of the fence, he used 6 ft long ones - with the thinking that we would sink the posts in 1-2 ft and have a 3 ft high fence (my soil is HEAVY clay - you can't always tell how deep a hole you're going to be able to dig). So my mom and I painted the lower 4-5 ft of each 4x4 and then dad cemented them into the ground. This looked vaguely like some weird Stonehenge project (woodhenge??) going on in the front yard. I happened to be outside when the guy from zoning pulled up. We talked. He basically said "I can see exactly what you're doing - no problem here", referring to the fact that the posts would get cut down to size once they were in the ground. However, there were still complaints. So I photocopied the picture of the fence we were building out of the magazine where I saw it, put it in a protective plastic sleeve and staple-gunned it to one of the posts. When people could actually SEE what I was up to, the complaints stopped - which was good because it took about 2 months to complete the fence!
 
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3 Plant Types You Need to Know: Perennial, Biennial, and Annual
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