HOA’s and Alternative Gardening

After attending a Master Gardener Gardening Seminar recently, I have been thinking of HOAs (Homeowners Associations) and their role in protecting the land, water, and air via gardening. In many HOAs (not necessarily all), there are strict rules and regulations regarding a home and its outward appearance to the neighborhood. These are almost always in place for two overarching reasons: cohesiveness and property values.

Many times certain rules regarding the painting of a home in an HOA revolve around the colors allowed to be used. I have heard of a lady who lived in an HOA that after painting her house, was told that she would have to repaint the entire place over again at her expense because it was not painted with any of the approved colors. Note the word “any” as this lady was upset about the cost decided if she was going to repaint her house, she was going to use ALL of the colors allowed. While the HOA got upset, they couldn’t do anything about her house since as a judge pointed out to them; they said that she could use any and not just one of the approved colors. Needless to say that the HOA probably changed their rules immediately afterwards. While this story is slightly humorous, it does point out the power of an HOA and how that power can affect the lives of who live in one.

In regards to gardening, usually HOA’s are concerned about grass height and other features of lawns. Individuals concerned about water use, are most likely aware of how much of a drain a lawn can be. Lawns tend to require a lot of fertilizer, water, and maintenance. Some people may not care about those things but may feel that a lawn looks bland or even ugly during the cold months. Lawns are often a hallmark of HOAs and trying to do something even the slightest bit different can be an uphill struggle. To acquire a garden filled with flowers and vegetables or even a lawn flush with no-mow grass, one should think back to one of the major reasoning for an HOA: property values/prestige. Prestige brings property values, and if a home possesses prestige in its appearance, it becomes a lot harder to argue against it. I will pause here for a minute and I want to state that I have never lived in an HOA nor have I tried to argue with one; therefore, my arguments here are simply that: opinions of human nature and how to use it to improve/change a situation regarding expression of beauty and gardening. My opinions may not work for you and caution should be advised when attempting to change the mind of your neighbors as they may be far more stubborn than you are willing to fight against. Now, carrying on…

Often HOA’s will want beautiful homes and in no way want them to look like abandoned or misused homes. Anything that even remotely resembles a junk yard is to be avoided at all costs. Therefore, one of the slightly easier things to do, would most likely be to get approval for flowers, other decorative and beautiful plants, or a garden designed by a professional. Try to find inspiration from well respected installations at government buildings, institutions of performing and visual arts, or respected homes existing in the nearby area. By using the services of a professional landscape architect, it becomes a lot easier to prove that you are being intentional and have a sense of aesthetics if you have someone else that possesses a certification saying that your idea looks good. Remember, certifications usually (not always, nor should they always) confers a sense of prestige or a sense of value. Even if you cannot afford a professional designer, intentional design with beautiful elements can be implemented by anyone with a bit of thought and effort. It is often intention and consideration that are what HOAs are looking for. They don’t want people to think that the neighborhood is neglected and therefore shouldn’t be worth much. Try to appeal to this thought process.

The other thing to consider when attempting to change your garden, is your HOA’s response to change. For some it may be worth the risk to do their entire garden at once rather than gradually. It is possible that an HOA could halt progress in the middle of a long-term project if it feels that the project is headed in a direction it doesn’t like even if it were to enjoy the finished project. Often an unfinished project is far less attractive and more subject to upset neighbors than a completed intentional finish. For others, it may make more sense to slowly add to a garden over time: a few roses here, then add a few other edible flowers, and then maybe add some fruit bushes for the children to pick off from. This may work for some since too much change too fast can be just that. Your neighbors may suddenly realize one day how much change you have done and realize that while they didn’t notice the change, they don’t really mind it too much now that they have seen the current level. Conversely however, it may be wise to plan your garden in stages so that if it gets stopped from future change, your garden doesn’t look ridiculous and unfinished. What do you feel would work for you? Do you think that you could convince such a group of the benefits of a few more plants and a slightly smaller lawn? Please comment your answers below and thanks for reading.


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