Front Yard Municipal Laws

Another long and cold Canadian winter is finally over. Many of us are taking this opportunity to reset ourselves after an extra long hibernation, and what better way to reintroduce ourselves to the outdoors than planning our summer gardens? The most well planned gardeners will already have already started their seedlings by now, but most of us will wait until the last minute to plan this year’s gardens.

If you live in the city of Toronto you know all to well that space is one of the biggest issues in planning your garden. You want to plant a garden that meets all your needs while ensuring you save space to relax and host all your al fresco dinner parties. One thing I’ve noticed in downtown Toronto, where space is truly a hot commodity, is that many home owners are choosing to keep their backyard gardens to a minimal size in order to save space for their recreational needs. But front yard gardens are more popular than ever. No longer are homeowners laying a pallet of sod across their front yard and calling it finished. Wild flower gardens, fruit trees, vegetables, tall grasses and many other unconventional plants are making their way to people’s front yards. Not only are these beautiful, but they also can provide home owners with fresh food throughout the summer.

But beware of your front yard municipal laws. Confusing, and often draconian municipal bylaws can abruptly put an end to your front yard garden dreams. As this couple in Drummondville, QC learned the expensive way, not everyone is as excited about your new vegetable garden. After numerous complaints from neighbours, the town gave them 5 days to reduce the size of their expensive vegetable garden to meet city codes. If they didn’t comply they faced the possibility of a fine of $100 to $300 per day after the 5 day window. The Drummondville municipal code stated that at least one-third of a  front yard must consist of either lawn or hedges. But after public outcry and online petitioning, the town allowed the couple to keep their front yard as they had designed in.

More locally, Deborah Dale of Scarborough, former president of the North American Native Plant Society and a trained biologist, spent over $10,000 and twelve years growing a native plant garden in her front yard. Her neighbours, unfamiliar with non-traditional landscape plants claimed her yard was overgrown with weeds, had a foul smell, and was attracting racoons. After months of complaints from neighbours the city sent her a notice to remove her garden. She begged for the opportunity to educate the city about her garden, but they refused to listen. She was shocked to come home one day and find her whole garden had been cut down to ground level.

The City of Toronto bylaw states that grass or weeds must not exceed 20cms in height. This is generally considered for transportation safety, stating that long grasses and weeds impede the vision of drivers.

The moral of the story? Front yard municipal laws vary immensely and it’s always best to do your research before you embark on any gardening project, no matter how traditional your plans may be. And remember if you don’t agree with your municipal laws you can take action to help change them by: attending a council meeting, joining neighbourhood and residential committees, and educating your neighbours about the importance of native plants and flowers in your community.

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Author: John

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