Need advice for front-yard edible landscape

GrowMakeGiveJune 5, 2012

I am seeking advice on how to win over my neighborhood Homeowners Association Board, which has denied my landscape designers' plan to install an edible landscape in my 3500 sq. ft. front yard. My goal is to eliminate sod and the need for pesticides; install edibles such as blueberry bushes, pecan and lemon trees, pineapple plants and blackberry vines; and have an attractive design. The board, made up of neighborhood volunteers, thought it was too "out of character" with the neighborhood. Advice? Details here:

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The only advice I can give is to add some hardscaping in the form of curving pathways and maybe even a patio. The moment you remove sod you do lose the characteristic look of a front yard. I'm in a similar quest as yours in my backyard (except thankfully I don't have to bow to a HO association) and what I have done so far is had a contractor come in and add some curvey concrete walks. Next I'm replacing sodded areas with groundcovers such as liriope and mondo grass. I don't think the hang up would be any of the edibles you mentioned..if trimmed and picked up after, they're pleasing to the eye.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 1:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Brad Edwards

My mom is in a neighboorhood like that with 1/2 acre, has a 10 year old lemon, 3 5 year old lemons, a kumquat, blood orange, two peaches, 4-5 blueberries, and some others hidden among the yard, they are all out of direct street line of sight which is key and most people now days don't even know what a peach tree looks like.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 11:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Buying a house with a HOA was your first big mistake. Asking for permission was your second big mistake. Usually its better to ask for forgiveness. If they force you to undo what you did, you can be defiant and run up legal expenses for the HOA. The added cost undermines the HOA's support among those indifferent to your project.

You don't really own a piece of land if you can't plant bushes of your choice. You don't own a house if you can paint it a color of your choice. My advice is take your loss. Sell the house (or mail the keys back to the bank if your underwater) and move somewhere without a HOA.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2012 at 12:48AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Another option if you can tolerate not really owning where you live. Install cactus protected by FL law everywhere. Make it look really bad. Resubmit original plan.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2012 at 12:52AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Brad Edwards

barnhardt, while I agree with you I also disagree. I think a HOA is usually a pretty decent thing and keeps property value stable, yet they often overlook small things like a tomato plant, lemon, or a couple of cabbages, they don't want tracks in your front yard.

Better idea than selling the house, assuming you like the home, is buying a cheap piece of land at 1 acre outside the city but near your home "if possible" that has access to water or a well, then grow what ever you want :).

I would still plant in winter onion, probably kale, bok choy, and cabbage and people won't know the difference if incorporated into a bed, and in the spring go with tomatoes, bell pepper, maybe datil pepper, and one or two other things that can take mostly full sun and incorporate them into the landscape hiding them.

I think if you have a nice enough bed you could put a citrus tree and hide it. I agree with barnhardt, you probably shot yourself in the foot asking, because if they HOA are jerks they will keep an eye on your home. Just don't stick the edibles out there. Shoot if your in northern florida a couple of blueberry bushes could be nice.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2012 at 5:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You have state law on your side. It trumps their rules.

Wish I could find the article but their were a young couple who were cited by their local city and used this law to override the cities complaints. They were doing permaculture and had lots of edibles in there.

Here is a link that might be useful: Florida Friendly Landscaping

    Bookmark   June 8, 2012 at 1:25AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
leila hamaya(8 nor cal)

wow, that sucks. i can tell we are living in different sorts of reality tunnels here =) and i agree with whomever said you never shouldve asked them. shouldve (maybe not too late) just planted it and made it nice....and then they would have to make the move if they had a problem with it.

thats what i wouldve done, and what i would do now if i were in your shoes. but like i said obviously we are coming from different places here...i've got a bad attitude or something when it comes to things like that.

i've never dealt with anything like this as i dont like overly populated areas where people get all control freak like this. in fact i really cant even understand it, people trying to control people and the plants they can plant like this, its beyond comprehension to me.

(apologies yard nazis and those concerned about such weird things as "property values" and whatnot if theres any reading, but seriously, loosen up !and - mind your own business =))

and anywho i would prefer a beautiful garden and its "value" over some stupid grass lawn anyday =) even a big messy garden....visually, and in terms of real values like being able to eat from your front yard.

you are making me especially grateful for my yarden =) and the lack of anyone looking over my in a rural area with lots of farmers, and not alot of local restrictions. if anything my neighbors and the people around seem to appreciate my gardens, for this place was a mess when i first got here. and appreciative i dont have to mow the grass...theres a little bit of wildflowers and tall grasses in the areas of the yarden that arent edible gardens (yet!)and the only reason i cut the grass is for the free mulch =)

i encourage you to fight this...and my advice, which is probably bad advice (!)- do it anyway , but do go out of your way to make it visually pleasing and neat looking.

i am also thinking attractive large raised beds...or something like benches built right into the design on the bottom of vertical raised gardens with alot of different levels...if their were seats, like benches around on the bottom.... and arbors, and a patio like feel, with container style gardens with nice attractive container boxes that in a different category??? to me it seems different, and i think you could look for a loophole there...make a patio, and then surround it with trellises...

seems like a container garden, is different than planting right in the ground. you can make huge containers...with even some large ones with an open bottom (sheet mulch on bottom with tons of cardboard) for trees and such that want to root deeply, and still have it look like container gardens.

more like a "patio" ...i've seen some nice things done with container gardens that incorporated benches and trellises right on the boxes.

anyway- make them have to make a move...if they want to shut you down...if you dont just acquiese to them...they will have to jump through hoops and figure out how to stop you if you say no and do it anyway.

anyway i would think it would be difficult for them to take it so far as to go through whatever process to force you to stop.telling you not to do it is one thing, and alot of people will fold under that pressure. i think this stuff mostly works because people do that, accept it even though its unfair...they accept that these HOA have the right to tell them no, and dont fight it.....

but when it comes to actually forcing you to stop...i would think thats actually a difficult process, they may not and just give in, look the other way....and if they dont and try to force you to stop...i think you could fight it for a long time, hassle them some... and probably eventually at least come up with a compromise...or some agreement.

anywho thats my advice, like i said i've never dealt with this personally so not sure about if that will fly. but seems like a good try...a patio, and container gardens seem like a loophole you could work...ah some thoughts. maybe they are helpful =)

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 12:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
leila hamaya(8 nor cal)

ah another thought- a great thing about vertical gardens besides being space saving and giving higher yields, is the water use. water flows down, so if you set up your watering on the top, it makes the best use of little water.

(and potentially able to qualify as "container gardens" and get around your local restrictions =))

basically its bottom watering the plants, having water available at the roots rather than top watering. = works better =)

using lots of straw in your raised beds (even entire bales of straw to fill up the tall beds) will also help regulate the stores the water for the plants to use later.

even though they are water saving, they do need a lot of water and to not dry out...but if you get big storms where theres tons of water at some points during the year then they will hold and release the water later. in a wet climate this can be a self watering bed, one with multiple levels and trellises...with some trenches and countoured mounds to help water flow where you want it to...and pipes put into the ground to funnel the water down....

you use a LOT LOT less water if you have tall beds that drip down unto the shorter beds...and use a lot of straw/other mulch in your growing medium.

ps. i liked your blog =)

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 1:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Brad Edwards

Not to knock you but if you wanted a nice big garden and it was a huge priorty then why not move further out in the country?

I am not a yard nazi, just trying to look at it from a HOA point of view. I wouldn't want my neighbor having a large vegtable garden right in the middle of his front yard, wouldn't bother me, but if everybody did it I don't think I would be a fan of it "that is on our street".

Not being allowed to incorporate edibles in the landscape sucks, the only reason I would think a HOA would be against it would be in the rare case of local wildlife being a problem, like Alaska with bear etc. Or maybe a ton of deer etc.

Just buy some dwarf small varities of citrus sense your in florida and plant them in hidden areas. You could also do blueberry as most of the people wouldn't even know. Most edibles can be incorporated into the landscape if you have raised beds without anybody knowing. Just thinking your in one of those Florida cookie cutter areas like the vast majority of Florida. We would like to move there, but can't get past that in Florida.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 8:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Brad Edwards

You could also plant them in containers and then move them in and out :). It truly is amazing what some people grow even in apartment complexes. I used to grow tomatoes throughout college.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 8:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
gardengimp(9B Seminole Cnty FL)

I would probably take the route of 'implement a florida friendly landscape to eliminate the waste of drinking water and the contamination of our local waterways'. Play up that wetland community you share space with. The HOA can squack as much as they won't but they can't trump FS 720.3075

If they want 30% 'lawn' in the front, come up with a plan that leaves all the hell strip and the piece next to your driveway to the west in 'lawn' and then use 'lawn' as wide pathways around your front gardens. Oh, and I am fairly certain that they can not restrict you from implementing a florida friendly 'lawn'. My 'lawn' is green stuff that I mow regularly. From the street it looks pretty much just like all the other resource hogs in my subdivision. Except that mine gets no fertilizer or pesticide and very, very seldom any additional irrigation. The secret to my lawn is multi-part. It is NOT monoculture. It started as St. Augustine, overseeded Bahia, plugged Zoysia. Added Mimosa strigrillosa in stubborn spots. Plugged mondo grass in shady spots. Turned really bad spots into fruit tree beds. Dumped loads of tree trimmed chips onto the really, really bad spots and planted root crops.

I don't use any pesticides in my front yard, and very little chemical fertilizer. It has taken several years, but the front 'lawn' is looking really nice. The natural order of things has slowly been restored. Part of the reason it has taken longer is because I'm a poor gimp and am doing all the work myself.

Now I am curious about what % lawn I have out front. And what % is planting beds. I do know the planting beds > lawn. And another big section of lawn is coming out this year [grin!].

My front yard planting beds are mixed use beds. Edibles, perennials and ornamentals. I even grew heirloom tomatoes in my front planting beds this past fall - spring. My artfully disguised compost bin is in the front side yard. Speaking of compost, one way to look at your 'lawn' is as green manure for your compost bin!

I am also working to capture rain in my yard and I like to think that the grass pathways and grass at the concrete edges helps to keep water in my yard and not running off. I am also working on capturing rain runoff INTO grass zones in the yard. Rain water garden type concepts. My general idea is improving water holding capacity of the yard to help improve the crops from the edible bits and parts of the front.

I'm rambling I guess.

If you go over to the Tropical Fruit forum and hunt up a post from Sunworshiper aka Angela that shows her gardens; you can see she has fruit tree planting bed islands around her front yard. Big islands. Very nicely executed. Veggies and perennials tucked around the fruit trees. Oh, and she lives in an HOA in Ovieda. I am in Lake Mary, but not in a HOA. Our deed restrictions expired 5 years ago.

I got to tour Angela's gardens a couple years ago, her gardens have been my inspiration for keeping my front yard edibles below the radar.

St Johns Water Management District might be able to give you some advice. It is not a matter of IF, but rather WHEN Seminole County has to start cracking down on water quality the way that the gulf coast area of Florida is currently.

Gabby Milch with the Seminole County Extension Office might have some pointers for you. She does the Florida Yards and Neighbors program for Seminole. Also, you might want to send this document along to your HOA.

Here is another news article about HOA vs Florida Friendly Lawns (this one is part of the St Johns River Water Management District)

Angela is a great resource you should consider tracking down. She is an engineer, and has a wealth of detail about fruit growing tucked away in her head. And she frequently has divisions for trade. You are welcome to come over to our place and look around, but I'm still working on growing up to be like Angela. Plus, my neighborhood is not the same scale as yours and Angela's. But I have Beauty Berry bushes you can take! And sweet potato slips. And Okinawa Spinach. And Callaloo. And Florida Cranberry. And Black Jungle Butter Beans. Yardlong beans. Whipporwill Field Peas.

Sorry for all the rambling. Hope this helps you some. I've posted below a link to a 'tour' of my gardens this past winter.


Here is a link that might be useful: Tour

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 11:23PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Brad Edwards

Yeah some other ideas off of dianne are purple basil as a herb or border filler it blends in, maybe lavender would be a nice addition, rosemary, thyme, mint, and oragano would look pretty cool if done right, though be wary of mint as it spreads like crazy.

We are moving into a HOA and am planning on planting a lot of that in the new beds, its not a strict HOA at all, but why not use some edibles.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 5:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Not a strict HOA...

until someone retires and has nothing better to do then serve of the board and make issues...

until someone has a bad divorce and wants to spread the pain around...

until an assh0le attorney moves into the neighborhood with plenty of time to file lawsuits to intimidate...

Be very careful about HOA's. Look at what power they have rather than how they exercise it at the moment. If you plan to be there a long time, the people in power will change. Eventually you will get someone that wants to exercise every bit of it.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 12:01AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Brad Edwards

I agree 100% with barnhardt, thats why to me the better HOA's have an oversight board that makes the decisons, even better are those with voting among the owners of the neighborhood with issues having to be in unison and the ideas presented by the board.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 2:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
cowgirl_kitkatt(ok 7A)

there is a lot you could do and make it look nice and i doubt anyone would be the wiser. make beds and follow those who made suggestions like those. I know its limiting but you can always increase the size of your beds over time ;)

    Bookmark   June 30, 2012 at 11:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

I think you did the right thing by asking the HOA. My ex did not ask prior to roofing his entire home, and THEN they made him tear if off and re-roof at HIS expense!

Good luck to you! Front yards are tough. BOTH of our yards are tough because we have street facing front, and golf course facing back! My huge raised infinity edge pool, hides a lot of pots with what I love, and I have a hidden vineyard in the side yard that can't be seen from the golf course because of the outdoor kitchen blocking it in!

The front yard is theirs, in my opinion. They maintain it, and they can have it! Courtyard, side yards are mine!

We will be leaving this place soon for acreage in an agriculturally friendly area. Saying good-bye to HOA, and hello to Freedom, maintenance, a possible neighbor with an ugly pink house, and a possible junk yard next door, and the potential of property devaluations. You just can't have it all!

Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 12:07PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm a little late to this post but one can definitely have an attractive yard with edible landscaping. I'm not sure what works in Florida but you should check out some of Rosalind Creasy's books on edible landscaping. Options which work in the north include service berries, cherries, lingonberries, upright varieties of thornless blackberries, sea buckthorn, espalier apples (actually any dwarf variety of fruit tree), flowering quince and many different varieties of herbs.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2013 at 12:11AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi - if you're still reading this - I have a great substitute for sod. Herniaria glabra - common name is Green Carpet. It is evergreen, has tiny little leaves like creeping thyme, tolerates foot traffic, fills in thick, no mowing is needed, surface is even and smooth, no diseases or pests bother it, doesn't need fertilizing or any chemicals. From a distance it looks like a really green lawn. Once it really fills in, very few weeds get through. Until then you just have to do some hand weeding. I am gradually replacing my stupid sod with it and I couldn't be more thrilled. You could just start gradually doing it. I'd be hard-pressed to think an HOA person would tell you to tear it out because it is so gorgeous. Then you could plant your food trees here and there and it would look beautiful. Pomegranate trees have the most gorgeous blooms. Anyway good luck!

    Bookmark   December 31, 2014 at 7:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
donnaz5(Z5 NY)

It kind of irks me when a person buys into a place with clearly defined rules and then tries to change them. On the HOA signed on...
Having said that, I live out in the boonies and can plant what I want...I would NEVER give up my rights to landscape(or not) where I PAY a mortgage, or PAID cash to live..just insanity to me.
But...jerusalem artichokes have very pretty blossoms, and look like sunflowers...Ribes(gooseberry)...many of them have very pretty flowers...
that's all I can think of. I am truly sorry that you bought first and thought second...let that be a lesson to us all.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2015 at 10:44PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Looking for American elderberry
I am from Windsor, Ontario, Canada. I am looking for...
Beach Plum as Foundation Planting?
I'm going to buy a boyfriend for an existing Beach...
espalier - not apple or pear
Does anyone have any experience with creating an espalier...
Good currant variety?
I'm looking to grow some currants but there are too...
This is a tree that seems to have some real potential...
Sponsored Products
Bronze Finish Pierced Dome LED Landscape Path Light
Lamps Plus
Windsor Black 20" High Solar LED Lantern Post Light
Lamps Plus
Crystorama Regis Chandelier - 36.5W in. English Bronze & Golden Teak - 5117-EB-G
Charlotte Queen Bed Frame in Beige
$549.00 | LexMod
Black Rectangular Shower Caddy
$17.99 | zulily
Halo Lazer Gimbal Ring Track Light White 75wpar30 LZR330P
$18.97 | Home Depot
Wooden Coat Rack with Rotating Top - PMCAFEC
$103.99 | Hayneedle
Illumine Lamps 28 in. Polished Steel Table Lamp CLI-LS449331
Home Depot
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™