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How to be “Garden Smart” in your HOA or Condo Community

Spring is coming! For some that means the joy of getting their gardening plans in order. According to the National Gardening Association, more than 42 million Americans are involved in some form of growing vegetables, herbs or fruit for home consumption. More interestingly that number is growing, up 17% from just five years ago. For residents of HOAs and condominiums, gardening also means taking time to understand the rules and restrictions of gardening in your association.

HOAs and condominiums often have rules in place regarding gardening. Contrary to what the critics say, this isn’t because HOA or condo boards want to unduly control your access to fresh food – but rather the rules are in place to help protect the common property of the association and to preserve the value of the property in community associations. For example, container gardens on a condo balcony may impact common elements of the association (e.g. – the structure of the balcony itself) or may lead to water and debris entering another balcony or neighboring units. Thus, rules are put in place to help ensure that such activity doesn’t impact your neighbors or the building structure. Likewise many homeowners associations have rules that govern the location of gardens, usually limiting them to back yards or away from the street. In other cases, such as townhome communities, the land is not part of the unit. That means the small front or back yards that are exclusively used by the townhome owner are actually owned by the association. So if you live in an HOA or a condominium association, taking the time to understand the rules will help ensure a bountiful harvest for you and your neighbors.

Just what sort of questions should one ask when looking to garden in your HOA or condominium?

  • First, it is important to know if gardening is allowed and if so, what restrictions are imposed on the gardening. As noted above, many HOAs and condos have rules in place for various reasons but very few ban gardening outright.
  • Second, make sure you know if the property that you are gardening is actually your property – this is especially true in townhome communities where the yard is actually a common element of the association.
  • Third, be realistic and put yourself in your neighbor’s shoes. If you live in a condominium, make sure that you not only follow the rules, but work to ensure that your garden containers are secure and that water and debris doesn’t intrude onto neighboring balconies, or worse.

Taking these steps will help insure that your garden doesn’t run afoul of rules or impact your neighbors.

As an example, the Kentlands Citizens Assembly in Gaithersburg, Maryland, has developed a community-based gardening program. With oversight in the hands of the Kentlands Community Foundation’s GO GREEN Group, the program has plots of different sizes to include mixed use raised beds and ground level decorative gardens, and it also incorporates composting and rain harvesting. Members are allowed one plot per year with percentages designated for condo dwellers and sponsors of the garden, and rules are in place to provide for continuity and change. An annual lottery is conducted to allow new members to have a plot. In 2015, the Kentlands Community Foundation’s GO GREEN Group was recognized with an Environmental Award from the City of Gaithersburg for their efforts with the community garden. In 2014, Kentlands Citizens Assembly was the recipient of the Associa Green Award. Kentlands Citizen Assembly is managed by Associa’s Community Management Corporation in Rockville, Maryland.


Associa is committed to increasing the environmental well-being of the communities we serve by promoting products and services and facilitating programs that support “green” living. Through our Associa Green initiative, we’re helping families live a healthy, sustainable lifestyle that is good for them and the earth.