Homeowners’ Associations (HOAs) have the power to closely monitor every aspect of your property, from the color of your shutters to the angle of your fence– threatening fines onto any home sticking out from your cul de sac’s uniformity. And with about 80% of newly-built homes belonging to an HOA, they’re not going anywhere.
While manicured lawns and matching mailboxes might be the standard, these matching landscapes lack the environmental diversity crucial for thriving ecosystems.
The consequence of this lack of diversity? A decline in ecological resilience and a flattened biodiversity vulnerable to environmental challenges.
Many homeowners may want to return to more sustainable gardening practices, only to be met with the red tape of HOA regulations. If you want to build a garden buzzing with wildlife, don’t let that hold you back. Read along for natural gardening solutions that will please board members and local wildlife alike.
Tip 1: Research: Choose the Right Plants
A great foundation for an environmentally friendly garden starts with selecting the correct plants. Consider embracing the locals– native species perfectly adapted to your region. They’ll feel right at home, with their roots often burrowing deeper into the ground than their non-native counterparts. This can help prevent erosion, promote water retention, and reinforce the ecosystem of your surrounding plants — all of which means less upkeep and maintenance year-round. Need help selecting the right plants for your region? Check out our plant finder tool.
Support your pollinators
Gardens with poor plant variation are a total buzzkill to pollinators like bees and butterflies. Make your garden more enticing by incorporating a variety of flowering plants into your design.
Tip 2: Planning: Create cohesion with design principles
When including native and pollinator plants in your garden, carefully planning the layout will be essential. These plants can appear messy or out of place without a good plan, and you want your garden to be both wildlife-friendly and beautiful.
All well-designed gardens have a good balance of cohesion and variety. Establish a strong foundation by arranging your plants into layers and placing taller, fuller plants in your garden’s backdrop and shorter plants with more delicate features in its foreground. Weaving similar plant groupings throughout the design will also help tie things together.
To add visual interest, stay away from perfectly symmetrical layouts and design with a focal point in mind. Traditional garden art may go against your association’s rulebook, but it is possible to achieve the same results with your favorite shrub or prizewinning roses.
Finish off your garden with defining hardscaping elements such as pathways or stone features, which will help you create more of a sense of structure and cohesion.
Limit the lawn
Grass lawns require an excessive amount of upkeep in the form of harsh chemicals and wasterful watering practices to maintain their green color year-round. If your HOA permits, reduce your lawn area and replace the section with native grasses, organic mulch, or additional hardscaping – all of which can help make your garden more water-efficient and nature-friendly.
Tip 3: Maintenance: Keep your garden looking good year-round
Performing regular maintenance of your garden will be crucial in ensuring its success. Cut back on toxic pesticides and fertilizer use by introducing compost into your routine, which will enrich your soil with minimal effort.
Tip 4: Advocacy: Endorse natural gardening within your community
Advocating for eco-friendly practices within your HOA is a great way to implement change far beyond your property lines.
Begin by busting the myths surrounding the preservation of property values that likely inspired your association’s restrictions in the first place. Many traditionally-held gardening practices are losing relevance in the modern world, and realtors are finding that the presence of sustainable gardening features such as pollinator gardens are highly valued among potential homebuyers.
Garner the support of your neighbors by introducing them to the multitude of ecological benefits that arise from natural gardening practices. And if that doesn’t speak to their hearts, present some statistics that will speak to their wallets instead. The resource efficiency of natural gardening often translates to lower maintenance costs and water bills. One Colorado neighborhood was able to save 15 million gallons of water in one year alone with a plan that included replacing areas of turfgrass with native plants.
Lastly, leading by example is the simplest way to inspire change within your community. By cultivating a great-looking, eco-conscious garden, you’ll inspire more of your neighbors to do the same.