Show Notes

Today, we talk about how to live in an HOA or municipal zoning area with regulations… without getting busted!

We want to be able to enjoy our low maintenance landscaping without having to work on it all of the time.  Here’s how you can have an easy landscape and enjoy it too!

  • HOA
    • Homeowners association
    • Regulate appearance and design of properties
  • Municipal codes
    • Codes written to regulate property design
    • Setback requirements, easements
  • How to not have problems
    • Maintenance related
      • Maintain appearances
      • Mow regularly
      • Keep weeds at minimum
    • Preventative tactics
      • Mulch heavily
      • Edge lawn
      • Established borders
    • Design tactics
      • Check regs before beginning projects
        • Setbacks
        • Fencing
        • Structures
        • Hardscape elements
        • Specific plants
      • Reduce lawn area
      • Establish slow growing lawn
        • “no-mow” and low maintenance varieties
        • Keep trimmed more frequently
      • Design full coverage beds
        • Ground covers
        • Varied texture and height
        • Varied color
        • Grouped plantings
      • Establish durable hardscapes
      • Durable borders and transitions

Links for today’s episode:

this is the easy living yards podcast

I’m you’re breaking the rules host Ben

Hale let’s jump in and learn how to have

a healthy beautiful yard with less work

so you can enjoy more time doing what

you love what’s up and welcome to

episode 21 of the easy living yards

podcast thanks for tuning in today guys

I’m so excited you’re here for the

episode 21 that’s right it’s not really

a fancy number I guess but I you know

I’m kind of feeling rad right now or

whatever so I wanted to use my cool 90s

voice but anyway so welcome to episode

today before we get into it we’re gonna

be talking about avoiding problems with

HOAs and local codes how’s that for 90s

radness talking but before we get into

that I just wanted to let you know guys

know if you guys have any questions or

comments or whatever for the show

suggestions for new shows I want to hear

them and you can go over to easy living

yards comm slash pod slash p OD and

that’ll take you right to a the podcast

page and right at the top there’s a

button to ask any questions or leave

comments so so if you want to do that

make sure you gone over and do that and

you could potentially get featured on

the show as well in the future and of

course I have a link in the show notes

for that as well so let’s get into it

for today so with that guys we are

talking today about avoiding problems

with HOAs and local codes and zoning

this is this is not my favorite topic I

will be completely honest with you guys

you know I’m kind of not a rule person

I’m actually a rule breaker I guess and

now with that said you know I think we

can have a lot of beauty in our

landscapes without having to comply to

whatever somebody else’s perception of

beauty is and that’s kind of why I don’t

I don’t love this topic in and actually

I kind of would prefer to live in a

place where I can you know live

my own rules as opposed to somebody

else’s and what they perceive for their

for their property value anyway before I

get off on a tirade really what I want

to talk today about is is how you can

live in an area that has a local zoning

code or local property codes or if you

live in an HOA and and if you’re not

familiar with it that is it means you

probably don’t live in one but also I’ll

explain it later but if you live in an

area where any of these codes or rules

are in place it’s important that we

comply to them and do it in a way that’s

also conducive to our lifestyle and

saving time from our landscape to do the

things that are more important to us so

so whether that’s spending more time

with your family or working towards your

your passions in life or spending habit

having more time to relax from your busy

lifestyle whatever it is we want to

focus our time on that as opposed to

having to do the chores that are

necessary to maintain a landscape

according to somebody else’s perception

and so today is all about understanding

what are these rules and regulations

like how to find them and also how to

make sure we’re designing and

maintaining our landscape to comply with

them but at the same time reduce work as

much as possible so that’s kind of what

today’s show is about in a nutshell

so let’s get into it so first I’ve used

this acronym a couple times the HOA if

you’re not familiar with it first of all

you’re probably lucky because you don’t

live in one I guess you guys hear my

opinion about them but you know if you

live in an HOA I know a lot of people

like it but anyway let’s just talk about

what it is first what it stands for is a

homeowner’s association so it’s

generally speaking it’s a group if you

live in a subdivision or a development

area it’s a group of homeowners that are

on a local board kind of voted into

place by the the homeowners of that

development and so it’s basically a kind

of a smaller level of of self-government

where this board collectively decides

what we

should not do with our landscape across

the whole development too to have

uniformity and to have it look a certain

way and in a lot of times the defense is

that this helps boost property values

for that space and and that may be true

but at the same time it restricts a lot

of what you can do and it also a lot of

times it also creates a lot of

maintenance needs as well so for better

for worse that’s what a homeowner’s

association is and I guess the the short

sentence for it is they regulate the

appearance and design of properties in a

given space so if you happen to live in

an HOA and you’re looking to save time

in your landscape that you have to do it

in a certain way to make sure you’re

compliant with the HOA rules while

allowing yourself the freedom to to

design in compliance to those rules with

the intent to save as much time as

possible for maintaining your landscape

okay so we’ll get into that later

the next piece I want to define is

municipal codes so these are codes

written generally at a city town

township level rarely at the county

level to regulate property design so

these include setback requirements

easements so if you’re not familiar with

what an easement is it’s it’s basically

a space where you’re regulated on what

you can do if one of these easements

touches or runs through your property so

a certain Eva’s met could be a sewer

easement so if there’s an underground

sewer pipe that runs through your

property or a waterway easement if

there’s drainage space across your

property it could be a road easement so

if you you know you the street your

property butts up to you might be

regulated on a certain amount of space

that you have to keep open for whatever

reason so these are various examples and

and not not encompassing for sure but

those are examples of what types of

easements you may have that are

regulated through your local Township

likewise you have setback requirements

so you can’t build for example

right on the edge of your property line

in most cases so you have to make sure

you’re compliant with the setback

requirements based on the structure or

the design you’re working with at the

time so various structures require

different levels of setback and so it’s

important to understand those two before

you’re going across or going ahead and

building something with with it being in

the wrong space okay so those are our

general definitions I’m gonna try and be

brief on those today

and let’s just jump into understanding

how to not have problems in the future

and how to minimize as much work as

possible with your landscape so I’m

breaking this kind of into three buckets

for us the first is maintenance related

stuff the second is preventative tactics

you can use to reduce work and the third

of course is designed tactics so more

labor-intensive to install more work to

do but in the long term the design

tactics went out with how much they can

save you so for now what you can do is

you can start switching some of this

maintenance stuff and for a long term

you can start planning for some of this

design stuff so let’s get into it so for

maintenance related stuff we’re kind of

talking about three primary things I

want to point out for maintenance

related stuff first this is about

maintaining appearances so you want to

make sure that your property doesn’t

stick out compared to your neighbors

properties or the properties in your

neighborhood where you’re going to be

catching the the oversight of somebody

or be targeted for some violations so

essentially what you need to do is you

need to make sure you’re maintaining

your property at a frequent enough basis

to not look you know unkempt and and so

these a lot of these codes will have

certain guidelines I guess of what you

can do so for example how much you need

– how short your nons

nan needs to be trimmed or whether or

not it can have the appearance of any

clover in it for example or any other

broadleaf plant

so depending upon where you live the

regulations for this may be more or less

stringent and and so I’m not being

specific here because it highly varies

based on where you live so it’s

important to actually even though it’s

kind of a bear to read through some of

this stuff it’s important to read

through it to understand what are your

limitations and and kind of where do you

have some leeway but in general what I’m

saying here is make sure you’re kind of

maintaining appearances so you’re not

getting more scrutiny than say your

neighbor might be because of just a

perception so the next piece is to mow

regular regularly okay

a lot of what I’ve talked about in

previous episodes is to mow less often

right and and that’s true I still

recommend you do that but to make sure

your mowing regularly enough to again

not bring scrutiny upon your landscape

and and so I’ve talked in other episodes

about how to maintain your lawn to be

more low-maintenance and one of the

guidelines I’ve given or recommendations

that giving is to mow higher because it

helps the overall health of your lawn

I’m not going to get into it to detail

today but you can check out the previous

episodes about lawns if you want to to

understand more about that so for for

mowing I still recommend you mow higher

but you may not be able to mow as high

as somebody that’s you know not in one

of these more regulated areas because

again you you’re trying to avoid

scrutiny here you’re trying to avoid the

the I guess the the heavy fist of of

wall coming down to focus on your

landscape as opposed to your neighbors

just because of one thing that may you

know trigger somebody to to think more

about your yard as opposed to your

neighbors and so if you’re mowing too

high you know even when it’s freshly

mowed it still stands out in contrast

your neighbors and so I still recommend

you you mow as high as you feel

comfortable with to increase the health

of your lawn to reduce weed issues to

increase the resilience of your lawn in

drought conditions and so on and so

forth without mowing so high that that

it’s going to cause you some some issues

in the long term just with where you

live and the regulations you have

so mowing regularly enough to where

where your mow your excuse me your lawn

looks consistent enough so this means

you might have to most slightly more

frequently than than what I’ve

recommended for other places but this is

again a judgment call but if you’re you

know if you’re you’d lawn is taller it

doesn’t necessarily mean it looks kind

of scrappy so if you’re mowing higher

than your neighbor’s lawn it you’re

still gonna have those nice even cut

grass blades that people love to see and

when it starts to you know kind of grow

to where it’s not incredibly even as

when you know it might be an indicator

that it’s time to mow and so you might

only be mowing a very small portion of

the grass blades off at that point but

but it’s enough to keep up appearances

and and yes this is more work than if

you live somewhere else but the option

of course is to to move and and I’m

guessing you would rather not do that so

so I’m trying to give you

recommendations here to to live as much

in harmony with your neighborhood

without having to move so whether or not

you should move is another story that’s

a decision I’m gonna leave up to you but

um let’s let’s assume for this case that

you you would like to stay in your

current home okay all right so we talked

about maintaining appearances and that

being kind of the goal mulch eight or

excuse me I’m skipping ahead here mowing

regularly and the last thing is to keep

weeds at a minimum so I’ve talked about

the lawn already at so this goes for

both your lawn and your garden beds so

keeping weeds at a minimum is again

going to avoid you having extra scrutiny

placed upon your yard because a lot of

these codes and regulations they’re

written kind of vaguely and it’s kind of

written in a way where it’s a little bit

of judgment on the the regulating

official there’s a little bit of leeway

and so if a yard looks potentially

unkempt or not as attractive in in you

know and some people’s perception you

can become you can come under scrutiny

or be issued violations or fined based

on appearance and again this is kind of

a qualitative things sometimes but

but of course weeds play into that so if

somebody thinks that your garden bed

looks a little rough or whatever you

might come under scrutiny for that

because there’s a few weeds popping out

so it’s important to make sure you keep

weeds at a minimum in order to avoid

this avoid this scrutiny okay so that’s

the maintenance stuff you know how I

feel about maintenance if you’ve

listened to the any other episodes and

and if you’re you’re new to the show

first of all welcome as usual I’m so

excited you’re here and this is a bit of

a tough episode to come onto is the

first time but but maybe you’re coming

here because you are having issues or

you’re trying to understand more about

these regulations so if so thank you so

much for coming by and yeah I think

overall the message is that we want to

try and reduce maintenance as much as

possible but but if are if we’re

required to do certain things it’s

important we do it to the frequency or

to the to the level where we’re not

going to be coming under additional

stress because of somebody else’s

regulations on our property

okay so let’s move on into some

preventative tactics we can do with our

current landscape without having to

redesign it so this is very helpful for

kind of making some small changes that

we don’t need to go over drastic majors

yet so as far as preventative tactics I

have three major things we can do the

first and you’ve heard me say this

before is to mulch heavily so heavy

mulching can go a long way to and of

course this is in your garden beds this

can go a long way to reducing weed

problems while increasing moisture

retention in your space and also over

the long term increasing the fertility

of your soil so mulch has a lot of

benefits and and here I’m talking about

natural wood mulch you can also do say

like pine mulch like pine needle mulch

or even bark mulch pine bark is a common

one a lot of these natural materials is

what I’m talking about

and and this stuff is really helpful at

weed suppression assuming you have a

thick enough layer

it’s also helpful at those other things

I talked about now in order to get these

benefits of mulch you have to be several

inches thick the recommendations vary

here but I would suggest at least four

inches of mulch to be maintained on your

your garden beds in order to really get

the benefit of weed suppression and the

moisture retention and and so on

now with mulch – of course I’ve said

this in the past but just to reiterate

here I recommend you get is the the most

natural mulch possible so try and avoid

the ones that have dyes in them make

sure you know the source of the wood

mulch as well so if you’re getting them

from a big-box store especially this is

something you have to be careful of or

even a landscape supplier the dyed mulch

is a lot of times they’re lower quality

wood from all sorts of sources and the

the dyes themselves aren’t great for

your soil for your plants likewise a lot

of times these mulches these commercial

mulches are sourced from things that

aren’t the healthiest source of wood so

they might be ground-up wood pallets for

example and and so a lot of those things

have chemicals in them that reduce decay

for the pallet but when it comes to the

mulch that being in contact with the

soil and your plants can really

negatively affect your garden bed and it

can actually cause problems for your

plants so you want to get the most

natural mulch possible so hopefully it’s

just ground up pieces of wood or you

know your pine needle mulch is a

different story where it’s it’s pretty

good stuff and so just make sure your

source of mulch is healthy for your

landscape the next piece is edging your

lawn so this actually can be helpful

this is something I need to do for our

lawn right now actually – so when you

come up to a border especially like a

sidewalk or a driveway make sure you put

in a good edge there so you know I’m

talking about you know you see the guys

with the weed trimmers and the

landscaping company kind of going down

and cutting an edge there we can

actually take a spade every this is

something you’ll have to do every few

seasons but take a spade and actually

cut a chunk of the soil away from the


to give it a little bit of a gap and and

this prevents the overgrowth of your

lawn into the hardscape element which

which appears very unsightly to a lot of

people and so by establishing this edge

you you again are reducing the amount of

catching somebody’s eye that might

dislike what you’re doing with your

property the next piece is to have

established border so this is kind of

the part and parcel with the previous

example of edging your lawn but here I’m

talking about defined transitions

between one type of space to another so

this is between a garden bed in your

lawn or a walk or pathway in your lawn

for example and so having a good border

there a durable border will reduce a lot

of creep one way or the other with your

types of plantings and it’ll reduce a

lot of weed problems as well so

something to consider there a lot of

very various options for durable borders

and just pick something that appeals to

your style and also the amount of work

you’re willing to put in to establish it

and the duration of time you want the

border to be effective okay so those are

three examples of preventative tactics

you can use to reduce maintenance and

also kind of increase a little bit of

curb appeal at the same time so I

strongly recommend those now let’s

transition into some design tactics you

can do with your landscape so this is

longer term play stuff but changing

these these design elements can really

go a long way to one increasing curb

appeal but at the same time making sure

you’re compliant with local regulations

and so that’s very important too of

course to be compliant with either the

HOA or the local municipal regulations

so that’s a great segue into my first

point which is make sure when you’re

beginning a project you thoroughly check

what regulations you need to comply with

so if you live in an HOA for example you

need to make sure you’re checking the

HOA regulations also checking the local

municipal regulations and even the

county regulations for

a lot of times County only comes into

play if you have to consult building

code and sometimes setback requirements

as well at the county level so just make

sure you’re checking at least to make

sure none of that stuff is necessary and

if this is a kind of a unfamiliar space

with you usually if you call up your

your local municipal property department

they’ll be able to help you and guide

you to understand what you need to

consult before starting your project so

things you want to check before you

start your project setback requirements

if you live in an HOA it might be even

be things like fencing what type of

fencing you’re allowed to use whether or

not a certain part of your yard is

allowed to have it what type of plants

specific plants you’re allowed to use

what type of hard scape elements you’re

allowed to use or what structures you’re

allowed to have so some HOAs don’t allow

you to have a storage shed for example

so make sure you check to see what you

are and are not allowed to have on your

property both at the the HOA level the

local municipal level and then even

grander scale at the county level okay

so once we’ve checked to make sure we

know what we’re allowed to do and what

we’re not allowed to do the first thing

I would suggest is to figure out how you

can reduce your lawn area as much as

possible so putting in larger scale

garden beds that cover more of your

property of varied styles potentially

but you know again a cohesive design

style across your property but that

something that provides visual interest

will go a long way and toward making

your your property look appealing and

attractive while you’re looking unique

but also more importantly being very low

maintenance where you can enjoy that

property you can improve your

relationship with your neighborhood and

you can have more time to do the things

that are more important so that’s what

we want here so the first step is

reducing your lawn area to the bare

minimum so this is the lawn space that

you feel like you want for either view

or recreation or relaxation or

entertainment so

really sit down and think what do I

really want and need for my lawn and

then what should I do with the rest of

the space and this is kind of a tough

thing to do because we’re all used to

having so much lon

but when we really think about it we

probably need a fraction of what we

actually have and what this will do the

reason I’m pushing this or suggesting

this is that a lawn is a very

high-maintenance piece that interrupts

our schedules you know other parts of a

landscape can be high-maintenance but

the thing with a lawn is it requires

repeated work on a frequent basis that

can interrupt our day-to-day life and so

the more we can reduce that the the more

availability we have on a more frequent

basis to do more important stuff so

consider reducing your lawn as much as

you’re comfortable with doing and

replacing with other elements so this

can be again garden beds or hard scape

elements such as a patio or deck or

other entertainment space is a fireplace

that may be just as beautiful and and

just as beneficial for your landscape

and your lifestyle

so next establish consider establishing

a slow-growing lon so there are a lot of

slower growing options out there that

can create a beautiful lawn for you and

of course this is something I’ve

suggested in previous episodes as well

the Nommo lawn that we have from Prairie

nursery ism is an awesome lon it’s a

much slower growing lawn than your

typical lawn around the Midwest and it’s

a such a beautiful and comfortable on at

the same time and so I mow that a very

infrequent basis so we’re talking maybe

two to three times a year and and you

can move if you’re living in a an HOA

you can actually mow it more frequently

and it still does great and it looks you

know more more clean-cut I guess you

could say then what I keep ours at but

and again I only have this one part of

my property I don’t have across the

whole property yet and so this is kind

of a

I put in a few experimental plots just

to you know kind of test this stuff out

but but I loved it and it does require a

little bit of maintenance every couple

years and that’s for a later episode but

but basically consider what options

might fit into your climate for for

lower maintenance lawns and a lot of

these options they’re becoming more

frequently available across different

geographies and make sure you get the

the biggest thing about a lower

maintenance line is it has to be the

right one for your geography so the the

Nommo lawn that I have is only effective

for northern climates or the cooler

climates but not in the warmer southern

climates of the United States it would

be kind of a waste to try and establish

the same varieties of grass that I have

in my lawn down south where it’s too

warm for it so make sure you understand

what options are available for your

space okay and and again for your lawn

keep it trimmed more frequently than

maybe somebody living outside in a

municipal area would do just enough to

to make it look you know neat and

trimmed and kept up well because

especially if you have a different

variety then people are used to it might

stick out a little bit so you got to

make sure you’re clear that I’m

maintaining this space I’m keeping it

you know up to par with with beauty and

and this is what it’s for so and you can

actually do that where you have certain

spaces that are very well-kept so kind

of like think of it like a golf course

right you have your putting green that’s

kept at a very very low height for your

grass blades and then you have your gosh

I don’t now and you have your fairway

which is trimmed a little higher and

then you have your roughage right now

golf courses are considered a beautiful

space but think about they include the

rough areas right and so you can have a

similar design with your space where you

do have certain spaces that are they’re

maintained a bit more frequently you

know a little near trimmed and then you

have your spaces kind of off to the side

that are kind of give it that bit of a

rougher feel and and they can be part of

a beautiful

design and the advantage here is that

it’s also a little bit less work to

maintain okay so now that we have less

lawn with a better variety of grass

that’s less maintenance the next piece

is to design our garden beds and for our

garden beds let’s make sure we’re

designing full coverage beds and we want

to do this of course with the intent of

a low-maintenance garden right so we

want to select the right plant varieties

for this where there are good hardy

plants that are well adapted to our

region we want to make sure we have

adequate ground cover to cover the

garden bed as completely as possible to

reduce any light touching the soil

because that’s when we have weed

problems we want to have varied texture

and height to give it good I appeal good

curb appeal likewise we want varied

color and we want grouped plantings so

these are all design tactics that you

want to make sure you include in order

to really make your your space pop and

really make it look like this is a great

space it’s got a lot of beauty and while

it’s a little bit different based on how

it’s designed it’s designed differently

in a way that’s going to increase my

property value and my neighbor’s

property value because again going back

that’s what a lot of these codes are

written for is the the fear that that

somebody’s landscape being different

will will affect the neighborhood’s

property value so as long as you’re

making a beautiful space you will most

likely be be attracting the the eye of

your neighbors and wondering how you got

what you have instead of putting in

complaints about your space so that’s

what we want to avoid here right okay

so when you’re looking to design your

space I’ve got a lot of content already

if you want to go in deeper you can

check out some of the previous episodes

to really understand more completely

about how to design your space and if

you’re thinking about hiring a designer

one of the we just published an episode

on that as well so check out you know

when to hire a designer if it’s right

for you and make sure you you’re clearly

communicating your expectations with

your designer so they understand what

you’re trying to do with reducing the

amount of work on your landscape while

increasing the beauty at

same time okay so to kind of take us

back on track for the design piece make

sure we’re establishing durable

hardscapes so if we’re considering a

hard scape space like a patio add a

pergola those sort sorts of things

make sure we’re using materials that are

very durable that are going to require a

lot of maintenance and they’re also

going to prevent long-term weed issues

throughout the space as well as along

the edges so let’s make sure we’re

designing it properly to reduce those

maintenance needs and along with that

using durable borders and transitions

will really go a long way to reducing

your long term maintenance needs so I

know that gets pretty deep pretty quick

with the design stuff but what this

stuff will do you know if you if you

were to change your landscape over the

course a lot of times this takes a

couple years right but if we start now

with thinking about our space how we

could change it what we want with our

landscape how it complies to the local

regulations and then kind of tackling

our landscape bit by bit to change it in

a positive way that really gives us so

much back in our life and in enjoyment

as well as time and that’s what we’re

talking about today so if you have if

you’re looking for help that you need

with your landscape if you have specific

design questions you can always reach

out to me and set up a consultation so

you can just jump on over to easy living

yards comm slash consulting and that

will take you right to my consultation

page and of course as usual I have a

link in the show notes likewise you can

check out the previous episodes there’s

a ton of great value in the previous

episodes that you can dig into and to

understand more about how to do this

stuff and with that guys thanks for

tuning in and make sure you live with

passion and make tomorrow better than