Permits and regulations for gardens and greenhouses?

linux.poet

Active member
Sep 26, 2023
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I think greenhouses don't require a building permit, because sheds typically don't, but I want to be sure.

Also, I'm wondering if there are any restrictions for gardens that I should be aware of. I know that areas with high fire zones restrict planting near buildings, but are there other environmental regulations against raised garden beds, including runoff and water use? I know that rainwater capture is legal for gardens in general. Do I need a landscape permit to install a garden? Do I need to include it in a landscape plan for new construction if the building is not in a high fire zone?
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Location
San Diego, California, United States
I've never been to California, but I've heard that the weather is amazing. I don't blame you for wanting to make the most of it. You're correct about the shed, so long as it's less than 120 square feet and doesn't require electrical work or plumbing. I think a greenhouse might be different if you're installing special electrical ventilation and things of that nature. You'd need an electrical permit in that instance. If it's just a plain structure, you wouldn't need a permit. You also don't need a permit to create a personal garden on your land. Likewise, it's not necessary to include your gardening plans when you apply for a permit to build your home. I found a helpful resource here, that you might check out.
 
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You might need a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Permit, but that's only if you'll be dumping pollutants down a storm drain that leads to the local water supply. Some fertilizers and pesticides might count as pollutants. I'm not sure about the rest; however, one great resource to check is your local cooperative extension.
 
Regulations for gardens and greenhouses greatly vary by locality. However, in most places construction of greenhouses normally require building permits, which might also include compliance with zoning laws and structural standards. The regulations you have to follow may include govern water usage, chemical application, and property boundaries.
 
Just to be on the safe side, I'd reach out to your local permitting office about the rules and regulations that come along with starting a greenhouse. I assume you have to file a building permit if it's above a certain height, and like others have said, around or under 120 square feet of space. The greenhouse wouldn't need electrical unless you want to add that option. Keep in mind, you may be required to also file a zoning permit depending on where your greenhouse will sit.

As well, some areas don't recognize greenhouses as permanent structures, so a building permit may not be required in your area. But, if it happens to be a more larger or commercial greenhouse, and if a foundation is poured, it will probably require a permit.

I think with a garden, you don't need any form of permit, but a greenhouse depending on the size of the structure, could end up requiring a building permit.
 
Also, I'm wondering if there are any restrictions for gardens that I should be aware of. I know that areas with high fire zones restrict planting near buildings, but are there other environmental regulations against raised garden beds, including runoff and water use? I know that rainwater capture is legal for gardens in general. Do I need a landscape permit to install a garden? Do I need to include it in a landscape plan for new construction if the building is not in a high fire zone?

Are you thinking of installing a rain garden? You might want to check out San Diego County's Waterscape Rebate Program. Not only do you not need a permit, but San Diego County will actually help you pay to install the garden if you're in a qualifying area and have a landscape design/turf replacement plan that meets the program's requirements. The program also offers rebates on rain barrels and cisterns, along with other types of rain- and water-saving measures.

As soon as we can afford it, we're going to rip out all the grass in our front yard and replace it with a low-water rain garden. I think we should be able to get at least $1,000 back from County for the landscape work. It will also be nice reducing our water bill and not having as many sprinklers to deal with.

If you're considering going this route and are looking for a good landscape designer who can provide a design that qualifies for the rebate, I'd highly recommend Ornamental Gardens by Lisa. Lisa provided the attached design for $750, to give you some idea what to expect. At this point, we just need to get a quote from a contractor and submit our application to SoCal Water$mart (the organization that administers the rebate program) before we can make the rain garden happen.
 

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If you intend to build a greenhouse, you may be required to file a building permit depending on its size. If it's relatively small, you probably won't need to file. But, if it's a decent sized greenhouse, you may need to contend with zoning laws as well. It's best to check with your city municipality to see what is allowed and isn't. It'll usually be somewhat different in each location.

Also, there might even be rules for the type of fertilizer you use, along with any pesticides and so on.
 
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