Front Yard Edible Gardening

Growing edible plants in front yards is becoming an increasingly popular use of urban space.

The information below will provide an understanding of the benefits to having a front yard edible garden, the rules about front yard edible gardening in Ottawa, and things that one should avoid or be cautious of when gardening edible plants in their front yard.

Please read through the following before planning your front yard garden:

Benefits of front yard gardening
  • Productive use of lawn space by growing food such as vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Diverts water from grass into something that can be eaten.

  • A very safe and healthy way to grow nutritious food, with no need for pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers.

  • In many circumstances, there is more sunlight on a front yard than a backyard, which allows for better conditions for growing plants.

  • Enhances biodiversity and attracts pollinators

  • Allows for experimenting with varieties of food that cannot typically be found in a grocery store.

  • Can be used as a tool to educate children about growing their own food.

  • Can be used as a way to start conversations with neighbours and passers-by.

  • Can become a symbol of pride for the neighbourhood if it attracts people and is aesthetically pleasing for local residents.

  • If part of the harvest from the garden is offered to those in need through a local emergency food distribution point, it can aid in the overall food security of a neighbourhood.

The Right-Of-Way is the City-owned parcel that is part of every property owner’s land, to allow for utilities, road/sidewalk maintenance, etc.

To find where your ROW is:
  • Visit geoOttawa
  • Search your address
  • Add the “Property Parcels” layer
  • See how much of your front lawn falls outside of your property lines

Before planning your front yard edible garden, you will need to take a few things into consideration.

Front yards typically consist of a portion of land that is stewarded by you, and a portion of land stewarded by the City, known as the Right-Of-Way. There are different regulations depending on where you are planting within your front yard.

If planning to start an edible front yard garden on leased land, it is necessary to obtain written permission from the landowner.

There are two relevant by-laws: 1) Property standards bylaw 2013-416 and 2) Use and Care of Roads By-law (2003-498)

  • The Property Standards bylaw 2013-416 refers to residential yards, and allows for plants, including edible plants, on front yards so long as they do not interfere with pedestrians or vehicles and do not pose a hazard or an obstruction of view to the public. Examples of violations would be cucumbers that extend onto the sidewalk, or corn stalks that obstructed a neighbour’s view of oncoming traffic from their driveway.

  • The Use and Care of Roads By-law 2003-498 refers to the allowances made for gardening within the Right-Of-Way. As of June 2023, the bylaw was updated to state the following regulations of gardening within the ROW (these do not apply to gardening on the parcel of land belonging to your property):

    • Residents need to contact Home – Ontario One Call to obtain locates prior to commencing any work in the ROW. This is Provincial law.

    • No food is permitted to be grown in the ROW

    • No raised beds, retaining walls, stones, or other hardscaping features are permitted in the ROW

    • Residents cannot plant their own trees in the ROW

    • Only soft landscaping and hand-digging is permitted within the ROW

    • A garden must not overhang or encumber a sidewalk or roadway.

    • The maximum growing height is 1.0 metre for non-corner lots and 0.75 metres for corner lots at intersections to maintain visibility.

    • You cannot garden within a ditch.

    • There are garden setback requirements around aboveground utility infrastructure such as fire hydrants, that residents should also be aware of.

    • For more details on residential gardening within the ROW, please visit


  • For more information on the updates made to this bylaw, and how you can advocate to allow residents to grow their own food and plant their own trees in the Right-Of-Way, please visit this link.

  • Front yard gardening should not interfere with the easement rights of either a neighbour or a utility. It is also important to consult the plan of survey to determine if any easement rights exist for neighbours or utilities to the area that you plan to use for edible plants. Easements are the right of either a neighbour or a utility to trespass onto the property in question. This could interfere with your gardening, and it is possible that your gardening could interfere with their easement rights.

  • Zoning bylaw require that all yards be landscaped with soft landscaping, which includes edible plants, where there is an absence of hard landscaping (driveway, walkway, pavement, rocks). To find out more about bylaw, please visit the City of Ottawa’s web site.

If so, please get in touch with us at so we can provide support for the next steps in advocating for your front yard edible garden.

If you have encountered issues with Bylaw in regards to your front yard edible garden, and have already handled the situation (whether by speaking to the officer, paying a fine, or adhering to requested alterations), we would like to hear your story. These stories will help us to advocate for equitable treatment of enforcement to all residents.

In partnership with other interested groups around Ottawa, Just Food and the Ottawa Food Policy Council campaigned to City Council in June 2023 to have the Use and Care of Roads Bylaw updates include allowing residents to grow food, use raised garden beds and plant their own trees. 

While these recommendations were not approved when City Council officially made the updates to the bylaw, City staff were directed to report back to Council in April-June 2024 with more research. 

Staff were also directed to consider including fruit and nut trees in the inventory for the Trees in Trust Program.  This program allows residents to call the City for them to plant trees in your Right of Way.  

For background on the work that went into addressing City Council about the importance of allowing food to be grown in the Right-of-Way, visit this website.

In the meantime, we ask that you sign up for our newsletter to keep up-to-date with all calls to action. 

Be ready to call and email your councillors – they need to know that residents want to be supported to grow their own food!

  • Before digging into any section of the yard, a locate must be done to determine if there are any underground infrastructure. This is a free service from Ontario One (1-800-400-2255).

  • There can be vandalism, though this only occurred to a minority of those front yard gardeners who were interviewed for this. It may be helpful to have a sign asking people who are in need of food to take from a particular section of the garden.

  • A few front yard gardeners cited urinating and defecating cats as their largest nuisance in their garden. Dogs walking by also may want to urinate on your edible plants. It was suggested by a gardener to use chicken wire fencing to surround the edible plant beds. This has been quite successful for him to prevent neighbourhood cats from using the garden as a litter box.

  • Growing vegetables in a front yard is a permitted activity in the City of Ottawa. Although neighbours may complain about the aesthetics of the garden, possibly even to Bylaw officials, the amount of support behind the garden will far outweigh the opposition from a minority of neighbours who have become accustomed to seeing groomed lawns in front of every house.

  • Neighbours may have legitimate concerns about the garden that should be properly addressed. There was a case in which a neighbour complained that the drainage from the adjacent house’s front yard edible garden would negatively impact on that neighbour’s property. The front yard gardener hired an engineer to look into the matter, which helped to assure the neighbour and the City that the drainage from the gardener’s property was not negatively impacting on the other property.
  • Make sure to do soil testing for contaminants on the land which is planned for edible front yard gardening. 

  • Review our site on Soil Testing

  • Be sure to call for locates from Ontario One before doing any digging (see Tips section).

  • Make sure that all inputs, such as soil, compost and any other soil amendments are free of contaminants before applying them to the garden.

  • It is important to always wash the produce, as it may contain a residue of dust and/or dirt from the street and sidewalk.
  • A community garden can be as simple as three or more families working together to grow vegetables for their own respective families. It may also contain a Food Bank and/or a communal plot, as other community gardens do.

  • Based on the above conception of a community garden, such a garden can be established on someone’s front yard, but it must comply with the general bylaws surrounding community gardens.

  • The community garden should therefore be a neighbourhood-based initiative, as outside traffic is not allowed. Gardeners should be walking to the site, as opposed to driving a vehicle.

  • Any other bylaws, such as noise bylaws and pet bylaws, must also be abided by when operating a front yard community garden. The privacy and the comfort of neighbours should be accommodated as much as possible.

  • Take the time to explain the importance of your community garden to any neighbours who may have hesitations or concerns. Attempt to gain their support to ensure good neighbourly relations.

  • The Community Garden Development Fund will not provide any grants for a community garden situated on a private residential lot with a home-owner on it. However, the fund could provide funding for a community garden on a private residential lot where the home-owner is not present, and the lot is therefore being leased out to the garden group.

  • The home-owner should clearly establish the rules for the community garden in consultation with the gardeners.

Do you have a front yard edible garden that you want to share? Send us your photos to and we will include them in the gallery below! 

Your Front Yard Edible Gardens



Start-up Farm Program

Just Food established the Start-Up Farm Program to support new farmers in the Ottawa region. By offering access to land, shared infrastructure/equipment, and training, the program aims to enable more people in this region to start their own successful farm business.

> Read More about Just Food’s Start-up Farm program