Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 489, Grass and Weeds includes rules about height requirements for grass, weeds and vegetation on private properties, including any publicly-owned portions. The bylaw also outlines rules for having a natural garden.

Property owners with a natural garden may apply for a natural garden exemption to be exempt from the height restrictions of the bylaw. Learn more about the bylaw regulations.

There are three Municipal Licensing & Standards district offices that can answer questions and accept your application. To determine which office serves your area, look up your address in the Ward Profiles. Otherwise, you may contact 311 for assistance.

The City is currently reviewing the natural garden exemption process. Staff are considering removing the requirement for owners/occupants of private land to apply to for a natural garden exemption. Natural gardens will still need to meet maintenance requirements to ensure health and safety of Toronto’s neighbourhoods.

A report is expected at the Planning and Housing Committee in Q2 2021.

If you are interested in being contacted with updates on the work, please subscribe for e-updates. Scroll down to select the Grass and Weeds Bylaw mailing list, submit your email address and then click “Subscribe”.

A natural garden is designed to have environmental benefits and may create a habitat for birds, butterflies and other wildlife. It is managed within a certain boundary and may both contain native and non-native plants. Unlike neglected properties, a natural garden will not contain overgrown plants or invasive weeds. The Natural Gardens Fact Sheet helps identify what qualifies as a natural garden.

Recommended plants for your natural garden include:

  • Monarda (Bergamot, Bee balm)
  • Rudebeckia
  • Foamflower (Tiarella)
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Serviceberry
  • Cardinal flower

View a map of approved natural gardens in Toronto.

The natural garden exemption process is in place to balance the environmental benefits of natural gardens, while also being mindful of health, safety and nuisance considerations.

For a property to be considered a natural garden, property owners must submit an application to the Municipal Licensing and Standards Office that serves their ward. There is no charge to submit this application.

If an application is a result of a Notice of Violation (NOV) under the Grass and Weeds and/or Streets and Sidewalks bylaws, the application must be received within 14 days from the date on the NOV.

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What happens after application

Step 1: Evaluating the natural garden

The natural garden will be inspected by a City Horticulturalist who will then make recommendations to approve or refuse the exemption. If the natural garden extends to the public portion of the property, Transportation Services staff will also inspect the property and approve or refuse the natural garden on the public portion of the property.

Step 2: Application approval or refusal

If the application is approved, a natural garden exemption letter will be issued. The letter will include the following:

  • The approval of the natural garden at the address for which the application was submitted
  • Requirements that the natural garden must be kept free of noxious and invasive weeds and maintained in accordance with the Natural Gardens Fact Sheet
  • Any other conditions with respect to health, safety and nuisance

The exemption shall take effect 21 days after the date indicated on the exemption letter.

If the application is refused, the refusal letter will include the following:

  • The reason for the refusal
  • A copy of the horticulturalist report containing recommendations to bring the garden into compliance, and
  • Information about the appeals process, including an Appeal Form.

If the owner chooses to bring the property into compliance based on the recommendation of the City Horticulturalist, the City will collectively work with the owner to create a natural garden and confirm approval of the exemption.

For clarification on natural gardens, contact your local Municipal Licensing and Standards district office. To determine which office serves your area, lookup your address in the Ward Profiles. Otherwise, contact 311 for assistance.

Central District

433 Eastern Avenue, Building B, 1st Floor; Toronto, ON M4M 1B7
Email Address: MLSCentral@toronto.ca
Phone: 416-397-4150
Wards serviced: 4 Parkdale-High Park, 9 Davenport, 10 Spadina-Fort York, 11 University-Rosedale, 12 Toronto-St. Paul’s, 13 Toronto Centre, 14 Toronto-Danforth, 19 Beaches-East York

West District

Etobicoke Civic Centre, 399 The West Mall, The North Block, 3rd floor; Toronto, ON M9C 2Y2
Email Address: MLSWest@toronto.ca
Phone: 416-394-2550
Wards serviced: 1 Etobicoke North, 2 Etobicoke Centre, 3 Etobicoke-Lakeshore, 5 York South-Weston, 6 York Centre, 7 Humber River-Black Creek, 8 Eglinton-Lawrence

East District

Scarborough Civic Centre, 1530 Markham Road, 3rd Floor, Toronto, ON M1B 3G4
Email Address: MLSEast@toronto.ca
Phone: 416-396-4166
Wards served: 15 Don Valley West, 16 Don Valley East, 17 Don Valley North, 18 Willowdale, 20 Scarborough Southwest, 21 Scarborough Centre, 22 Scarborough-Agincourt, 23 Scarborough North, 24 Scarborough-Guildwood, 25 Scarborough-Rouge Park