What counts as a front yard

Gravel gardens prohibited: what gardeners need to know now

Can a garden only consist of stones, gravel or gravel? In many places there is heated debate as to whether gravel gardens should be explicitly forbidden by law. In some federal states and municipalities, they are already inadmissible. The main reason given for creating gravel gardens is the ease of maintenance. Areas that are covered with gravel or crushed stone are a permanent, easy-care solution and do not require a lot of work. Aesthetics also play a role for some gravel garden owners: The stone-covered front garden is perceived as a tasteful, modern and contemporary design.

Ban on gravel gardens: the main points in brief

In Baden-Württemberg, gravel gardens are forbidden according to the Nature Conservation Act. In Saxony-Anhalt, the new system is to be banned from March 1, 2021. Most of the other federal states refer to their state building regulations. Accordingly, there is a greening requirement for non-built-up areas. The lower building supervisory authorities must check whether a garden violates the regulations.

What is a gravel garden?

A gravel garden is a garden area that mainly consists of stones, crushed stone or gravel. Plants are not used at all or only sparingly. However, there is no legal definition of a gravel garden and the assessment always depends on the individual case. A distinction must be made between gravel gardens and stone or gravel gardens, in which the vegetation plays a significantly larger role. For example, in the rock garden, blooming upholstered perennials are popular as they provide food for insects such as bees, butterflies and bumblebees.

Why are gravel gardens banned?

From an ecological point of view, gravel gardens are extremely problematic because they hardly provide food or shelter for insects and small animals such as birds or reptiles. There are also negative consequences for the microclimate: in summer the gravel heats up strongly, at night it only cools down slowly. There are no plants to filter the dust, and the noise of the cars driving by is amplified by the gravel. If the soil is heavily compacted, water cannot seep away at all or only with difficulty. Soil fertility is lost - a subsequent renaturation is very time-consuming.

Easy to care for, weed-free and ultra-modern: these are the arguments that are often used to advertise gravel gardens. The stone desert-like gardens are far from being easy to care for and weed-free.

Where are gravel gardens prohibited?

Baden-Württemberg has specified the ban on gravel gardens in its State Nature Conservation Act. So it says in §21a NatSchG: "We must work towards the fact that gardens are designed insect-friendly and garden areas are predominantly greened. Gravel for the design of private gardens is basically no other permissible use within the meaning of § 9 paragraph 1 sentence 1 LBO." Since 1995 it has been in the state building regulations that areas that have not been built over are to be greened if they are not required for another permitted use.

The state building codes of most of the other German federal states also state that areas that have not been built over must be greened or planted and designed to be water-absorbent. Paved areas for necessary parking spaces, such as for cars, bicycles or garbage cans, are generally allowed. In Saxony-Anhalt, the creation of a new gravel garden is prohibited from March 1, 2021, unless a development plan or municipal statutes make special provisions. Existing gravel gardens are subject to grandfathering there.

Some municipalities have already started to ban gravel gardens as part of development plans. In North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, the cities of Dortmund and Paderborn have banned gravel gardens in their development plans for new development areas. In the Bavarian cities of Erlangen and Würzburg it has been forbidden since 2020 that gravel gardens are laid out for new buildings and renovations. An amendment to the Bavarian Building Code, which will come into force on February 1, 2021, should give the municipalities in Bavaria even more room for maneuver. In Bremen, the local law since 2019 stipulates that open spaces and flat roof areas must be greened. In Hamburg, front gardens are to be landscaped in accordance with Section 9 of the Hamburg Building Regulations.

Legal situation in the federal states

federal state

Current status (1.1.2021)

Baden-Wuerttemberg

According to §21a Nature Conservation Act, gravel for the creation of private gardens is prohibited

Bavaria

Reference to Bavarian Building Regulations Art. 7, ban in Erlangen and Würzburg

Berlin

Reference to §8 Building Regulations for Berlin, districts are responsible for compliance with building regulations

Brandenburg

Reference to §8 Brandenburg Building Regulations

Bremen

Since 2019 local law on the greening of open spaces and flat roof areas, reference to Section 8 of the Bremen State Building Regulations

Hamburg

Gravel gardens are prohibited in accordance with Section 9 of the Hamburg Building Regulations

Hesse

Reference to §8 Hessian Building Regulations, open land areas are to be designed to be water-permeable and to be greened or planted

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

Reference to §8 State Building Regulations MV, areas of the built-up land that are not built over with buildings are to be greened or planted

Lower Saxony

Reference to Section 9 Lower Saxony Building Regulations, areas of the building plots that are not built over must be green areas, unless they are required for another permitted use

North Rhine-Westphalia

Reference to Section 8 of the State Building Regulations, the change in law should come into force on July 1, 2021 (check already in the building permit process)

Rhineland-Palatinate

Reference to Section 10, Paragraph 4 of the Rhineland-Palatinate State Building Regulations

Saarland

There is no general ban on gravel gardens on private property, reference to Section 10 of the Saarland State Building Regulations

Saxony

At the state level, there is no legal ban on gravel gardens, an amendment to the Saxon Nature Conservation Act is planned

Saxony-Anhalt

From March 1, 2021, the construction of a new gravel garden is prohibited in accordance with Section 8 (2) of the State Building Code

Schleswig-Holstein

According to §8 state building regulations, the creation of gravel gardens is not permitted

Thuringia

At the state level there has been no legal prohibition so far, State Secretary for the Environment Olaf Möller speaks out in favor of a ban, reference to §8 Thuringian Building Regulations

What happens in the event of a violation?

Whether a garden violates the requirements of the respective building regulations must be checked in each individual case by the lower building supervisory authority. The building authorities in the municipalities are responsible for compliance with the ban in Baden-Württemberg. Should they become aware of illegal gravel gardens, they can issue orders to dismantle the gravel gardens or have them carried out by third parties at the expense of those affected. According to the Ministry of the Environment: House owners in Baden-Württemberg have to remove their gravel garden of their own accord - unless it was laid out before the state building regulations came into force in the mid-1990s.