Important information about the garden or lending library in your front yard

More than ever, residents have been installing free lending libraries and gardens in front of their homes close to the roadway or sidewalk. Often, these are installed within the City’s right of way (ROW) and when this occurs, you have to follow certain requirements to make sure you do it right.

Before getting started with a project, it is important to understand the definition of the City’s ROW.

What is the ROW?

City ROW is the portion of land that includes roadways, shoulders, sidewalks, and boulevards beside your property. The limit of the City ROW may extend a considerable amount towards your home. Typically, the property line is where the water shut off valve is located on your property. You can learn more on or use the geoOttawa(link is external) program to help measure the extent of the City’s ROW at your address.

Even though the ROW is City property, you are still responsible for maintaining the City-owned ROW at your address by cutting the grass and weeds.. Likewise, if you install a garden or library within the ROW, you do so at your own risk and you are responsible for maintenance, upkeep and removal, if required.

Library boxes

While there is no cost or permit requirement to install a free library box within the ROW, you must first complete and submit a letter of acknowledgement(link is external), prior to installation. There are other important requirements that must be followed such as:

  • Having locates completed before digging within the ROW according to Provincial law, Home - Ontario One Call(link is external)
  • The library box storage area must be between 0.9 metres and 1.10 metres in height.
  • Installations must be a minimum of 0.5 metres from the roadway edge.
  • Libraries must not overhang or encumber a sidewalk or roadway.

For further details including a comprehensive guideline and list of requirements on free library boxes, please visit


Residents are not required to obtain a permit from the City nor are they required to notify the City before initiating a residential gardening project within the ROW. However, there are important requirements to follow, including:

  • Residents need to contact Home - Ontario One Call(link is external) to obtain locates prior to commencing any work in the ROW. This is Provincial law.
  • 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

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Address: 110 Laurier Ave W, Ottawa, ON K1P 1J1