Edible Landscapes Permit Process
Please note: If you are interested in planting edible, native and pollinator friendly landscapes in your yard and terrace please refer to our Terrace and Yard Plantings page.
The City of Madison is now accepting applications for edible landscape plantings on city-owned land!
It is now possible to plant fruit and nut trees and other edible, perennial species in parks and on other City-owned land. We invite groups of citizens to create and care for these edible landscapes for the good of the whole community. Please note that the City of Madison does not provide financial resources related to edible landscapes planting and maintenance equipment and/or infrastructure. While the City provides the land needed to complete edible landscapes projects, interested parties must provide funding for the project or seek external funding to complete.
Step 1: Getting Started.
- When do you want to plant? The permit process could take 2-3 months, so plan ahead.
- Identify a location in your neighborhood or another location that you are interested in planting.
- Check to see if your location is City-owned by looking at the map.
- If it is, the map will tell you which department owns the land. Before you go any further, please call the department in which you intend on submitting an application to plant an edible landscape:
- Parks Department – Sarah Close (608) 263-6850
- Engineering – Christy Bachmann, (608) 266-4095
- Stormwater Utility – Christy Bachmann, (608) 266-4095
- Water Utility – Amy Barrilleaux, (608) 266-9129
- Other land – George Reistad (608) 266-4611
- When you talk to the appropriate staff person, be sure to discuss:
- Where on the land you want to plant
- How much space your plantings will take up
- How close your plantings will be to what’s already there – other trees, structures, etc.
- What you want to plant, and when you’re hoping to plant it
- How you plan to care for the plantings, and who will help you
- The possibility of a site visit with staff
- Staff should give you feedback about the feasibility of your ideas on the site you’ve chosen, so you can formalize your plan and apply for a permit.
Step 2: Develop a Plan.
- When deciding on your planting plan, think about:
- The surrounding vegetation – are there existing trees that might shade your plantings over time? How will City staff mow around your plants/beds?
- How the site is used now- will your ideas conflict with any current uses?
- Any safety concerns that might come up
- Will you be able to get everything you need to the site, including water?
- See our FAQ for more things to think about FAQ
- Develop a planting plan that includes, at a minimum, the following:
- Diagram, drawn to scale, showing the size and the location of the proposed planting area.This can be hand-drawn!
- Description of the genus and species of each plant intended to be planted, its location within the planting area, and each plant's approximate height at maturity.
- Diagram, location, and size of any signage.
- Develop a maintenance plan that includes:
- How you will confine any vegetation that may grow outside of the permitted area.
- How many people will be involved in the maintenance and the level of intensity and frequency you estimate the maintenance will be necessary.
- Any soil amendments or chemical products you plan to use on plants. Note that use of chemicals, especially neonicotinoid pesticides, is not likely to be approved.
- Any plans for use of power tools.
- How you plan to water the plantings
- You will need to attach your planting and maintenance plan to your permit application.
Step 3: Apply for a Permit.
Follow these instructions to fill out an application:
- If you have previously created an account with the City of Madison, log into your account. Otherwise, create an account.
- A page should appear that says your account was successfully created. And, you should receive an email that asks you to activate your account.
- Click on the link in the email to activate your account. You should be ready to start the application.
- Click on the “Apply for a Permit” link on the home page.
- Scroll down to the “select a category” and select “Miscellaneous”. Then, click “continue application”.
- Fill in applicant information. Click 'Select from Account' to auto-fill your information, 'Add New' to enter your contact information, or 'Edit' or 'Remove' to change contact information listed.
- Enter in the address of the location of your edible landscape. We must at least have the street address, street name, and zip code. If you do not have this information, please call your city department contact, listed above.
- Attach your planting and maintenance plan to the application. If you need help scanning or uploading documents, please call the Food Policy Coordinator.
- Review the application and hit submit.
- You will receive an email that confirms your application was received.
- Someone from the city will be in touch within 5-7 business days to discuss the status of your permit.
What else should I know?
- Anything planted on City land becomes City property and is accessible to all the public – you're planting for everyone!
- Per City ordinance MGO 8.32, you can't sell anything you harvest from public land
- Permits are issued for at least three years and are renewable
- You need to call Digger's Hotline Digger's Hotline before planting: Phone 811 or 1-800-242-8511.
- You need permission from the relevant department to drive a vehicle onto your site
- You can't build anything on your site, but you can put up a sign
- The use of pesticides, herbicides, or other chemicals is strictly regulated and highly discouraged at most sites. You will need to receive approval of any chemical application and it should be included in your maintenance plan. Plants that are pretreated with pesticides are strongly discouraged because of their impact on pollinators.
- If you need to use power tools on site, you will need to have City-approved training and sign a waiver.
We want to make this process as easy and accessible as possible. City staff will do their best to get to “yes”, but not every proposal will work. We encourage you to work with staff to find a compromise. In the event your application was denied, and you were not able to work out a solution with the relevant City department, you are able to appeal that decision within 15 days of denial. The appeal should be made in writing to the Board that oversees the land in which you are applying (e.g. the Board of Public Works oversees Engineering land). Board of Park Commissioners, Board of Public Works, Madison Water Utility. Please send all appeals to the City Clerk's Office, 210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. Room 103, Madison, WI, 53703.
Want more information? Contact: George Reistad Director of Food Policy, (608) 266-4611.