Trimming your neighbour's bush is a crime – and other gardening laws you're breaking...

Double entendre or not, trimming a neighbour's bush could see you in court. But what other gardening crimes could you be unwittingly committing?

mosaic in a mediterranean garden style
(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

This is not a drill: have you been doing garden maintenance that actually amounts to a criminal offence? According to a new survey*, over half of British gardeners (53 per cent) said they would chop down a neighbour's branch without asking if it was hanging over into their garden – or even if they weren't sure what the property boundaries were. 

The potential legal repercussions of this? Your neighbour could take you to court for criminal damage, and you could face a fine. 

Even more worryingly, a substantial minority of gardeners (17 per cent) would just remove a bird's nest from a tree in their garden, not knowing that removing any wild bird's nest while it's in use or is being built is an offence under  Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981. If found guilty, you could face an unlimited fine or up to six months in prison. Yes, you read that right: six. months. in. prison.

There also seems to be some confusion around planning permission for sheds, with 25 per cent of the respondents saying they wouldn't ask for planning permission regardless of the size of their shed, and 12 per cent not thinking planning permission was ever needed for buildings that aren't lived in. 

This, of course, is wrong – you do need planning permission if your shed/garden room is over a certain size, and if you erect one without asking for permission, your council could fine you, or worse, serve you with a notice to take down the outbuilding at your own expense. If in doubt, always ask your council first. 

Now you know what you shouldn't do, here's a garden maintenance checklist of tasks you can do to keep your garden in top condition, without breaking the law. 

*A survey of 2,000 Brits conducted by the shed and log cabin retailer Tiger Sheds