Living in Switzerland For Members

What you can and can’t do as a homeowner in your garden in Switzerland

Sandra Sparrowhawk
Sandra Sparrowhawk - [email protected]
What you can and can’t do as a homeowner in your garden in Switzerland
What can you do in your garden in Switzerland? Photo by Martin Kníže on Unsplash

In the warmer months, spending some quality time in your garden can be wonderful for your mental and physical well-being. But what are people actually allowed to do in their garden in Switzerland?


In Switzerland, being a homeowner doesn’t automatically mean that you can do as you please on your property. In some cases, you may even be threatened with heavy fines for the smallest transgression.

In fact, there are a variety of laws, regulations and bylaws which restrict and control what you can and cannot do on your balcony.

From cutting down trees in your owned garden to getting rid of weeds using herbicides, here's what you can and cannot do as a home and garden owner in Switzerland.

Am I allowed to cut down the trees in my garden?

If you have a tree in your garden that you wish to cut down, you should do some research beforehand. Though the tree may be situated on private property, in Switzerland, trees are protected and may not just be cut down at will.


Tree protection in Switzerland is governed by both cantonal and communal law, so if you’re keen to take a saw to a tree in your garden, make sure you seek advice from your municipality about all the special conditions surrounding tree felling in your area.

In Switzerland it is not uncommon for you to need approval from the building authority in order to cut down trees on your private property. The building authority will consider factors such as the location of your tree, its height and trunk diameter, among other criteria.

In any case, you are prohibited from cutting down during the bird nesting and breeding season which takes places from March 1st to September 30th. Here, too, it is advisable to speak to your local municipality about any amendments or extensions to this time frame.

A person gardening.

A person gardening. Photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash

Can I cut back my neighbour’s overhanging tree branches and hedges?

It depends. If your owned property is damaged by your neighbour’s protruding branches or penetrating roots, you can cut off the branches and/or roots overlooking your own garden or property, taking into account the requirements specified in Art. 687 ZGB.

While any impairment of the management or use of the property, such as heavy shading or lack of light, is considered damage in the eyes of the law, the damage must be significant, or you will be expected to simply put up with it. Though this may seem unfair, the Swiss treat their trees with care and this rule ensures that no trees are damaged or cut back without just cause.

It is also important to note that even if your property has been damaged by neighbouring growths, you may only cut back branches and roots to the property line and not an inch further, or you will be breaking the law.

READ ALSO: Why is the price of properties so high in Switzerland

Can I start a fire in my garden?

Yes and no. While you are more than welcome to invite friends over for a barbeque in your garden using the right equipment, burning your green and garden waste is not allowed.

In Switzerland, there are clear regulations on how to set up a fire in your garden and a conscious distinction is made between an open campfire, a table fire, grill, fire bowl, and fireplace in the garden.

In general, open campfires are not allowed in Swiss gardens but can, as with most things, be granted in exceptional cases by your municipality - though this is very rare. The conditions the homeowner would have to meet vary depending on your municipality and canton.

You may also not – as convenient as it may be – burn your green and garden waste in your garden. This is prohibited due to safety concerns, wetness of the wood, and CO2 emissions.


So, what is allowed? In Switzerland you can light closed fires that are under one metre in height. The use of fire baskets, bowls, grills, a fireplace, and a small table fire is also allowed.

Can I use herbicides to kill weeds in my garden?

As a home and garden owner in Switzerland you will eventually be faced with pesky weeds shooting up through cracks left, right and centre – but be warned. In Switzerland, there has been a general ban on the use of herbicides since 2001 on and along roads, paths, squares, roofs, terraces, and storage areas throughout the country in line with the Chemical Risk Reduction Ordinance (ORRChem) and the Water Protection Act.

According to Swiss law, you are prohibited from introducing any substances that could potentially contaminate the country’s water supply, so maybe reach for a natural vinegar solution or boiling water instead.


Can I set up a tool shed, greenhouse, or caravan in my garden?

Unlike in some other European countries, in Switzerland all artificially manufactured objects that are permanently – and not just temporarily - connected to the ground one way or another require a building permit and homeowners will also have to keep in mind distance limit regulations.

However, before you submit a planning application, speak to your municipality first. Depending on the canton small building projects such as tool sheds are handled differently.

In the canton of Bern, for instance, you are permitted to erect unheated small buildings with a maximum floor area of 10 square metres and a maximum height of 2.5 metres without a permit, however, in the canton of Zurich, you can only do so up to an area of 2 square metres and a height of 1.5 metres.

In many municipalities, caravans that have been on the same site for more than two months will require a permit.


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