Where Naked Gardening Could Lead to Jail, Fines

Photoshopped image of a man behind bars, not wearing anything but holding a sign over his privates that says "Arrested for Gardening Naked."

On some holidays, you fret about what clothes to put on. On World Naked Gardening Day, the dilemma is how much you can take off.

World Naked Gardening Day falls on the first Saturday in May. It was started in 2005 to foster acceptance of our own and everyone else’s bodies. While it may not be an official holiday, Naked Gardening Day has plenty of followers happy to show off their green thumb, and everything else.

But before you head to the backyard, balcony, or rooftop in your birthday suit, it might help to know where tending figs without a fig leaf for modesty could take you from the garden to the courtroom.

Laws governing public nudity are evolving, and for many cities, the critical word isn’t “nude,” but “lewd.” Intent is important when it comes to the flesh you can flash without someone else flashing a badge. It seems some cities aren’t ready to welcome even the most innocent display of a gardener who’s as bare as a naked-lady lily (amaryllis belladonna).

Some Big Cities that Frown on Naked Gardening

New York City

The Big Apple should just declare the day “World Semi-naked Gardening Day,” because its legal bottom line is a bottom bared for all to see. Nudity below the waist is a no-no. 

Both men and women can legally bare their breasts in public, as long as it’s not for, ahem, “business” purposes. That seems to mean you can grow flowers while you’re half-naked, just don’t try to sell them that way.  

San Francisco

How can it be that the city that hosted the exuberant and often naked rites of the “Summer of Love” now has a total ban on public nudity? 

For generations, free spirits in the City by the Bay have figuratively, and sometimes literally, mooned laws they disagree with. Since 2013, police are less likely to turn the other cheek. Permits are now required for any events that include public nudity.


Every year the City of Brotherly Love hosts a Naked Bike Ride. Police don’t raise an eyebrow. If a pedal pushing parade of skin doesn’t “offend, affront, or alarm,” it’s hard to think a naked gardener will. 

But the city that hosts the Liberty Bell does not give people the liberty to expose their privates in public. To be safe, you could skip nudity in the garden and see how your bare seat feels on your bike seat. 


Public nudity equals indecent exposure in the Mile High City. The ordinance says it’s illegal to be nude in any public place except in an area expressly set aside for such purpose. 

Surprisingly, Denver tourism brochures don’t show where those “expressly set aside” hangouts are located. 

San Antonio

It’s a Texas Trifecta! Public nudity can get you in trouble under three separate penal codes; public lewdness, indecent exposure, or disturbing the peace. 

What this means: Remember the Alamo, but forget about naked gardening without a strategically placed 10-gallon hat.


Hot in Cleveland? Not in Cleveland would be more like it when it comes to naked gardening. 

In a city where the exposure of just the underside of a female breast defines unlawful nudity, clothesless cultivation is as risky as betting on the Browns to win the Super Bowl. 


You may be in the privacy of your own Windy City home, but it’s public indecency if somebody can see your naked pruning. That will be a year in jail and $2,500, please.

What gardening you do behind your own privacy fence, though, is between you and your tulips and eyebrights. Just make sure no one can see you from the “L” train. 


Finally, the Magic City is a city that fully embraces the spirit of World Naked Gardening Day all year long. It’s legal to be completely naked on public beaches. 

What plants you think you’ll be able to grow on the beach is your problem.

The Bare Facts on Naked Gardening

For the most part, the approach to public nudity is a matter of tolerance, which varies from city to city. In some, nobody’s going to care if your garden’s sprucing up includes you stripping down. In others, don’t even think about it; no ifs, no ands, no … well, you know.

Main Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Mark Storey, founder of World Naked Gardening Day

Pat Woodard

Pat Woodard

Pat Woodard is a freelance writer who takes occasional breaks from high country hikes in Colorado to chase golf balls, rainbow trout, and full-bodied red wines. He's also a longtime radio and television broadcaster, documentary producer, and runner-up on “Jeopardy.”