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There’s nothing like putting your hands in the dirt and enjoying an afternoon of gardening. Whether you’re growing beautiful flowers, flowering shrubs, or simply tidying up, it’s good for the heart and mind to spend time in your garden. But occasionally, we may inadvertently upset our neighbors with our gardening behaviors.
Of course, no one wants to offend their neighbors, but occasionally, our habits can impact them in a negative way. “Not being disruptive to someone else is just part of being a good neighbor,” says landscape designer Kat Aul Cervoni, founder of Staghorn NYC and The Cultivation by Kat. “It all starts with awareness of how you’re affecting them. About 99 percent of the time, what we’re doing is not done maliciously.”
In fact, it’s worth nurturing relationships with our neighbors. “Good neighbors bring joy and a sense of safety and community,” says Lizzie Post, co-author of Emily Post’s Etiquette, The Centennial Edition. “But when a relationship goes bad, it’s horrible. You can’t choose your neighbors, but you can think about how to cultivate these connections. That doesn’t mean you have to be best friends; good neighbors simply need to interact politely with each other.”
The truth is that some issues that seem rude to your neighbors wouldn’t even occur to you, especially if you’re a first-time homeowner. But take a moment to think: “If your neighbor tells you something is upsetting, it’s worth paying attention to because that’s what you’d want if you were in their situation,” says Post. “The etiquette of being a good neighbor is better served through self-reflection than judgment about their feelings.”
Ahead, learn what gardening behaviors may be considered rude, and how to fix them so you can live in peace with each other:
Mowing and leaf blowing after hours
Naturally, you need to mow and clean up your yard for regular maintenance. But do you need to do it at 6 a.m. when your neighbor is sleeping? “Noise complaints are common, and it’s tricky because if you have landscapers, they start their day early. But it’s about showing respect for others who may not be on the same schedule as you,” says Cervoni.
What to do instead: Some communities have ordinances about quiet times, but if not, try to limit your noisiest outdoor chores to regular business hours, if at all possible, says Cervoni. That’s typically considered 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., but definitely no later than 8 p.m.. If it’s your landscapers showing up early in the morning, ask them to delay their starting time as a courtesy to your neighbors.
Blowing grass onto your neighbor’s property
You may not even think about it (grass decomposes!), but your neighbor may not appreciate your blowing fresh-cut grass on their lawn, driveway or mulched landscape beds, says Cervoni.
What to do instead: Pay attention to where your mowing chute is directed and bag clippings or use a mulching mower to chop up the grass—it’s good for putting nutrients back into your lawn anyhow. Or simply turn around and mow in the other direction so that the grass sprays back onto your lawn, not your neighbor’s property, says Cervoni.
Facing the ugly side of your fence toward your neighbors
In an urban setting where everyone’s fences back up to each other, it doesn’t matter since the framing is hidden anyhow. But if your yours is the only fence, your neighbor may not like the look of the wood framing side facing them, says Cervoni.
What to do instead: Technically, it’s your fence, so it’s your choice what side faces you. But if erecting a new fence, you can choose a design that is two-sided. Or have a conversation with your neighbor ahead of time, asking if they want to go in half on a new fence that’s attractive on their side, too, says Cervoni. It’s not necessary, but a little consideration often goes a long way toward long-term harmony.
Growing invasive plants
Maybe you love the look of bamboo. But it’s a plant that knows no boundaries. These super spreaders can encroach on your neighbor’s property and become a real nuisance, says Post.
What to do instead: Research a plant’s aggressive tendencies before planting anything along a shared property line. Some of the biggest offenders besides bamboo include lily of the valley, wisteria, English ivy, Virginia creeper and Boston ivy, says Cervoni. While all of these plants are available at garden centers, be honest with yourself about the upkeep they require, because they will quickly swallow up both your yard and your neighbor’s.
Letting your tree limbs hang over their property line
FYI: A tree may be on your property, but any limbs that hang over onto your neighbor’s side are theirs. In most situations, they have the legal right to remove any branches that hang over the boundary without seeking your permission, says Cervoni.
What to do instead: If you have a tree that needs care, speak to your neighbor ahead of time. Tell them that you plan to have the tree trimmed, or, if it is not in good condition, that you are having it removed. It’s not required to let them know (it is your tree, after all), but it’s better to communicate. That’s because removal work may impact them, either during cleanup or afterwards. For example, they may lose any shade it threw on their garden.
Leaving something unsightly in plain view
While they are necessary, garbage cans are not the prettiest sights. Ditto for compost bins. What if your neighbor’s windows or patio face these views? Plus, displaying any of these items in clear sight don’t exactly add to your home’s curb appeal, says Post.
What to do instead: Store garbage cans out of sight or behind a privacy screen. Make sure compost bins are closed and lidded because open compost piles can be unsightly and attract animals, says Cervoni. And keep them out of view as well, such as behind a shed.
Parking on the neighbor’s lawn
While this isn’t exactly a gardening behavior, it is something that affects other people’s gardens. And if your neighbor take pride in their pristine lawn, it’s not going to make them happy if you drive on it, says Post.
What to do instead: For parties, ask guests to park in front of your house, or, if necessary, on your own lawn. It’s such a simple gesture that can go a long way toward ensuring everyone lives happily together, says Post.
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