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Just being neighborly

February 04, 2002|By Keith Mayberry, Imperial County-University of California Cooperative Extension

It is easy to recognize a home where someone loves to garden. The lawn is neatly manicured and there is an abundance of neatly trimmed plants. Often there are flowerbeds and well-placed trees.

Then, perhaps a few houses away, is a house with a patchy lawn, a couple trees with dead branches and dry weeds along the walls. Often the house needs a paint job as well. The first thing that comes to mind is "Why doesn't the owner fix up their yard?"

Houses with yards in disrepair are not only unsightly, they bring down the property value and sales appeal of the other orderly houses in the area. The unkempt houses also give the local residents a feeling of despair rather than pride in their neighborhoods.

Keeping up a home is just a sign of being neighborly. If maintenance is performed on a regular basis, the amount of time required to keep the yard in good order is minimal.


Years ago, I had a neighbor who would avoid working in his yard for about a month or so. Then on a Saturday morning, he would come outside dressed in his shorts, T-shirt and floppy hat and attack the yard.

He would strain to push the mower through the foot-tall grass, making a dust cloud that would drift down the street. Then he would get out a machete and start whacking away at his bushes and shrubs, collecting a huge pile of debris.

Next he used a shovel to edge his lawn. And finally he got the wife and kids out with him while he dug at the Bermuda grass, which had become well-rooted in his rose garden.

In the afternoon he would take a break and come over for a cold drink. I used to laugh when he would say, "Hey, Keith. This gardening is really hard work. That's why I don't do it very often."

He would show me the battle scars and blisters from his morning combat with the yard. Later, he would fertilize and water the lawn and flowerbeds, making the grass grow profusely for his next round of garden mania.

It would have made a good script for a Chevy Chase movie. It did little good for me to tell my neighbor that if he worked in the yard every weekend for a couple hours he would not have to spend his whole Saturday killing himself with yard duty.

Being neighborly also involves other activities besides keeping the yard neat and green. Being neighborly in the yard can mean how you do your yard activities.

Mowers, blowers, motorized edgers, chain saws and rototillers make noise. For the most part this is accepted as a natural part of lawn care and yard maintenance. However, these activities should be performed between 8 a.m. and no later than 10 p.m., as sound carries.

The noise from these devices can be a source of aggravation when they echo into the bedroom of someone trying to sleep. The noise can awake a sleeping child or a person who has worked the night shift as has become common for residents that work at hospitals, Border Patrol, law enforcement, restaurants and prisons. Be courteous if you have neighbors in these occupations.

Leaf blowers distribute leaves, dirt, dust and other debris in a wide swath. By carefully controlling the air velocity and nozzle direction, the clutter can be blown off the driveway and sidewalks into the flowerbeds, lawn or street.

It is common to blow a little dust into the street. However, you should not blow tree leaves into the street, where the leaves can then be blown by passing cars or the wind and become a nuisance to the neighbors. It is far better to blow them to a more confined area, then rake or sweep them up and discard them to the appropriate container or location. It also is neighborly to blow off the neighbor's sidewalk or edge of the driveway if you contaminate their areas with your debris.

Sometimes shrubs and trees in your yard grow over the fence or across the property line into a neighbor's yard. You should come to an agreement with your neighbors on what can be done.

Most of the time it is acceptable for you to trim anything that comes over to your side of the fence. However, you should not cut shrubs or trees still physically located on the neighbor's side of the fence. That is invasion of privacy and destruction of property.

Tools used to cut shrubs and trees may be infected with fungal and bacterial diseases and you could be spreading a lethal disease into your neighbor's plants. If there is a tree or shrubbery on your neighbor's property that you would like trimmed, discuss it with the neighbor. If the neighbor wants to cut the foliage, he/she may do so. If not, then it is still the neighbor's property and if it is on the neighbor's side of the fence, forget about it.

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