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How wonderful it is to have – and be – a good neighbor. Being a good neighbor contributes to building community, whether you live in the city or the country. And spending time outside in the lawn and garden provides an opportunity to connect with nearby residents.

Neighborly relationships may become strained, though, when there is a difference of opinion on what constitutes a lovely landscape. Such as the “unkempt, messy” yard next to the “perfect” landscape. The former may allow dandelions to proliferate while the latter makes every effort – and uses every chemical available – to keep even one dandelion from rearing its ugly, yellow head. Native-only folks may tolerate an unusual bend in a tree. The perfect landscape aficionado might look for the perfectly upright trunk.

Who’s right?

There is no right or wrong. Just different perspectives. If we agree we like to grow things, perhaps we can find common ground (pun intended) on how to do so.

A perfect landscape will still be beautiful with some native trees and shrubs. A less-than-perfect sapling can grow into a lovely landscape specimen.

And, native-only folks could be more sympathetic when our neighbor loses the beloved tree or shrub that was never suitable to our area. Consider looking for middle ground, quite literally, by creating a buffer between a more native landscape and a traditional urban lawn. The buffer might consist of attractive native grasses (maybe tall, native grasses to block the view) and perhaps native plantings or shrubs palatable to both neighbors.

Those who use pesticides and fertilizer, consider the possibility of drift if it is breezy (better yet, don’t do it unless winds are calm). Think about children and pets that could come into contact with whatever is being applied.

Be attentive to watering practices. Is there runoff onto the neighbor’s property, causing washout issues? Does the sprinkler spray next-door perennial foliage that will then burn once the sun hits them? Or are you watering someone’s sidewalk or driveway? (Note: don’t water concrete; in my experience it does not sprout).

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Being neighborly does not apply only to suburban lots. Those living in an apartment or condo above another unit can make sure watering plants on the deck does not result in drips to the deck or patio below.

Look around and consider what you do – or don’t do – from the point of view of those living nearby.

If we can get along with our neighbor and their neighbor and the neighbor after them – about gardening – how might that change our conversations and improve our attitudes toward our fellow humans in general?

Let’s all be good neighbors.

Mari Lane Gewecke is a Master Gardener volunteer, affiliated with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus program, and a self-employed consultant.


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