Sunday, December 18, 2011

Naughty or Nice – how to have a natural landscape without annoying your neighbors

weedwarriors Let’s face it. Gardening is all about choosing what we do and don’t want to grow on the chunk of land that surrounds our home.

It is up to us to decide what is welcome and what is not. We define what is a weed and what isn’t….what forms of wildlife are a nuisance and what forms are welcome. We usually even decide what areas the plants and animals must remain in, setting up garden borders and designated feeding stations for wildlife.

Other people may not agree with or even understand our gardening style. A front yard full of vegetables may fill your heart with joy and your refrigerator with fresh food, but may earn only raised eyebrows from your neighbors. The same is certainly true of a yard that welcomes birds, bunnies, squirrels and deer. You may look at these visitors with awe and wonder and your neighbors may be having visions of venison and rabbit stew. And a yard left to “go wild” with native wildflowers and shrubs may be called weedy and unkempt by those with a penchant for a more manicured look.

“Green”, eco friendly gardeners may face additional challenges when it comes to being accepted by the rest of the neighborhood, as they integrate rain barrels and compost piles into their landscape design.

But eco-friendly gardening has many benefits. The use of native plants, the elimination of chemicals, the capture and re-use of rainwater and garden waste all do their part to help protect not just one garden, but every interconnected piece of property and, eventually, the entire planet.

So how do you keep peace with your neighbors while you are creating a more eco-friendly landscape? Just remember that it is all about R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

R – Recognize the right of other people’s opinions. Remember that although you have a right to your coneflowers and native grasses, your neighbor has the right to a manicured lawn, plastic geraniums, and cement lawn deer if they want.
E -  Educate. You have good reasons to create an eco-friendly landscape -- let others know them before you start. If you tell your neighbors why you're tearing up the lawn, or planting native plants, or constructing a rain garden, chances are that they will be more likely to accept it. Share the Metro DC Lawn and Garden Blog with them so they can learn more.
S – Set it apart. Something as simple as keeping a neutral zone between your eco-friendly landscape and the property of others can go a long way in keeping the peace. A simple border of lawn, hedge or fence provides a nice transition area between landscapes.
P – Personalize it. Add interest to your yard with paths, benches, sculptures and other human elements, letting your neighbors know that your yard is as much your own personal sanctuary as it is a place for environmental stewardship. Decorate or disguise rain barrels and compost piles to make them less obtrusive.
E – Ease into it. You will reduce expense, increase the effect of your learning curve, enjoy your efforts more, and engender less resistance from neighbors if you start in small steps.
C – Certify it. Once your eco-friendly landscape is established, it may easily qualify as a National Wildlife Federation certified habitat. Applying for certification and displaying the Certified Habitat sign will let everyone know that your yard is a special place, deserving of recognition and admiration, not contempt.
T – Trim, tend and primp. Although eco-friendly landscapes often require less care, that doesn’t mean they should be neglected. Keeping your plants pruned and your flowerbeds weeded and mulched will help to give “green” gardens the neighborhood seal of approval.

Remember, your eco-friendly landscape is a great gift to the planet. Taking a few extra steps to make sure that your landscape fits in will help your efforts earn the recognition and respect that it deserves.
For more information, visit the Wild Ones Handbook on the EPA website.

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