A little advice?

Erin was chatting with our next-door neighbour a few days back when he surprised (shocked) her with a bit of news.

"I sprayed your front lawn for you. Just wanted to take care of all those dandelions."

I must be clear, this is a good neighbour. A very friendly man who is great with our kids. He recently retired and spends most of his time grooming his own yard.

His idea of a nice yard, however, differs from ours. We'd rather have dandelions than chemicals. His yard is impeccable; the lawn is a green carpet. I swear, it needs vacuuming more than mowing.

He has lived next door to what is now my house for more than 30 years. And in that time, he's done a lot of work on what is now my yard. The two giant peonies out front, he transplanted from his grandparents house (he's even named them). He also planted the rose bush out back (which he's told me he's thrown fertilizer at over the fence).

On more than one occasion, he has said to me, "If your lawn looks green, my lawn looks green."

Erin was too dumbfounded to say anything. She, pregnant, mother of two small kids who like to roll around on grass and shove everything in their mouths.

I've got to talk to him. I don't want to insult him, or his yard. What should I say?


Anonymous said...

Too funny.

Seems to me a lot depends on the man's motive (for the crime as it were). Was he really trying to take help YOU out, or was he taking care of HIS interests, by killing the dandelions on your lawn before the seeds ruin his perfect lawn.

If he was really looking after your interests, just say, hey, we're concerned about the kids and chemicals, there are all these stories out there. We prefer to err on the side of caution.

But, if his clandestine spraying of your lawn was motivated by self-interest, I'm afraid you will have to install alarms - we decided that a motion sensor connected to the sprinkler system would work best for the times you are away from home or not on the look-out.

(We can sell a kit for the low price of $4,500, installation free!)

Because, he will nod and smile, then continue to 'help' your lawn look as beautiful as his own when you aren't looking.

Yes. Motion sensors. Or a big fence. Big, tall and imposing. Maybe a bit of barbed wire on the top.

Dead Robot said...

"Thank you for being so considerate! You know, I couldn't ask for better neighbours! The stuff you've done for us has been great!

But you should know that we're choosing a more natural solution to weeding due to the kids. They're always rough housing on that lawn and we don't want them to grow up looking like you."

Or something like that. Seriously, diplomacy is key here.

Unknown said...

Motion sensors and backhanded insults. I knew I could count on you guys.

I'll let you know how it goes.

- GI Joe - said...

It would seem to me that your neighbour feels some ownership (and sense of responsibility) to your property.

I think you have three options

1.) Be polite, civil and approach the topic as adults. Then harbour resentment toward each other silently for a short period of time.

2.) Rip up the plants, put down a swing set, and let the kids (and Erin if she wants) play outside all summer with their shiney new soccer cleats and pogo sticks. After all it IS your property do do with as you choose.

Eventually he'll give up.

3.) Start helping him with things you think should be done to his property. Creatively fertalizing words into his lawn is fun, maybe paint his trim! ha ha! If you need a hand, I can bring the dog over to give his lawn a more eco-friendly fertalizing....if you know what I'm saying.

Anonymous said...

My Dad is a meticulous gardener. Every fall he collects up all his begonia bulbs, slides them into trays, and sets them to rest in our basement. And every spring, he'll climb his way out of winter's rest with a pair of clippers for trimming back trees, with hoes and shovels for turning soil, and, most notably, with tools for cleaning up his lawn.

Your neighbour simply wants to see you paying attention to something he also takes pride in. Men like to pass on advice to men by demonstrating care and attention.

You could have an awkward conversation with your neighbour about lawn maintenance and chemicals. OR. You could aerate your lawn with a roller every spring, and roll out lime as well. That drops the pH of your lawn, and over time, keeps weeds (like dandelion) from growing at all.

All your neighbour wants to see is you taking pride in your lawn - like you do your back garden. He doesn't care how it's done - and he doesn't find it political to spray his space. You simply need to demonstrate you're caring for your property - and he won't be back with his spray gun again.

Also - unless you want to stop your neighour from spraying his lawn - a certain amount of these chemicals will always make their way onto your grass. And -of course- from your grass into your kids diet.

Best to take the good with the bad - and for now - show him you're being a good steward to all the fine gardening heritage you've inherited. Maybe he'll take a page from your book when he sees what's growing on the other side of the fence.

Unknown said...


That was very helpful, and I'm glad you took the time to comment.

I had already decided to do almost exactly what you advised. There's no right way to tell him, because I don't need to tell him.

I've thought a lot about what it means to feel ownership of property that isn't your own. I think it's important, or else we wouldn't care about things like heritage buildings, public space, etc.

He feels ownership of my property. I feel ownership of his. I also feel it of every house in my neighbourhood. Why? Because it's each of our neighbourhood. Mine. His. Jane's. Henry's.

I'm glad he cares about my lawn. I'll show him that I do too (and hope he likes a bit of clover).