I was thinking about ways we could all be better neighbors through gardening, and I surprised myself with the stack of ideas that piled up in just a few minutes. Let’s see if you agree with these.
▪ Remove volunteer seedlings of fruiting mulberries, hackberries, cottonwoods and willows and any other rogue trees that are likely to populate the block with their offspring.
Pay special attention to those trees the birds plant beneath power lines. They’ll grow to get into the wires, and when a major ice storm or windstorm comes through, you’ll be the reason power gets knocked out on your street. That’s not a great way to win friends.
▪ If you have St. Augustine and the folks on either side of you have bermuda, you take some form of pre-emptive action to keep your grass from overrunning their lawns. They may not even realize it, but they will be eternally grateful.
St. Augustine is the dominant turf that trumps all other grasses. We no longer have any herbicide that will kill St. Augustine without harming bermuda and other lawngrasses. You either need to put in some type of low-visibility edging strip or you need to develop a landscaping bed that juts out far enough to intercept the St. Augustine and stop it.
▪ Don’t let your trees interfere with the everyday lives of your neighbors.
Trees’ roots can lift driveways if they’re planted too closely. Limbs can overhang and rub roofing or cast excessive shade. Leaves can blow and clog pools or clutter entries and patios. Be mindful of what chaos you’re creating when your trees are in the wrong places.
Ditto for trees at intersections. They can block lines of sight. Keep them pruned so people can see.
▪ Develop a landscape that’s in keeping with others around it. If your neighbors have worked hard to have a community of pleasant, rather standard landscapes with shade trees, green shrubs, groundcovers and lawngrasses, think twice about jangling it up with giant cacti and yuccas, huge boulders and pagodas.
Not that there’s anything wrong with any of those landscaping elements, but they need to be in their own places.
It’s nice to drive into a neighborhood and see a feeling of togetherness and harmony, like everyone lives in peace and tranquility. That’s probably only a facade, but good first impressions never hurt whether they’re real or only perceived.
▪ Be mindful of water that’s leaving your property and that might be going onto properties next door. When you change grades in your landscape, you may very well be redirecting rainfall runoff into someone’s backyard or garage.
Do your preparatory homework and site checking beforehand. And if you have a sprinkler system, be vigilant to keep heads properly aligned and functional. Keep them out of the street, and adjust them so they won’t spray onto your neighbor’s disease-prone plants while they’re in full bloom.
▪ Support your local school by buying, planting and maintaining a new tree every year. Honor a teacher with the tree. Choose a great species such as an oak or pecan, and make an event of its planting involving the community, students and teacher.
Arrange for a team of community members to carry water to the tree weekly for its first couple of years, until it’s able to stand on its own. If the school campus doesn’t have room for the planting, find a park or a church.
▪ Volunteer at an elementary school and teach a class of young gardeners about a plant you really enjoy.
I chose cacti and succulents, and I asked our grandson to help me. He was in kindergarten, and he and I addressed about 100 of his classmates. I took 20 plants from my collection in with me. Your favorite nursery would probably loan you some plants for a couple of hours. They might even go with you.
Note that you’ll need to plan ahead with the front office. Security clearances being what they are today you’ll have to apply and fill out some forms. But those smiles make it really worth the little bit of effort!
▪ If there is an elderly person in your neighborhood, or perhaps someone who has had a run of bad luck or injury, make a surprise raid on their landscape and mow, blow, trim and weed things to make it look better.
Take a pot planted with flowers for the front porch and a card signed by all the volunteers. That’s a really good feel-good thing to do. Everybody comes away a winner.
▪ Organize a neighborhood cleanup day to work over the common areas — the alleys, medians, parkways and others.
Start with a committee of like-minded people. Make a list of things you want to accomplish. Estimate the tools you will need to get it all done and the numbers of people for each of the tasks. Assign project leaders and schedule the date.
Check with the city if any permits will be needed. Locate underground utilities if any digging is anticipated. Extend the call for volunteers. Gather all the supplies, securing donations whenever possible.
So that’s my list that I assembled in just a few minutes. You have your own list. The important thing is that we all do all that we can to make our blocks, our towns, our state as good as they can possibly be.