Garden Action

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Over the Fence

We all have neighbours, whether we live in a high rise apartment or in the country, miles from the nearest house.  At some point, what is ours abuts upon what is theirs.  None of us exists in isolation and what we do will have an effect upon those around us and even those living some distance away. 

What we do to our garden has an effect on our immediate environment and that of our neighbours.  Without question, we need to be good neighbours and not have an unpleasant effect upon those near us, allowing them the full enjoyment of their homes.
Problems with neighbours can and often inflame passions so intensely that they are featured in television programmes, be they overhanging trees, tall hedges and barriers, invasive roots, or pets.  Neighbourhood harmony is always helped by communication and compromise and never by insisting that you are right.


Keeping within the bounds

People like to mark their territory, to separate what is theirs from that of their neighbours.  Even if there is no need of a fence to prevent animals or children straying, we like to have them.  We may need them as a windbreak, obscure or to provide privacy. Imagine the effect of actually not having them, an unbroken view from one end of the street to the other with benefits to all.  When we moved to our house on the edge of a small town, we had neighbours but no fences, but as more houses were built, fences were added and we were unwittingly hemmed in.  Thankfully, our long standing neighbour has not followed the trend.
If you are planting a hedge and want some control, it needs to be planted within your boundary.  Again, talk to your neighbour about your intentions because roots do not respect boundaries.  About 20 cm inside is advisable.  Good relations are essential when it comes to pruning.  If the hedge is your neighbour’s, you can cut whatever strays on to your side but not on theirs.  You are bound to return the prunings.  Ask permission if you want to cut the top the full width.

If the hedge grows very high and your neighbours refuse to cut it, they can be taken to court but you have to prove that you have lost the enjoyment of your property, its views or light.
Plants chosen for hedges are an issue. Lawson’s Cyprus has been the subject of many disputes and even a murder! There have been arguments over fences and who owns them.  Normally, one stands to be corrected here, the fence owner has the posts on ‘their’ side.  As to height, it too is a consideration of good neighbourliness and many local authorities have planning restrictions governing fence height.



Cats should be encouraged to hunt and see to their lavatorial needs elsewhere. A range of deterrents is available from pepper and mothballs to motion activated sprays.  Fishing line stretched the length of a wall or fence discourages cats from jumping up. Block any low entries.


Wild Animal Nuisances

Rubbish accumulating next door is an invitation to rats and mice to set up home.  If your neighbour does not take responsibility, then you must. Many local authorities permit the keeping of livestock provided that no nuisance is caused.  Crowing roosters, offensive odours and bee stings are difficult to live with.  If the neighbour fails to cooperate, then formal complaints must be made to the local authority.


Plant Nuisances

Many weed plants are efficient colonisers and will not stop at the boundary.  Again, a friendly chat to begin with stops things getting out of hand.  Your neighbour may be unaware of the problem and may allow you to go round and treat weeds with herbicide.  Again, always ask permission.  If this is not possible, dig a trench 30 cm deep along the boundary and form a barrier from treated plywood, or even concrete.



In neither town nor country can you expect complete silence.  Talk to your neighbour calmly after the noisy barbecue or mowing the lawn late at night.  Tell them of the effect their noise has on you.  Again, they may be unaware.  If the neighbour is unsympathetic, make a note of times and dates and inform the noise control officers.  Other neighbours may also be affected.
There are some simple DIY solutions that can reduce the effect of traffic or neighbour noise.  Build another fence inside the boundary and place polystyrene between the two.  Timber fences are cheap and easy to install and better sound insulation that brick and concrete.  Hedging muffles sound effectively and two parallel hedges are even better.
As always, when dealing with neighbours over the fence, we must first set a good example.  Step back and look for ways we can have as little impact upon our neighbours as possible.  Before we engage our neighbours see that we are as good a neighbour as you would wish others to be.