Dear Maria,

Beautiful-lawnI have read every letter and response, so I know you have written about problems with our neighbors. Here is my problem. I moved into my home in 2011 and have had a crappy lawn since the beginning. The builder planted sod when it was 108 degrees outside, and my lawn never had a chance. The last two years, though, I have been determined to have a beautiful lawn and I finally have succeeded. It is a beautiful thick lawn. I got an estimate for a sprinkler system back in 2012, and splurged for one early this summer. So, I have a lot invested financially in this yard of mine. This is my issue: My neighbor decided to put RoundUp along the perimeter of his lawn in the backyard along the fence line in a lazy attempt to avoid trimming. GRRRR! On the one side that faces my property, the RoundUp seeped onto my lawn about a foot out all along the fence, so I have a long dead strip all along my fence. I have not confronted him yet for fear I will say something I will regret. What I want to say to him you can’t even print! In reading about RoundUp, I’ve learned it could take years for that stretch of lawn to recover. I know there are so much bigger issues in the world than my lawn, but what can I say to him to get my anger out respectfully and come to an understanding to never do this again?


Not Greener on My Side of the Fence

Dear Not Greener on My Side of the Fence,

GRRRR, indeed! You have every right to talk with your neighbor, and you’re wise to wait until you’ve cooled down a bit! To help answer your question, I turned to my husband, Steve, my resident landscape artist. He served on our neighborhood association board form many years, so has lots of experience dealing with touchy neighbor issues. Here’s his response:

I can see why she would be upset.  When you take such deep care of something you love, and then experience someone take such a careless action, it feels like an attack.

The likelihood is that her neighbor just doesn’t know any better.  We were raised to believe that these chemical herbicides are safe “if used properly.”  What we weren’t taught is that this is poison, and while it may have a direct impact on the plants it was sprayed on, it also has an indirect impact on all of the plants and animals downstream.  And everything flows downstream to some extent, sooner or later.  The challenge we face is that there is such a glut of herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and fertilizers on our lawns and gardens that we are living in a chemical pond.

Unfortunately there are not many laws protecting people from the legal use of chemicals, so diplomacy is going to be her best defense.  Here’s some additional advice to let her know that she is not alone.

Her neighbor just needs to be educated and inspired.  We used to use chemicals on our lawn until a neighbor of ours gently encouraged us to consider the implications of their use.  Even when we found a fertilizer that was made from dehydrated animal waste, she invited us to consider what was in their feed.  As a result of this reflection, we have chosen to use more natural methods to replenish the nutrients and control the weeds in our lawn and gardens.  Unfortunately, we can’t make those same choices for our neighbors, but we can invite them to reflect on their actions.  It might be helpful for the reader to find an article that shows the side effects of RoundUp and offer it to her neighbor.  If he doesn’t have a grass trimmer, she could also show him how easy it is to use one to manage growth near the fence, and offer to let him borrow hers.

When you approach your neighbor, you might try a phone call first (rather than showing up unannounced at his door), and invite him to meet you at the property line. Show him the damage that’s been done, and share what you know about RoundUp. Hopefully, if you reach out in a spirit of friendliness, confidence in your right to this request, and knowledge of the subject, he’ll listen to you and honor your request. During your conversation, be conscious of your breathing, and take deep ones as needed. Good luck! Let us know how it goes.