Nobody has much spare time these days. It’s reached the point where people’s to-do lists have to-do lists. Thus, it is really tempting to sort out a few DIY and domestic jobs in the cracks of the early hours and late evenings.
If you are darning socks, no problem. But when it comes to the lawn, there is some etiquette required.
General lawn mowing etiquette restricts mowing from 9 am to 6 pm on weekdays and 10 am to 6 pm on holidays and weekends. Respect property lines and bag clipping or put in a confined compost, so they don’t blow over to a neighbor.
Few people these days use a motor-free push mower to tend to their lawn. Unfortunately, this makes lawn mowing noisy, and doing it at the wrong times could be a violation of your local sound ordinances. But if you want to be a good neighbor, there is more to consider.
What Times Can You Mow Your Lawn?
What time you can mow your lawn legally depends on your local laws and regulations. These rules will also apply to other noisy DIY jobs and fun, such as chainsaws, power saws, karaoke machines, and the motor for the jumping castle.
For example, in Atlanta, Georgia, you cannot run anything like a blower, engine, or machinery on weekdays from the hours of 7 am to 10 pm, and on holidays and weekends 10 am to 10 pm. This includes leaf blowers, industrial fans, and air compressors.
However, what the law says is very different from what is considered polite. There is no law insisting people say, “Thank you” when receiving a gift, either.
However, those that take and do not give thanks are considered rude. Thus, to be neighborly, never mow before 9 am, and on holidays and weekends to keep it after 10 am.
Neighborly Lawn Mowing Etiquette
Unfortunately (or possibly fortunately), having good manners requires thinking beyond polite times to mow. There is considerably more that should be respected when it comes to yard and garden etiquette.
Keep Lawns At Tidy Lengths
It is good manners to keep a lawn at a reasonable length, regardless of local laws and regulations. However, some homeowner associations (HOAs) have rules, and unfortunately, even living in the land of the free doesn’t make you exempt from their restrictions. Some cities and towns have rules, too, such as the City of Logan.
Some areas have stringent rules, even for landscaping. However, some areas allow natural lawns, which are usually native grasses and flowers.
These types of lawns are typically are exempt from standard regulations. However, many places, such as Pittsfield, Michigan, require a permit, and there are still height restrictions.
Lawn Mowing And Spoiling Ambiance
As Southern Living tactfully suggests, firing up the riding lawn mower during your neighbor’s cookout is not nice. This is especially true if the neighbors are holding a post-funeral tea. Nor is advised during any other special event, even if you were not invited.
This “don’t spoil the ambiance” also applies to any other noisy DIY job and anything that produces an unbecoming odor outdoors. Your neighbor’s golden-anniversary bash is not the time to give the lawn a nice dose of seaweed fertilizer or work manure into the vegetable beds.
Lawn Mowing and Property Lines
When mowing your lawn, it is crucial to only to mow your lawn. Do not mow beyond your property line unless you have explicit permission.
For example, if your 90-year-old neighbors accepted your offer to mow their lawn, then bless you, good person and go right ahead.
However, if your next-door neighbors have a permit for a natural lawn (see examples here and here), you cannot just mow it down. In fact, even if they don’t have a permit, it is not permissible to trespass. Instead, you will have to sort the matter out through proper channels like the home association or the local council.
Respecting property lines also applies to spraying weeds. For example, you should not spray your neighbor’s natural lawn just because you think it looks like weeds. Nor should you spray your neighbors’ weeds even if they are weeds.
If your neighbor’s weeds fall into a local invasive plant regulation, then the proper authorities must be contacted. For example, the Colorado Department of Agriculture works with local counties, and you can read their entire Noxious Weed Act.
Lastly, it is considered impolite to shoot your grass clippings onto another property. Similarly, it is frowned upon to allow your clippings, leaves, and other garden debris to blow onto surrounding properties and the street.
It is best to bag any garden refuse or put it into a confined compost if composters are legal in your area.
Composting is considered an environmentally good thing to do. There are even places in the world where the local council or municipality encourage it or works with companies to provide subsidized priced composters.
However, in some areas, you need a permit to compost. People in the United States can find help on this site.
But regardless of where you live, you must follow the local compost regulations. Some places have stringent rules. Some of this is to keep vermin out of the area.
General Neighborly Compost Etiquette
- No Food In Open Composts
Open composts (no lid) are for plant waste only. This does not include edible plant foods like vegetables and fruit. That will attract larger animals such as raccoons, monkeys, bears, coyotes, squirrels, mongooses, badgers, and so on.
Open composts are generally reserved for grass clippings, leaves, chipped branches, and hedge debris. Food and pet droppings should not be put in an open compost. Also, establish the legality of having an open composter in your area.
- Fence Or Wall-In Open Composts
The contents of the open compost heap should not be able to blow onto other properties or the road. The compost should be fenced or walled at a height greater than the heap to prevent your compost from taking a journey to areas it is unwelcome.
- Put Compost Containers On A Slab
Container composts come in a variety of forms. However, they should never be placed directly on the soil. This will allow rats, mice, moles, and other determined critters to tunnel in. Instead, place the container on a concrete slab. Wise to do it even if your container has a bottom, as those can crack.
- Do Not Compost Certain Foods
Certain foods should not be put into a composter. These include meat, fish, eggs, dairy, bones, and oily or greasy foods. This will attract more than your average vermin. Depending on where you live, this could mean animals like bears pay you a visit. Your neighbors will not thank you.
Trees, Vines, Hedges, and Property Lines
If there is a branch, vine, or other foliage from one property that hangs over to yours, the polite thing to do is to try to talk to your neighbor first.
Grabbing the saw or clippers first is rude. If they are good neighbors, they will either agree, make an offer to fix it themselves (or pay for it), or try to reach a compromise.
If your neighbor is not a pleasant individual, you do have the legal right in most places to trim anything that extends to your side of the property. You can only trim or cut the parts on your side. If you clip beyond, no matter how unsightly it is, then you are the one who has violated their rights.
Do be aware, in most places in the US, you will have to pay costs if the tree or plant is irrevocably harmed or destroyed due to your actions. If you refuse to pay, your neighbor will, in most instances, have the right to sue you.
United States law is not as clear-cut regarding your neighbor’s tree damaging your property, including your home. First, the law must establish who owns it.
If any of the tree is on your property, then you are part owner and will not be compensated. Also, if an otherwise healthy tree fell due to an “act of God,” the neighbor is not liable.
If your neighbor’s trees and foliage are casting unwanted shade onto your property, there is usually little you can do but ask them kindly to trim. You can sometimes help this along by offering to pay for at least half the costs.
Some local regulations and homeowner associations will also have rules in this regard, but far from all.
On the other hand, if it is your tree and foliage casting an unreasonable amount of shade, it is rude not to reach a reasonable compromise.
If they insist on the tree being destroyed, they are unreasonable. But if they are offering to pay for a trim, it is probably best to accept the offer.
If all else fails, contact a legal professional for advice.
Outdoor Lighting and Watering Etiquette
Outdoor lighting can be a beautiful way to add ambiance to your garden. It can also be a helpful safety feature for your property. However, it is good to keep your neighbors in mind when adding these features.
- Do Not Shine Light Directly Into A Neighbor’s Window
A light beaming straight into a neighbor’s house is intrusive and impolite. Sometimes the person at fault honestly didn’t realize the problem. Always try to bring it up politely first before bringing in the homeowners association or local authorities.
- Keep Lights Off When Not In Use
Think green, and keep lights off when not needed. The local nightlife will not appreciate the garden’s ambiance, and neither do you when you are not there. Also, it adds to light pollution, so even when the light isn’t directly falling into your neighbors’ properties, it still can dampen the night view of the stars.
If the lights are for safety reasons, that is understandable, but consider using motion detection lights where possible.
- Less Is More
Ambiance is better achieved with a light touch. Your garden lighting should not be impersonating daytime. Even safety lighting should be confined unless you are living and running the local penitentiary.
- Be Safe And Sensible
Paper bag lanterns can look stunning at a backyard party. However, these lanterns can also be a fire hazard. Don’t use them if the weather is windy, during droughts, or if they are outlawed in your area.
Also, even if sky lanterns are not outlawed in your area, think of your neighbors and the local wildlife. Just because it is pretty going up does not mean the properties around you will appreciate looking at the burnt husks in the morning. Also, even if they don’t start a fire, they can hurt pets and wildlife.
There may be few to no rules for watering your property, depending on where you live. Nonetheless, there is some etiquette to consider.
For example, sometimes, that automatic sprinkler is a bit noisy. Maybe you don’t need to wait until 10 am, but 5 am is could be rude.
Other Watering Etiquette to Consider:
- Do Not Spray Your Neighbor’s Property
Try to keep the water on your side. If some is reaching beyond the property line, the polite thing to do is ask if your neighbor minds. Sometimes it isn’t a problem. Other times, it is spraying a bedroom window and is a problem, very much.
- Only Use Your Water
Sadly, people are not always great about using their own water. Sometimes the person is trying to save money. Other times, due to drought restrictions, one household will try to steal another’s water. Water scarcity brings out people’s hidden side, and sometimes talking it over won’t solve the theft.
It’s not fun and feels deeply un-neighborly, but sometimes the only thing left to do to keep your neighbor from stealing your water is getting a lock for the outdoor faucets. There are various locks, such as this wall mount lock and this flow security system.
Etiquette For Pets And Yards
There are some adorable neighbor-friendly fences out there that allow dogs and kids to cross the backyard boundaries. However, it is impolite to assume that everyone will appreciate their company just because you love your fur child (and human children) dearly.
Also, if your pet is using a neighbor’s property to relieve themselves, it is polite to both offer to clean it up and prevent your pet from doing it again, if possible.
Lastly, do not throw your pet’s waste over the fence to become another person’s problem. Ick.
Good lawn mowing, yard, and garden etiquette should go beyond the rule of law and regulation. Try to be polite and considerate. If good manners are not solving a dispute, try to discuss it first.
If all else fails, check your local homeowner association rules and local government. Lastly, there are legal professionals that can be consulted.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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