Get Off My Lawn, Boomer; Tidy, Close-Cut Lawns So 1950s [Block Talk]

ACROSS AMERICA — There was a time in suburban America when a beautiful, well-kept lawn meant closely cut grass, kept green and lush with chemical applications, and pretty ornamentals that may not be native and may be so invasive they create an ugly environmental problem.

We asked for Block Talk, Patch’s exclusive neighborhood etiquette column, what to do about neighbors who habitually don’t take care of their lawns, landscaping and property. Among the 225 people who responded are many who have abandoned old-school lawn maintenance practices as harmful to the environment.

Simsbury (Connecticut) Patch reader Nancy said it’s time to rethink what a healthy lawn looks like. Failing that, “the terrible decline of important insects, birds and wildlife will continue at an even faster pace,” she said.

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“We should be convincing people to join pollinator pathways, plant native plants and understand that rewilding is the wave of the future — and the way to save our planet’s future,” Nancy said, pointing out her opinion is backed by a “ton of research.”

“People need to understand that monoculture turf lawns, pesticides, sprays, water overuse, herbicides, mowing, blowing, and all the old-fashioned environmentally destructive ‘landscaping’ practices are hugely detrimental to the planet. It’s also harmful for children and pets.” she said “Removing non-native invasive plants like burning bush and planting 100 percent native plants that support beneficial insects, birds, and wildlife is critical.”

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‘I Have Lightning Bugs. Do You?’

A Mahwah (New Jersey) Patch reader who goes by Earth wondered, “What gives the person who wants a chemically toxic lawn and uses weed killer that is poisoning humans, wildlife, water and the environment more right to the way they want to landscape than the person who has clover or dandelion lawn, perineal wildflower and pollinator gardens to save the Earth? Chemical and toxic lawn with chips and stones suffocating Earth is an eyesore to many as well.”

“The artificially sustained lawn and landscaped yard is passé,” said Wendy, who reads Columbia (Maryland) Patch.

“The ‘green toupee’ of that grass lawn has shallow roots that allow storm water to gush right across it. The fertilizer you apply to it more often than the recommended once-in-the-fall washes right off, too, contributing to the harmful algal blooms in your local lake,” Wendy said.

She offered a laundry list of reasons to avoid non-native flowers that provide little sustenance for beneficial insects and insecticides that kill beneficial insects.

“I have lightning bugs in my yard. Do you?” Wendy said. “Because you rake up grass clippings and leaves instead of mulch-mowing them, you have to apply fertilizer to your lawn, which starves the microorganisms in your soil that would turn the shredded leaves and grass into soil-sustaining health.”

Also, she added, “Native perennials tolerate flood and drought better than grass and ornamentals, requiring no to very little watering in the hot summers, and no gas for cutting or whacking except a single mow before winter.”

‘Eyesore Is For Cranky Boomers’

“You could try minding your own business,” said Miller Place-Rocky Point (New York) Patch reader Brendan, who pointed out that “perfect lawns have no environmental benefit.”

Dawn, who reads New Port Richey Patch and Tarpon Springs Patch in Florida, is down with that.

“Mind your own business,” Dawn said. “They own their property and can do as they like within the limits of the law, the same as you. Gardening for wildlife can appear messy to folks who bend nature to their will. Perceptions need to change for the benefit of ecosystems.”

“How about the complainer do better?” Chatham (New Jersey) Patch reader Marcy asked. “Dandelions and clover are beneficial — those pristine lawns are not.

“It’s important not to tidy your lawn in early spring to avoid killing caterpillars, etc.,” she said. “Shrubbery provides a home for birds — especially if it’s on the unkempt side. Unless it’s a legitimate health hazard, suck it up or join them.”

“Eyesore is for cranky Boomers. It is only an issue if there is measurable financial damage from their supposed negligence,” said Lemont (Illinois) Patch reader J. “I think turfgrass cut in the typical suburban fashion is an eyesore compared to natural areas maintained to the ideal of the traditional Illinois prairie.”

KT, who reads Toms River Patch and Brick Patch in New Jersey, said it is likely the supposedly neglected lawn is ecologically more friendly than a “well-kept” lawn.

“In general, I think we should be moving away from traditional landscaping and move towards ecoscaping, landscaping that uses native plants and less water and are in line with local ecosystems,” KT said.

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There are limited exceptions, such as decaying animals, which can be beneficial to insects and plants.

“Dead animals should be removed, as that is a health hazard, but as per people’s weeding habits, I think you have no say,” KT said. “If anything I think we should be able to ask neighbors to stop using toxic pesticides and herbicides which are health hazards for both humans and the environment and easily spread from yard to yard. Invasive plants should not be sold commercially in New Jersey.”

“If you can see a dead squirrel in your neighbors’ weeds, you’re spending way too much time spying on them,” a Granby-East Grandby Patch reader who goes by Dude said.

As for general upkeep, “Would you rather they were out with the weed wacker at 6 a.m.? Then the leaf blower for an hour or two?” Dude said. “Honestly, stop your griping. If the weeds encroach on your driveway, cut them back! Good fences make good neighbors.”

‘HOA-Worshiping Control Freaks’

Doylestown (Pennsylvania) Patch reader Ann said conversations with neighbors about their landscaping practices don’t have to be difficult.

“Politely and with genuine interest, ask your neighbor what’s going on in their yard,” Ann said. “Maybe they are starting a wildflower meadow to support birds and pollinators and you are not familiar with those plants, or perhaps the neighbor is struggling physically or emotionally and hasn’t been able to keep up with yard work. Listen. Then, if appropriate, share your concerns.

“Some people think a 1950s-style lawn treated with chemicals and the sound of 80 decibels of leaf-blowing every day make a perfect yard, and others think a garden teeming with butterflies and birdsong is more peaceful and meaningful,” Ann continued. “Try to see the neighbor’s perspective instead of shaming those who don’t share your view.”

Palm Springs (California) Patch reader Robert said that regardless of whether he or others like it, “my neighbor is actually doing the neighborhood a service by allowing indigenous plants to increase biodiversity.”

Cassie, who reads Princeton (New Jersey) Patch and New Hope-Lambertville (Pennsylvania)Patch, questions who the offended parties really are.

“I am so sick of wealthy, out of touch, afraid of the outdoors, HOA-worshiping control freaks who think that the way I keep my garden and lawn should be ‘dealt with,’ when they’re the ones poisoning, polluting and demanding absolute control of their neighbors’ property,” she said.

“I have to put up with the constant noise and air pollution of many of my neighbors who do traditional landscaping maintenance — lawn mowers, leaf blowers, weed whackers, noxious pollinator killing chemicals that aren’t safe for pets, humans or wildlife,” Cassie said. “Monoculture traditional landscaping should be abolished, and water and energy and gas saving native landscaping that benefits pollinators should be enforced.”

Mosquitoes, Snakes And Rats, Though

There are legitimate eyesores that have nothing to do with landscaping practices, such as junked cars and other debris that piles up

A Caldwells (New Jersey) Patch reader who goes by Wild Hair said that without a local ordinance on property upkeep, “you’re stuck.”

“I spent 13 years next to my neighbor who only weed-whacked his front yard when the town issued a warning,” Wild Hair said. “The rest of the property was never cut because it wasn’t in public view, the town told me.”

Also, Wild Hair said, “the homeowner was a healthy thirty something who was just lazy and inherited the house.”

Dallas-Hiram (Georgia) Patch reader Carolyn said she has the same dilemma with neighbors whose property with overgrown weeds dying shrubbery and trees harbors mosquitoes, snakes and rats.

“I have tried to talk to them about it but I was told to mind my own business, that they knew more about it than I did, and to stay off their property or they would report me to the police for trespassing,” Carolyn said “We work so hard to maintain our property and it is very discouraging to have an eyesore next door.”

Durham-Middlefield (Connecticut) Patch reader Bev said she finds it “rather disconcerting that there are neighbors that take such little pride in their homes and yards.”

“Never mind how it affects those of us who do take pride in our homes, yards and landscaping,” Bev said. “We have some in our neighborhood that are just that, call it lazy or they just don’t give a hoot.”

Bev said one of her neighbors “thinks it’s OK to keep their yard looking like a junkyard for cars, and others have allowed their yards to become so overgrown, along with a collection of junk, fallen trees and a collection of things just not wanted or used any longer to accumulate, therefore adding to an unsightly mess, which brings down the value of surrounding homes, never mind their own.”

“Needless to say,” Bev continued, “this attracts rodents and other unwanted animals to take up residence. It’s unfortunately a problem that one can do very little about.”

Murrieta (California) Patch reader Ed has thrown up his hands, too.

“I have the situation,” Ed said. “I just mow it because I’m tired of looking at it. How many choices do you have? I don’t like any choices at this point; however, mowing it gives me peace of mind that I don’t have to look at it.”

‘Try Not To Have Hostilities’

Charlestown (Massachusetts) Patch Jenny said that “at this point, I despise them so much, talking isn’t an option.”

“It’s not just the overgrown yard,” Jenny said. “It is camping gear strewn around from when they went camping in the summer of 2023, the snow shovel from January, where their kids played hitting one another with it. No show was actually shoveled, and the incessant dog excrement and constant cigarette smoke that permeates our yard, porch and even inside our home.

“But far and away, the worst is they have extremely loud voices, and I guess because they are unemployed, they are always home and mostly standing and smoking and screaming on the porch, which we can hear every word of inside our living room,” Jenny said. “I’m losing my mind over this and want to hear what others have done.”

The first step should be checking local ordinances pertaining to lawn and property upkeep, said Virginia, who reads Across America Patch, along with Plymouth-Whitemarsh Patch and Norristown Patch in Pennsylvania.

“Report them, if after talking to them, they refuse to do anything about it,” Virginia said. “Also, if your neighbors are elderly or disabled, they may need some help. Offer to work with them on a solution. Try not to have hostilities between you and them. If all else fails, I guess you can keep complaining to the authorities and maybe they will do something.”

Grace Gives Grace; Others Do, Too

Several readers pointed out that people complaining about how their neighbors keep up their property don’t always know what they don’t know.

Branford (Connecticut) Patch reader Luanne gives her neighbors the benefit of the doubt. Keeping up with landscaping and other property maintenance can become more difficult as people age, and the cost of hiring a landscaper may be beyond their resources if they’re retired and on Social Security, she said.

“Either mind your own business or ask them if they would accept occasional help with the chore and be a good neighbor by not expecting (financial payment) in return,” Luann said. “It’s a great time to be kind.”

Fredericksburg (Virginia) Patch reader Grace also gives her neighbors, well, grace.

“There might be a disability or mental health issue you can’t see, so be kind,” she said. “I’d trim what’s on or over my property. My neighbor has trees that overhang us, so I offer to prune the entire tree and make it sound like a favor. I do this gradually, not all at once, the same as I offer to mow while I’m already mowing.”

“You never know someone’s situation,” Sachem (New York) Patch reader Lisa said. “Maybe try talking to your neighbor and finding out if there are circumstances that are keeping them from doing the yard work and then offering to help.”

Lisa said her own yard suffered from neglect after her husband died.

“That was his thing,” she said. “I haven’t really cared about anything since he died. I also had a knee replacement so I am physically unable to do it. My neighbors know this. So if they have a problem with my yard, too bad.”

‘I Give Up’

Narragansett-South Kingstown (Rhode Island) Patch reader Dorothy doesn’t know what to do.

“I’ve been wondering how to ask what their plan is since they stopped mowing the land in front of my house — haven’t asked yet,” Dorothy said. “If I was younger, I would offer to take care of it myself.”

Dearborn (Michigan) Patch reader Suzanne said she’s fighting “a losing battle” with her neighbor. “I give up,” she said, adding she hopes to move to a condo in part because of it.

“I’ve approached him repeatedly,” Suzanne said. “Every year, it’s the same. I’ve notified the city as well since we have an ordinance. They will come out and cite him, but it doesn’t do any good long-term. Every year the vegetation just grows back.”

Concord (New Hampshire) Patch reader Jenn has other things to worry about.

“Who cares?” Jenn asked, pointing out it is “no one’s business what I do or do not do in my yard.”

L.T., a Tampa (Florida) Patch reader agreed there’s not much that can be done — or that should be done.

“A man’s/woman’s home and grounds are his/her own business,” L.T. said “I have to put up with their display of guns due to the Second Amendment; therefore I’ll put up with their unkempt landscaping.”

About Block Talk

Block Talk is an exclusive Patch series on neighborhood etiquette — and readers provide the answers. If you have a topic you’d like for us to consider, email with “Block Talk” as the subject line.

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