Barratt Homes’ Garden Etiquette Guide, with William Hanson
With summer and school holidays in full swing, getting outside in the garden to make the most of the sun is bound to be on everyone’s agenda. If you’re considering a barbecue, a little get together, or just a few sunbathing sessions, you’ll want to make sure you’re being considerate of those around you. Manners can be hard to master when it comes to your neighbours too – when to say hello, what time to mow the lawn – so Barratt Homes has teamed up with William Hanson, the UK’s leading etiquette coach and expert, to offer his top tips to help you make the most of your garden whilst avoiding upsetting the neighbours.
Speaking to your neighbours
We can all find it difficult to avoid awkward encounters with neighbours you don’t know, but William says that making eye contact and reading body language will often give you the best set of clues. Just try to be natural and remember, you don’t need to be best friends. Little and often is key for contact, rather than a lot.
“Don’t be too pushy when it comes to making friends with your neighbours. When you do naturally bump into them, be sure to let them know you’re glad you finally met and read their signals – are they making eye contact or do they look like they want to run for the hills? Some people will always want to chat, others may just offer a polite nod every now and then. Body language will give you a good gauge of the kind of neighbourly relationship you can expect. It’s okay just to wave or smile in acknowledgement.”
Hosting a garden party or house warming is a great way to enjoy the summer, but if you’re the host – even if you’re only a inviting a few friends over – be conscious of noise that might reach the neighbours. Part of the bargain of buying a house is to be respectful to those nearby.
“You should let your neighbours know if you’re planning on having people round; it shows an added level of consideration and you can hope for the same in return. If you’re planning a big party, ask if they mind, especially if you’re having a barbecue – just think of any washing outdoors. Try to give a few weeks’ notice as well; most reasonable people wouldn’t dream of stopping you.
“Think about the tone and context of any party too and be considerate of the language you and your guests use, especially if there are young children around. It might be your party but you’re still responsible for it, so monitor your guests.”
Asking neighbours if they’d like to come is a nice touch if you’re comfortable with it, or take cake or a token gift round to say thank you.
Make sure you’ve planned where people can park and under no circumstances should you or your guests block anyone in, park on any garden verges or in someone else’s space without their express permission first.
William advises there is no such thing as a front garden that’s too manicured, and competition to maintain it can often be high.
“People can be extremely proud of their street-facing greenery and it’s proper to make sure you keep up with the Jones’ in this arena. If you’re not green-fingered, get a gardener to give your bushes a boost and fall in line with the rest of the street’s standards.”
When you need to mow the lawn or trim the hedges, be conscious of noise pollution too, as William highlights:
“Noisy lawnmowers and hedge trimmers are a point of vexation for many – so if you’re working on your garden at the weekend, try not to wake the neighbours up. Wait until just before lunch to start using machinery, stop by 5 or 6pm and don’t do it continuously, as six or seven hours is likely to drive anyone mad.”
The rules for your back garden are a little different to the front, as that area is private, so by all means cultivate it the way you would like. Think about nature too. For instance Barratt Homes is working in partnership with the RSPB to give nature a home for local wildlife at its developments, so also consider where you could add some bee and bird friendly plants, a feeder or a birdbath.
Think about other courtesies relating to your front and back gardens too. It may be that you have a low fence, meaning debris from your garden lands next door, so offer to clean it up. Similarly, if you have a tree that straddles both gardens or a shared boundary, discuss who will look after what and avoid any awkward conversations later. If fruit from your tree lands next door, remember, it isn’t yours anymore!
Of course, most pets don’t cause a nuisance, but if you own a dog or cat, there are things than can cause contention between neighbours. However, there are a few simple fixes to help.
Firstly, don’t assume that next door are pet people and remember, you are responsible for your pet’s behaviour, so investing in some training to stop your pup barking or to make sure he comes back on your call will be worth it.
“You should do your best to make sure your garden is escape proof if your pet is spending time in it. Pets do escape sometimes and most reasonable people understand that, but you should make efforts to ensure they can’t. The neighbours won’t thank you if your pet makes it next door to pull up the plants!”
As well as looking after your pets, make sure your children know the boundaries too. Consider how safe they are to play out on the street, as well as any disruption their footballs, water fights or noise might cause the neighbours, particularly thinking about the time of day.
Similar to mowing the lawn, children playing outside can be louder than they think, so keeping the noise to a minimum before 11am and winding down in the early evening are good manners.
“Consider taking children to the park to play if there isn’t a suitable area at home – somewhere their footballs and noise won’t disturb the street. And if you’re finding someone else’s children a nuisance, there are a few ways to approach the situation. Whether you deal with any issues face to face depends on the relationship with your neighbour, so if you don’t feel you can talk to them straight away, consider writing a letter.
If that doesn’t work then directly talk to the person and up the stakes appropriately if your patience level is being tested. Get creative – how many times a football can go over the fence without being an issue is up to the individual, but if you’ve had a football land in your garden too many times, hold onto it for a bit. They’ll soon get the message.”
Not everyone can take a day trip to the beach when the sun is shining, so if you want to get out in the garden for a few hours to soak up some rays then do, but be aware, your neighbours might be able to see you. Consider their view points from inside and outside their house – find a spot less visible to them – closer to the house tends to be better, and think about what you’re wearing.
“You may be sunbathing in your own home, so to speak, but decorum dictates you should usually consider clothing yourself in nothing less than beachwear.
“If you want to listen to music, use headphones for minimum disruption, but if you must use a speaker then stick to a three hour limit and keep it quiet – this isn’t Venice Beach!”
It might seem like a minefield to navigate, but stick to William’s top tips and there should be no reason why you and your neighbours can’t get on perfectly well, creating an enjoyable community and living experience for the whole street.
Adopt good manners, be considerate and as selfless as possible, and your garden etiquette is sure to get you noticed.
William Hanson is widely regarded as the UK’s freshest and most trusted authority on etiquette and protocol. His youth, coupled with his old-fashioned values, gives him credence to adjudicate on modern manners.
William understands that good manners and etiquette, which are based on common sense, should be universal. He strives to incorporate their proper use in a 21st century context, helping everyone to become more aware of, and sensitive to, the ways in which they conduct their lives.