Yes, You Need to Talk to Your Neighbours If You Insist on Using Pesticides

Yes, You Need to Talk to Your Neighbours If You Insist on Using Pesticides
Photo: ND700, Shutterstock

If you’re fortunate enough to live somewhere with a nice lawn, landscaping, or garden, you likely have your own approach to maintaining them — and for some, that includes using pesticides. And if you and your neighbours don’t agree on spraying, it could cause some tension. But given that a pro-pesticide person is releasing chemicals into the neighbourhood and environment, the considerate thing to do is to let the people living next door know what, where, and when they’re spraying.

In an article on BobVila.com, Mark Wolfe shares some tips and strategies for having (civil) conversations with your neighbours about pesticide use, and how to handle disagreements. Here’s what to know.

How your neighbour’s pesticide use could affect you and your property

A quick note before we get into specifics: The point here isn’t to debate the use of pesticides in residential or commercial settings — that’s a subject for another day. Here, we’re going to focus on communicating effectively with your neighbours about their spraying habits, starting with how their pesticide use could affect you and your property.

According to Wolfe, one concern is overspray. Also known as spray drift, it typically happens when a liquid or dust treatment is applied on a lawn or area of vegetation on a windy day, allowing it to reach areas beyond the person’s property line. If you notice an area along or near the border between your yard and your neighbour’s where the plants are damaged or dead, it’s a sign of overspray, and something to bring up with your neighbour.

How to talk to your neighbour about pesticide use

As Wolfe points out, tension can built between neighbours who take different approaches to pesticides, but having a thoughtful conversation about it can help diffuse the situation. Here are some of the main topics to bring up:

What is being sprayed

If you’re the one doing the spraying (or hiring someone else to do it), let your neighbours know which chemicals you’re using. If you’re on the other side of that equation, feel free to ask your neighbours (or the professionals they hire) which pesticides, herbicides, and/or insecticides they’re using.

Then, Wolfe suggests looking up the substances being used to see if they pose any risk to people or the environment. You should also consider if you have any pets that spend time outdoors. If there’s something that concerns you, do some research and present it to your neighbour, as they may not be aware of the impact. (But if you’re going to do that, don’t be passive aggressive or a dick about it.) Ideally, you’d come to some sort of compromise in terms of what’s being sprayed.

When the pesticides will be sprayed

Another way to handle some situations is to ask your neighbour (or the people they hire) when they plan on doing the spraying. This way, you’ll have advance warning and can plan to be out that day, or stay inside the house to avoid the chemicals and any potential smell, Wolfe explains.

Regardless of which side you’re on, Wolfe says that it can help to explain your position to your neighbour. There are all kinds of reasons people decide to use — or not use — pesticides, and it’s a good idea to hear them out.

Keep the communication going

In all likelihood, this won’t be a one-and-done chat. Checking in with your neighbour on an ongoing (and reasonable) basis allows you to nip any new issues in the bud, and talk about what’s working and not working. And, as Wolfe explains, sometimes you’ll have to agree to disagree. In some cases, legal action may be needed, but Wolfe recommends using it as a last resort.

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