If you have a sunny spot in the front yard, plant fruits, herbs and vegetables, and you’ll likely strike up a conversation with neighbors interested in edible gardening. Consider sharing harvests. This can make the most sense for plentiful veggies such as zucchini or fruits that ripen all at once, such as apricots, peaches and plums.
If you’re planting along the street or sidewalk, raised beds can help lift plants above dog height and offer a solution for planting in compacted soil. Communities may have codes dictating what can and cannot be planted in front yards, so check local regulations before planting.
Knowing someone is looking out for them can make a big difference to elderly neighbors and anyone who lives alone. If you know a neighbor who’s in an at-risk group for COVID-19, extend an offer to help. If you have a close relationship, you could consider offering to add their groceries to your grocery delivery from a local store or pick up their prescriptions from the pharmacy.
A small gesture can go a long way toward making a new member of your community feel welcome. Just a quick note of welcome with your name and house number is a good place to start. Or you could put together a few takeout menus from your favorite local spots or drop off a bouquet of flowers clipped from your yard as a gesture of welcome.
If you’ve lived in an area for some time and don’t know many neighbors, you haven’t missed the boat. Start a conversation with a simple “Hello, I’ve been meaning to introduce myself,” and you’ll know one more person on the street.
You may not be able to have a typical block party this year, but there’s nothing to stop you from organizing one that complies with social distancing guidelines. It can be as simple as dropping off notes to each neighbor specifying a date and time and inviting them to pull chairs to the end of their driveway and their own drink or plate of food to enjoy. Neighbors can walk up and down the street for a chat while easily keeping their distance.
If you have a cause you care about that affects your local community, bring it up with your neighbors. You can do so in casual conversation or go a step further and organize a fundraiser or circulate a petition. If you or any of your neighbors are involved in city government, consider hosting a town hall to raise awareness about local issues.
Tall fences and wall-to-wall hedges don’t present a welcoming message to neighbors and passersby. While you may want to preserve privacy or have security in your front yard, consider dropping the height of fences or setting the fence back from the street and planting something friendly on the street side.
A great way to get started is by creating a street or apartment directory for anyone who would like to participate. Drop off sign-up sheets to neighbors and, once they’ve returned them to you, send out a compiled directory via email. More connected neighbors form the backbone of more resilient communities, where neighbors can help one another in times of need. You can also encourage neighbors to use online platforms to share useful information or to post jobs for babysitters and pet feeders.
Move garbage and recycling bins out of sight, clean up after your dog, be mindful about noise and exterior light levels and be respectful of property boundaries. If you have an issue with one of your neighbors, don’t let it grate on you for years. Consider bringing it up respectfully to find a solution.
If you’re handy, tech-savvy or an experienced gardener, you’ll score major brownie points with your neighbors by sharing your skills or helping out on a one-time basis. This can be particularly welcome if a neighbor would like to do something you’ve already done, like install a rain barrel or add a raised bed. They’ll be grateful to hear how you did it or what you would have done differently.