My Yard Is Your Yard: Neighbors Dismantle Fences in Favor of Shared Space

A communal outdoor space can double your produce production in a hurry. (Photo: WoodleyWonderWorks/Flickr)

Although it probably doesn’t hold much appeal to the super territorial or to those who have a penchant for watering their tomato plants in the nude, the sharing of backyards — banding together with next-door neighbors to do away with fences and create a larger communal outdoor space often, but not always, for the purposes of growing veggies or entertaining — is growing in popularity according to the Wall Street Journal.

The WSJ’s Anne Marie Chaker profiles a handful of yard-sharing homeowners including Bill Fidelo of Brooklyn. Fidelo’s lushly landscaped backyard sanctuary extends into the backyards of not one but two neighboring brownstones to create an urban mega-garden. Says Fidelo: “When the fences are up, you tend to hide in your garden from the other people. That is no longer possible here.”

To be clear, the type of yard-sharing discussed in the article — there's also an interactive graphic — is a touch different than the locavore-fueled garden-sharing movement that revolves more around opening up one's private garden to community-based agriculture efforts and less about expanding into the backyard of your neighbor. Of course, there’s the whole “what if someone decides to move?” issue that can render the whole tearing down of fences thing a bit tricky. And what if the neighbors with whom you share a backyard turn out to be obnoxious, domineering twits? What if they wind up having children and insist on replacing the shared vegetable plot with a sand box? What if no one supports your plan to install a yurt? And what if errant dog poop, the one thing that can turn amicable neighbors into sworn enemies, ever becomes an issue?

While the yard-sharers profiled in the WSJ piece seem to be more than happy with their arrangements (and don’t seem to plan on moving in the near future), real estate broker Denise Shur points out that a shared backyard could prolong the time an individual home spends on the market and potentially lower its value. She recommends restoring a fence between shared backyards prior to putting either home involved on the market as "some buyers will not want to be the bad new neighbor who required a fence."

Says Fidelo of the possibility of loosing a third — or two-thirds — of his beloved backyard garden: “It is something I have thought about a lot. I've always known that this is something that might not last forever."

Do you share your backyard with your neighbors? No? Is it something that you’d ever consider? Or will privacy always trump the allure of extended backyard square footage? I'd certainly be game, provided that I actually had a backyard to share with my neighbor. Also, it would help if my neighbors didn't mind me sleeping in a hammock in my underwear from time to time. And if they had a really nice swimming pool.