Good Fences Make Good Neighbors . . . . We’ve all had the uncomfortable sensation that our private lives are being watched and judged. Since your home is supposed to be a safe place, you might ask yourself questions like, “How can I build privacy without a fence? What are cheap ways to block my neighbors view while creating an atmosphere of congeniality?

What do I do when my neighbors can see over the fence? How many years before I’m successfully blocking neighbors’ view with trees? Is privacy even affordable?” We’ve got the answers for you: cheap ways to block neighbors view.

You’ve heard the phrase that “good fences make good neighbors.” It came from Robert Frost’s 1914 poem “Mending Wall” and compares the thoughts of two neighbors discussing the wall dividing their properties. The key phrase we’re going to focus on is “good fences.”

What are some cheap ways to block neighbors view of your yard without insulting them as if you want to wall them off? It doesn’t cost much to establish simple, creative boundaries that beautify your neighborhood, help the environment, and even make your pets happy. It starts with thinking of your project as LANDSCAPING. Your goal is to create a cozy private space instead of a fortification.

The Need for Privacy

Humans as well as pets need privacy. Like sleep, it’s neither a luxury nor a hankering, but a necessity. It’s the right to emotional and physical space to control interpersonal boundaries. Privacy gives us the safety to organize our thoughts and feelings at our own pace.

It also enables us to make decisions without pressure or judgment. Being deprived of privacy in our own space results in insecurity that often escalates into antisocial behaviors such as aggression. In other words, constant surveillance without privacy robs our sense of wellbeing.

Humans have built walls for thousands of years to protect themselves from threats. Walls stand for separation, rejection, and readiness for conflict. So how can good fences make good neighbors? When we change the message by making the wall pretty! By creating beauty, we aren’t shutting out our neighbors as enemies; we’re landscaping. As Romeo and Juliet said, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”

What Is Landscaping?

how to block out neighbours view

Landscaping is changing the appearance of the land by altering its features to make it more user-friendly. Landscaping uses the skill and art of horticulture to make gardens. It also incorporates features and elements such as rocks, ponds, streams, terracing, or walkways.

Landscaping is important because it aids the soil, air, and water. It provides areas of shade and water retention to allow plants to flourish. It creates sheltered areas for various forms of wildlife. It supports mental health with its beauty. It adds value to the property because it demonstrates attention to the needs of the community.

Before beginning a landscaping project, research the practical considerations. You’ll need to communicate with your rental office, landlord, or homeowners association (HOA). Also, check out local building codes and landscaping regulations including the location of utility cables. In addition, get informed about local climate issues such as seasonal flooding, winds, and wildfires.

Landscaping ideas are plentiful for cheap ways to block neighbors view:

  • Look at articles on privacy landscaping in magazines as well as online.
  • Attend home and garden shows.
  • Go to events held at plant nurseries and garden clubs.
  • Check out flea markets for “distressed” and “vintage” items such as trellises, doors, wooden windows, benches, weathervanes, and urns.
  • Talk to everybody you encounter — people love to give advice and share their opinions.
  • Landscape Books

Think Outside the Box

When trying to figure out cheap ways to block neighbors view of your yard, you might automatically think of fencing off your whole yard. But fences and walls are not cheap. Think outside the box: do you really have to enclose your entire yard with a privacy fence?

The answer is NO. Decide on the exact area or areas where you want privacy. Now it’s time to play detective and survey the scene: walk around to determine the direct line of sight from the neighbors’ viewing spots to the areas you want private. How wide and high does the barrier need to be to block neighbors’ view?

Location, location, location! Next, consider the area in different conditions. Photographers can tell you how different a single location looks depending on the time of day or night and the time of year. Imagine cast shadows, blinding light, snow, thick leafy branches, and the absence of any vegetation. Visualize how the area will change over time — are there small growing trees nearby?

Invasive Plants To The Rescue

trellis cheap ways to block neighbors view

Are there spreading patches of invasive plants such as Virginia creeper or English ivy that you can use to your advantage or that will interfere with your plan? Are there known populations of deer, rabbits, or other wildlife in the area?

Your next exercise is to picture a cozy little room around the area you want to block from public view. Imagine a man-cave, a she-shed, a teepee, a picnic shelter, a treehouse, a party tent, or a lean-to made of tree boughs. The shape of your privacy barrier can be anything that gives you a sense of shelter.

In fact, consider building a sukkah. In the Old Testament, you can find the directions the ancient Jews followed to build temporary structures out of natural materials and open to the air. Originally used by farmers during the harvest season, the roofed sukkah has decorations such as gourds, fruit, lights, and whatever you want. And every year in late summer or early fall, you can even find low-cost sukkah kits online to assemble.

Privacy Fencing

In 1640, Mr. E. Rogers wrote in a letter that ‘A good fence helpeth to keepe peace between neighbours; but let us take heed that we make not a high stone wall, to keepe us from meeting.’ He understood the concept of “good fences” way back then.

Today many types of fencing are available, each with its own set of pros and cons. Fencing and walls come in materials such as wood, metal, plastic, stone, concrete, and even glass blocks. Most are not cheap unless you remember that you only need a short length to shield your private spot.

You can lay it out in a straight line, a three-sided semi-enclosure, or in a horseshoe shape. To design a magical hideaway, you can incorporate any of the following structures:

trellis ideas for privacy
  • Pergola: a sturdy garden framework with supporting beams and a lattice top often covered with flowering or fruiting vines; may resemble a picnic shelter or an outdoor walkway
  • Arbor: a small arching alcove-like structure overgrown with branches or vines providing an ornamental shelter or entryway
  • Gate: although usually intended to provide an opening in a fence or wall between two areas, it can also be added as an inviting decorative element
  • Trellis: a small latticework panel used as support for climbing plants
  • Lattice fence extender: a series of panels aligned along a low wall or fence for supporting plants or providing dappled shade
  • Faux greenery panel: a lattice panel covered with artificial foliage to imitate live plants
  • Living wall: a panel supporting containers filled with soil and live plantings including succulents, vines, or a variety of annuals that hide the panel

Fence Cover-Up Ideas

When you want cheap ways to block neighbors view of your yard, consider masking what you’re placing to block their view. To emphasize the concept of landscaping, you can enhance the side of the fence facing the neighbors to offer a distracting focus of interest. What else can you think of besides these ideas?

  • A painted mural or a mosaic
  • A bed of attractive annuals that grow quickly until frost
  • Clumps of tall ornamental grasses with low-height plants in front of and in between
  • A screen of sturdy bamboo (establish bamboo in urns due to its invasiveness)
  • Evergreen shrubs for year-round screening
  • One or more small trees; many produce beautiful foliage, flowers, fruit, unique bark, or dramatic branching
  • Sculpture, statues, or a large urn

Portable Privacy Panels

“How can I build privacy without a fence?” you’re asking. No worries because you have so many cheap ways to block neighbors view into your private life! The only thing holding you back is your imagination. Since fencing and wall construction can be pricey, look into movable panels.

Think about what makes something stable yet portable. Stability is achieved with anchoring, either being tied, embedded, or weighted to prevent dislodging by wind or flooding. Portability is achieved with temporary anchoring or with wheels. You can either make DIY (Do-It-Yourself) privacy panels or buy them ready-made. Think about what best fits your situation:

  • A framework (of PVC pipe or whatever you prefer) with waterproof, sun-resistant, mildew-resistant curtains that open and close like flaps on a big tent
  • A framework with outdoor blinds or shades
  • Lattice privacy screens
  • An arrangement of large urns or planters that you can move around with handy wheeled plant caddies
  • Large empty picture frames or window frames holding old mirror panes so your neighbors can watch themselves!
  • Lightweight old-fashioned wattle fencing panels made of woven willow, also referred to as cottage border fences

Plants for Privacy

Plants for privacy make a win-win situation for you and your neighbors. Before you make decisions on which are best to use for cheap ways to block neighbors view, you’ll want to know about the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) Plant Hardiness Zone Map. Based not only on year-round temperatures but also on precipitation, elevation, and other factors, it gives you a way to choose plants that thrive in your area.

You’ll want to learn about each plant’s soil, light, and water requirements, invasiveness, and common diseases and pests. Local nurseries and garden clubs can give you good advice, but be sure to look up the American Horticultural Society for additional information including any Master Gardener programs in your area. Here are some general privacy planting suggestions:

  • Trees: Slow-growing; provide shade; offer a variety of choices; some evergreen, some deciduous; check out crabapple, hawthorn, Japanese maple, redbud, Harry Louder’s Walking Stick, the Blues weeping Colorado spruce, and Swiss stone pine
  • Shrubs: Generally fast-growing and may need pruning; excellent privacy screens; offer a variety of choices; some evergreen, some deciduous; check out rose of Sharon, red twig dogwood, lilac, forsythia, Diablo ninebark, boxwood, Canadian hemlock, amur maple, and privet
  • Vines: Generally fast-growing; offer a variety of choices; some annual, some perennial; some evergreen, some deciduous; check out ivy, morning glory, trumpet vines, blue passion flower, luffa vines, and climbing roses
  • Grasses: Grow quickly; offer a variety of choices; some spread while others grow in clumps; check out zebra grass, big bluestem, hardy clumping bamboo in genus Fargesia to avoid invasive runner growth, pink hair grass, Chinese silver grass, feather reed grass, and switchgrass

Privacy Garden Design

landscaping ideas to block neighbors

Never mind about peering neighbors for a moment. Let’s think about music: you can have the best drums, the best strings, the best brass section, the best amplifiers, the best everything, but you won’t have music until all the parts are working together in harmony. And so it is with landscaping. Now, back to your neighbors.

The basic principles of landscaping mean focusing on the purpose but also on the performance. If you construct a mountain of trash next to one of the neighbor’s yards, you won’t get privacy! You’ll promote harmony by blending a series of parts into a balanced whole: a main theme or melody, some lesser melodies to provide harmony, and some repetition to create a structure or rhythm.

Many designers arrange a few central eye-catching elements with smaller elements clustered alongside at different heights or with different shapes, then adding something different for contrast. To create a pleasing garden design, you can mix and match some of the following elements:

  • A tall vertical “living wall” planted with numerous smaller plants such as herbs, flowering annuals, or succulents
  • An odd number (one or three) of small trees
  • An odd number of large urns
  • Eye-catching elements such as tiles, hanging art, a mirror, trellises, a statue, bird feeder, birdbath, weathervane, a big rock, or anything that … catches your eye
  • Raised beds
  • Low- and mid-level easy-care plants such as iris and daylilies
  • Shade plants and/or groundcover plants to arrange under the taller plants

FAQ — Frequently Asked Questions

What if I don’t have a green thumb?
Landscaping is like music, sports, and cooking: anyone can learn the skills! You won’t know if you’re brilliant until you get some skills. Everyone has to start somewhere. Three great pieces of advice while you’re learning:
1. Don’t spend a lot of money upfront while you’re a newbie.
2. Talk to lots of people who love gardening.
3. Get all the experience you can. There’s no such thing as failure, only experience!

How can I block my neighbors’ 2nd story view?
You have several cheap ways to block neighbors view from above depending on your home’s set-up. Again, put yourself in the position of a detective. Check out the line of sight from the neighbors’ point of view down to the area where you need privacy. Consider barriers such as latticework, pergolas, movable panels made of bamboo or other natural materials, an awning, a large tent, or even strategically placed porch umbrellas.

Really, what ARE the cheapest ways to block neighbors’ view?
You can find amazing bargains at thrift shops, flea markets, yard sales, online, and on social media local selling pages. Check back frequently. You can find many money-saving landscaping ideas using pallets. Definitely pay attention to end-of-season nursery sales on perennials, keeping in mind that you’re buying roots for the future, not actively blooming plants. Learn to propagate, and then get seeds and cuttings from other gardeners.

Final Thoughts

To “mend fences” as Robert Frost described, there’s something else you can do. After establishing your haven of privacy, show your goodwill by gifting your neighbors with occasional bouquets. Offer them veggies and herbs you’ve grown, or if they like to garden, share cuttings so they can propagate their own little Eden.

And speaking of Eden, Francis Bacon commented around 400 years ago that “God Almighty first planted a garden. And indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures.

“God Almighty first planted a garden. And indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures.”

Francis Bacon

Other Posts Of Interest

Begonia Maculata Care: Official How To Care Guide 2022
What Do Butterflies Eat? And How To Attract Them To Your Yard
Do Bees Eat Honey? The Birds AND The Bees Eat Honey!

Resources

“Mending Wall” along with comments about the meanings in the poem:
https://www.mamalisa.com/blog/robert-frosts-proverb-good-fences-make-good-neighbors/

USDA plant hardiness zones in the Unites States:
https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/

Photos showing cheap ways to block neighbors view (some cheaper than others):
https://www.homesandgardens.com/ideas/garden-privacy-ideas