The little known gardening rules where you could be breaking the law

Britain is said to be a nation of gardeners, but unfortunately for some keen of the green fingered public, it also appears we are a nation of nosey neighbours. Whether you’re trimming a neighbours trees and picking fruit of someone on your street’s bushes, neighbours can report you for doing so.

It’s a relaxing pastime for many and has been a solace for millions during pandemic lockdowns, but a one misstep in the garden and your neighbours could get you in trouble with the law. Even if you have the best of intentions, an infraction onto someone else’s borders, pruning overhanging branches and planting all have definite rules.

A neighbour’s garden can be a source of much dispute, particularly if plants begin to shade your property or even lean over into your green space. To avoid legal disputes and potential action from the police, we’ve compiled some of the most common infringements to get people in trouble.

Read more: ‘Stopping cutting your grass’: No Mow May gets Monty Don backing


Under the Rights of Light Act, if a window has received natural light for 20 years or more, neighbours can’t block it with a new tree. This rule also applies to fences and new garden buildings such as summer houses or sheds.

If you put anything up that could block light from your neighbour’s windows, they could rightly object. Other than that, you have the right to plant whatever you want, wherever you want within your property boundaries, as long as they are not an invasive species.

However, it is advisable to ask you neighbour before making drastic changes to your garden which could impact them. Ultimately, you will be liable for any damage caused by plants in your garden, be that trees or hedges.


Perhaps the most broken law in all of gardening between neighbours, is collecting someone else’s fruit. You cannot pick and keep fruit from someone’s else’s overhanging branches, even if they are leaning into your garden. This is effectively stealing, as the fruit belongs to the plant’s owner.

You also cannot keep any fruit which drops into your garden, as it still belongs to your neighbour. By the law, you have to either leave it alone, or offer it back to your neighbour.


You may cut off overhanging branches from you neighbours garden on your property, as long as you do not trespass to do it. You can also climb the tree, as long as you do not have to enter your neighbour’s garden or land to do so.

Do also do not have to give your neighbour advanced notice of cutting down branches and do not need to receive permission. However, once you have cut back branches or pruned, they should be offered back to the tree owner as it is still effectively their property.

You cannot cut back further than the boundary to prevent regrowth. You are also liable to any damage to the tree, for instance if it dies as a result of your cutting.


If a tree base sits on the boundary of two properties, it is owned by both parties. One owner cannot perform any sort of work on the tree without the other’s permission as it counts as trespassing.

When it comes to climbers, the plant belongs to whoever’s soil it is growing in, not the property it is growing on. However, you can remove it from your property’s walls as long as you do not kill it or remove its roots from your neighbour’s garden.

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