To Plant or Not... Around the Mailbox
Posted: March 28, 2012
You just received the latest garden catalog in the mail. You begin to thumb through it when a mailbox planting design catches your interest. “Wow,” you think, “the mailbox could sure use some sprucing up. This just might be the ticket. And look, all the plants come together in a nice little kit. I don’t even have to think about it. Just prepare the soil around the mailbox, plant the seeds and voilá- easy mailbox facelift!”
Before you put ink to checkbook, or pick up the phone to order the mailbox garden kit, please consider the one person who may be most affected by your plant choice- the mail carrier. Although most folks can appreciate a beautiful garden design, mail carriers included, there is one very important thing to keep in mind when planting around mailboxes- insects, especially the stinging kind.
So with your postman or postwoman in mind, carefully research the types of plants included in that mailbox flower garden kit. Are there flowering plants that might attract bees and other stinging insects? Even if you do not have problems with the insects when retrieving your mail on foot, an approaching postal vehicle may provide just enough vibration to agitate these little critters into stinging mode, especially on hot summer days. Keep in mind, too, that non-flowering vines and plants that entwine or envelop the mailbox can hide biting and piercing insects like spiders and mites.
There can be a number of ways to beautify the area around the mailbox without posing a possible hazard for your mail carrier, but if you really must plant near the mailbox, stick with low-growing ornamental grasses and foliage plants, and place them in the area behind the mailbox.
The USPS regulations concerning mailboxes require specific size, height, and road set- back, and although there seems to be no reference specific to planting around mailboxes, it can certainly be inferred from the ‘unobstructed approach and safe access for mail delivery’ phrase that any hazards, including any plantings that prevent safe delivery of your mail, would be included. In addition to the USPS regulations, local ordinances and association requirements may address plantings, as well as the placement of walls, fencing, and other structures near mailboxes.
Although it is expected that certain hazards come with the job of mail carrier, like the occasional aggressive dog, and that ‘neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night’ thing, when it comes to stinging insects, NOT planting flowers around the mailbox is one small way you can prevent possible injury to your carrier.
By now you may be picking up on the irony of a gardener who is suggesting you NOT plant flowers. Would it help if I mentioned that at one time I delivered mail?