Mother acts as if rented apartment is her own home. Any advice?


Two years ago, my mother moved to a single level apartment building. She has always enjoyed gardening and was told that she could have some pots with flowers and vegetables in the landscaped area along the building by her specific apartment. There is a maintenance man who cares for the other shrubs and the lawn around the building.

My mother believes that she can do anything she wishes to the grass and shrubs to the point of spraying with grass killer. She has a high school boy come once or twice a month to help her with her plants (move pots, pull weeds that have grown up between the rocks, etc.) She had this boy spray the grass along the landscape edging under her apartment windows with Round-Up and that has killed all the nice green grass that used to be there.

The maintenance man is horrified (and with good reason!) but my mother doesn't believe that she did anything wrong.

Now, I'm caught in the middle. My mother expects me to be on "her side" when the maintenance man complains about her doing things to "his lawn".


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Is there any underlying ethnic or racial attitudes on mom's part on all this - like she gives off the vibe that the maintenance guy is a lesser caste?

If so, then fall on your sword and do whatever you can (like lsmiami suggested) to get in the good graces of the landscape guy.

Also having a MINOR work with Round-Up or any other pesticides is wrong and probably broke a whole bunch of laws there. If he tells his parents or friends who tell their parents, well, honey, the maintenance guy is the least of you & your mom's problems. Get in that garage and get rid of all this stuff and tell mom in no uncertain terms that her Mistress Gardener designation is suspended.
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Lovetoplay, what is your understanding of your mother's cognitive impairment? Has she been seen by a neurologist or neuropsychologist who specializes in dementia.? Does she need a higher level of supervision than she has currently?
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Oh dear. Well nothing for it, then, but to drag out the lease and read aloud with her what it says about what tenants are and are not permitted to do in the communal areas. That way it won't be you siding against her with the maintenance man, it'll be the contract *she signed* and you can say soothing words like "oh dear, I know, how terrible, tut-tut, poor you - but there it IS. Thank goodness they agreed informally to your keeping pots or you wouldn't have anywhere. Better not risk losing that, though…"

Speaking of her not having anywhere to garden, have you got improvements she could make to yours?
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Thanks for all the suggestions and information.

Trying to team my mother with the maintenance man is NOT going to happen! They are so at odds, it is difficult to describe. Has been this way since the first month my mom moved to this building. (It was all caused by my mother, by the way.)

As for making a "community garden", that also is not going to happen. All of the tenants in this apartment are elderly and/or handicapped in some way. Allowing a few pots of flowers or vegetables in the gravel area alongside the building is as far as the landlord is willing to go.

As to how my mother got her hands on Round-Up, either she had someone buy it for her or she moved it with her from the house she used to live in. She stores a bunch of stuff in one of the garages that go with the apartment.

I have never met the high school boy that helps her. I don't live near her but visit about once a week.

As for why my mother had the boy spray the grass, she claims that it was full of weeds. It wasn't, I assure you. The maintenance man is very particular about the lawn and spends a great deal of time trimming and mowing to make the apartment property look nice.

Taking the Round-Up away and disposing of it will not do anything. My mother will just get someone to buy her more.

And, telling her about the dangers of using such chemicals will do nothing. She's a Master Gardener (and never hesitates to tell people that!) so she knows everything about everything pertaining to gardening and plants. That's not really true I know, but she believes it and shares her "knowledge" with anyone who gets within earshot.

I've tried explaining to her that she doesn't own the building and is only being allowed to have some pots with flowers because of the goodness of the landlord. Her response is that she's paying rent and can do what she wants.
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Apologize and pay off the maintenance guy, he may be afraid of loosing his job if the owner sees the state of the garden
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Okay, once again part of my answer disappeared then reappeared after I posted. Sorry for the duplication. These response boxes need to be larger!
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There's another issue with Round-Up and that's the toxicity of glyphosate in it. Although some studies aren't conclusive, I've read enough to believe those that do find links to cancer from glyphosate use. Last week I read a study of pregnant women in California near fields on which glyphosate had been used. There was a higher incidence of birth defects in their children.

Many people, including landscapers, use Round-Up as if it's the only solution. That may have been your mother's thoughts, and she probably wasn't thinking about the side effects (if she was aware of them) to anyone who used it or was in the area when it was sprayed.

Do you think relaying that information would change her opinion? I'm also wondering how she got ahold of it.

Perhaps if she still feels the need to spray, let it just be plain water as Chicago suggests.

There's another alternative and that's to allow her to eventually replant the area with an herbal lawn, or something less energy intensive than grass.

There's also the concept of allowing her to help, or perhaps convince the maintenance man, to create a Pollinator Garden with diverse flowers that attract bees and butterflies. Round-Up certainly isn't helpful to them, so that could be an approach you could use.

You could explain the Colony Collapse Disorder that's killing bees in massive numbers. Tell her she'd be helping not only the bees in their survival efforts, but also contributing to the nation's food supply. That might make her feel as though her efforts are more focused and worthwhile and lead her away from thinking about the lawn.

I like the idea of a Green Team; if she partners with the maintenance man, she may feel part of a real team and may work with him. Hopefully he's not a Round-Up supporter though.

As a gardener myself though, I do understand the desire to get rid of lawns, but only it's done safely.

I also support CM's Green Team idea; if your mother thinks she's helping the maintenance man, that might be incentive enough to be less independent, although it's great that she's that enthused about gardening.

I doubt if anything would survive if replanted now, but in the future, perhaps she could think about having the helper plant flowers to begin a Pollinator Garden. Explain to her about Colony Collapse Disorder and how the bees are dying off, that they're essential to pollinating our food, and that she could help by planting diversified flowers that bees and butterflies like....but that they can't be sprayed with anything but water (or vinegar if there are bugs).

The Green Team partnership would allow her to participate as a team player with the maintenance team, and still practice her love of gardening.
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I sure do like Country Mouse's Green Team idea. In the meantime, be prepared to cheerfully reimburse mom's landlord for the damage done. There's no middle here. There's only the landlord's died. Yikes!
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Tell Mom that the next time she uses any chemicals on the lawn, she will lose her *special privilege* to have her potted plants outside.

I wounder if your Mom thought that Roundup would just kill weeds [as shown on TV with dandelions growing in the cracks of a driveway], and not grass or other plants. Where did she get her hands on Roundup, anyway?
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Roundup?! That grass is GONE. If your mother is lucky, the landlord won't charge her for having the area returfed, but will be content to wait and re-seed it in the fullness of time.

What on earth did she have against it?

You are indeed in a diplomatic bind. Is there any way of making the area look presentable? The maintenance man might be a bit less huffy if you can mitigate the damage somehow. And if he can be got to be less huffy, then he can take your mother under his wing and the two of them can become a Green Team. Wouldn't she like that better?

But meanwhile the damage she's done will cost money - perhaps that'll make more sense to her than your taking sides on an aesthetic or proprietorial basis?
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