You can have the prettiest petunias or the most manicured lawn in the county, and still be making this common landscaping mistake. The wrong trees in the wrong spot can present a life-threatening electrical hazard to you, your children, and the men and women who restore power.
Consider the mature height of trees when planning your garden. For example, a beautiful towering Eastern Redcedar might be the perfect barrier between you and your neighbors, but at 40-feet tall, it can disrupt power and will require regular yearly maintenance to prevent interference with power lines . Even short, flowering trees like dogwoods and redbuds should be planted away from electrical equipment whenever possible. When tree limbs come in contact with electric lines, they can conduct electricity through the branches to any children who might be climbing.
The National Arbor Day Foundation has a tree size guide on their website which you can use when planning your garden.
It’s also critical to consider where underground utility services are located before planting. Roots can grow and interfere with underground pipes, cables, and wires. Future repairs to these facilities could damage the health and beauty of nearby plants and trees. Before digging, always call 8-1-1 to have underground utility lines marked so that accidental contact, damage, and injuries can be avoided.
The areas around electric meters, transformers, or other electrical equipment are also important to keep vegetation free. Plants need water to survive, but water and electricity are a dangerous combination. Vining plants may look elegant as they wind up a structure, but when they take over electrical equipment, they threaten the lives of the lineworkers attempting to restore your power.
It is possible to have both a beautiful garden, and a safe one. It just takes a little planning.