We’ve all seen them, those unsightly, large green metal boxes or cylindrical bullets set in the landscape by utility companies. Those devices give the electric or cable companies access to below-ground cables. There are ways to deal with that eyesore in your yard to hide it from view.
Contact Utility Companies
Before digging near the boxes in your yard, contact local utility companies to have them mark the location of the underground lines. In many locations, calling 811 will connect you with the local authorities.
Also ask them about how much space you need to allocate for them to access the box. If you are present when the utility representative arrives to mark the ground around the box, ask him to spray-paint a perimeter around the box to indicate how much space they may need to service the cables.
Place stepping stones, like inexpensive cement circle steppers, over the markings that show where the cable is buried to ensure you do not dig there. Use a garden hose to mark the perimeter of the planting bed. A curvy perimeter is more natural in the landscape than straight lines. Turn the soil down to a depth of about 10 inches in the area between the hose and the utility box—EXCLUSIVE of the area marked for underground cable. Lay landscape fabric over the area that should not have any vegetation; this is where the utility workers will need space to access the unit. The landscape fabric should extent under the stepping stones too. When the plantings are in place, 2 to 3 inches of mulch, like pine chips, can be placed on top of the landscape fabric.
Plant a tree between the house and the utility box. As the tree grows, its trunk or foliage will help to block the view. The trunk of a tall tree, like field maple, can block small boxes. The dense, low canopy of Japanese maple can disguise a larger box. Keep the trees at least 5 feet from the box or according to the utility company’s guidelines.
Slow-growing and low evergreen shrubs, like a globe arborvitae, spreading yew, or savin juniper are options for planting around the utility box, though any type of shrub may be used.
Perennial flowers, like iris, daylily, yarrow, hollyhock and false indigo can reach a height of 2 to 4 feet. Annual flowers that grow 2 feet or taller can include aster, cockscomb, cornflower, feverfew or four o’clock.
Ornamental grass grows fast and wide, making it an easy solution to hide utility boxes in the landscape. Some grasses produce flowers or plumes of color. Ornamental grasses under 2 feet might include sand love grass, Japanese or palm sedge, or velvet grass. For heights of 3 to 6 feet, try big bluestem, Indian grass, prairie dropseed or Korean feather reed grass.
Man-Made View Blockers
A fence on two or three sides of the utility box can make the area looked like a planned focal point. The fence can be high enough to completely block the box, however, a lower fence with shrubs or flowers on both sides can look quite pleasing.