This time last year I was walking around our neighborhood getting a feel for the place. Sometimes, when the January sunshine allowed, I walked far beyond our subdivision. Wherever I went, when I would come across a house I liked, I adopted it. I called it mine. I’d return from my walk and say I went by my castle house (it has a sort of tower that reminds me of a castle) or my sunroom house or my veranda house or my red door house…well, you get the idea. I never in a million years thought I would adopt the fake lawn house, but it would appear that I have.
When I first walked by my fake lawn house it was January and a recent thaw showed gaps of green on the lawn. And I do mean green. Really, really, green. Enough to make one stop and stare. And I did. Could it be? Was that really? Oh my goodness, it was carpet! It was a gorgeous house in an upscale subdivision with equally beautiful houses surrounding it. I couldn’t imagine how the neighbours felt, but I knew how it made me feel. Or I thought I did. I was, well, horrified.
Keep in mind it was January and the first winter in my life where the coming spring didn’t mean looking forward to a garden in my own yard. I may have been feeling a tad bitter. So to come across a house with a yard full of planting potential and discover the owners had chosen to smother it all under a rug…well, it seemed terribly unfair. And let’s be honest, anyone, even if they weren’t a gardener, would think it looked awful, right? Right?
Well, maybe not.
When spring arrived and the lawn mowers hummed to life across the city I once again found myself walking in the fake lawn house subdivision. As I neared the area where I was certain I had seen the fake grass exposed through the snow, I slowed down. I would have thought the yard would stick out like a sore thumb, but it didn’t. I finally spotted it not because it looked so hideous, but because it looked so perfect. Clearly some care had gone into the installation. The carpet was just the right shade of green…not too bright, not too dull. The nap was exactly the right height…not too thick, not too flat. The edges were pulled tight and precise to the curb. A kidney shaped island had been carefully cut out of the centre where a real live tree grew; its roots covered with a thick mulch of dark wood chips. Or at least I am pretty sure it was a real, live tree. It all looked like something you would see on a brochure advertising real estate in an affluent new development. All that was missing was a smiling young couple with a boy and a girl and a puppy. They were probably inside.
It made me rethink the whole thing. I am sure some grubs and worms and stuff must find some form of habitat in a lawn, but they really aren’t a green choice. Consider the amount of water, chemicals and fertilizers we dump on the grass every year. Think about the emissions from all those lawnmowers crisscrossing yards once a week all summer long. Forgo any of these environmentally unfriendly practices and your lawn looks, well, less than what we think of as beautiful. A real lawn left to its own devices becomes a patchwork of grasses, legumes and herbs. If it is going to house insects and maybe a few ground bird nests, the grass needs to grow knee deep. This is beautiful but unfortunately we have been conditioned to think of a beautiful lawn as a square of short green grass free of weeds. In other words, we want a lawn that looks fake and are willing to use chemicals and lawn mowers to achieve it. Maybe, just maybe, covering the yard with carpet is the more responsible choice.
Last week I heard a news report about how a lot of homeowners down on the island and mainland are trending towards artificial grass. Water restrictions have become so routine lawns are stressed out to the point where insect infestations are taking over. Fake grass has become a solution.
The very best choice, of course, would be to let the lawn go and learn to rethink our definition of beautiful, or take out the lawn altogether and put in a variety of drought friendly native flowers and grasses, providing a feast for all kinds of wildlife as well as a smorgasbord for the senses. I walk past another house where the owner-a fabulous gardener-has done just that. It’s my beautiful front yard garden house. Okay, my adopted house names aren’t the most imaginative, but they work.
Another great alternative would be to rip out the lawn and put in a a vegetable garden. If I ever get a yard again I would like to transform the entire yard, front and back, into a mini-farm.
There’s a popular youtube video where a family in California has done just that. They have created a viable farm on a tenth of an acre right in Northwest Pasadena. The property measures 66 x 132 (1/5 of an acre). Take away the 1500 square foot house and assorted outbuildings and they are left with a garden measuring 66 X 66 feet (1/10 of an acre). On this scrap of land they grow all the food they need to meet their own needs as well as a surplus they sell to restaurants etc. True, they do this in a California climate, but anyone with the space and inclination could do a similar thing here in the Peace. You can check out their website at www.urbanhomestead.org They even make their own fuel and keep goats and chickens!
But if you don’t have the time or the interest, maybe covering your yard in carpet isn’t such a bad idea. I can’t believe I just wrote that. Still, I have come to think of my fake lawn house as making a sort of statement. If you want a lawn that looks fake, then let it be fake. If you want a lawn that looks real, then let it be real.
What do you think? Would you ever roll out the green carpet?