Artificial Lawns: Pablo's Perspective

First of all - I am not a LAWN Expert. Let me repeat that... I am not a LAWN Expert! But for our Going Green segment, we will take a look at alternatives to the traditional green lawns so many of us have come to expect.

Let me start off with a little history. I am not a LAWN expert. Did I say that already? My history with lawns is not a good one. I have struggled with lawnmowers, chemicals and weed eaters all in search of the perfect green lawn for my home. Despite my best efforts - my lawns always seem to look different than the neighbors. My first home was not a problem, at least in the beginning. The house was small and the lawn area even smaller. So in most cases, I was able to keep the lawn somewhat green, but with time the problems would arise. Too much water? Too little fertilizer? I haven't a clue. But brown patches would develop. Weeds would take over the lawn and I was no longer sure what I was mowing. My solution was to always water, water, water. Probably too much. Trying to figure out what fertilizer to use was always an issue for me. This one in the spring, that one in the fall and another for the summer - can't forget winter! Those spreaders you worked by hand always seem inefficient... so my solution was always to just grab a handful and toss it everywhere. No wonder my lawns never looked good.

So finally it was on to a bigger home - with a MUCH BIGGER yard. In fact, the area I moved to ran ads in the local newspaper promising to care for any lawn for the giant sum of $29.95 a month. I decided for that price, I would take the plunge and invest in an expert. Here was the problem. My yard was the size of a football field! Yes, they do grow things bigger in Texas. Each and every time I called one of these $29.95 per month specialists to come to the house - they pulled up and ran away before they even stopped. I finally cornered one of these so-called experts and asked why nobody wanted to do my lawn. They very politely said, 'Sir, that price is for a lawn that’s no more than 600 sq ft.' My yard would take a full football team to do at something like 7-times the amount quoted in the ad. So it was back to the old lawn mower once again. I did notice that all the neighbors with a yard my size had these ride-on mowers with cup holders, etc. Now I know why they invested in them! This lawn was perfectly good when I moved in. But over time and usually 5 hours later after each mowing - my lawn started to take on that familiar look that my little patch of grass had at my first home. Craters developed everywhere, weeds I could not find in a book showed up. My lawn had become the eyesore of the neighborhood once again! This time - I held my breath and started writing that check once a month to have the professionals come in. The lawn improved. But what I wasn't told was the price quoted was for mowing only. If I wanted the weeds cleared and the lawn fertilized it would be more. I declined and my lawn once again took on that look that I had become all too familiar with. Heck - it wasn't that bad I reasoned - so I learned to live with it.

Finally it was on to my present home. California real estate is expensive which means the size of my lawn got much smaller. In fact, I bought a home on a hill that would require very little lawn. I put sod in - just enough for the dog to use. Years later - the lawn is pretty much gone in the backyard where the dog goes. There is a side strip of grass that for some reason stays green and beautiful. I'm guessing it has something to do with the dog. There is a vacant lot next door that grew high with weeds for years. So I tossed out some grass seed there and with no dog on the premises it looks pretty good. But I did notice my water bill nearly doubled trying to keep it green.

So what now? I have done countless stories on how yard chemicals wash into the gutters and eventually end up in the ocean. Not good. I remember the big drought in California a number of years ago. Things got so bad in Santa Barbara - they city banned lawn watering all together. We did a great story on a company that used green food dye to paint your lawn green. So beautiful lawns without watering? It seemed to work pretty well.

So this leads us up to today. What can we do to keep our yard beautiful and our lawns green, without polluting the environment and wasting water? How about a fake lawn? Artificial grass? Believe it or not they are becoming more popular these days. No watering. No chemicals. No gas-powered lawn mowers. Best of all, no weeds or brown spots. The new grass is nothing like the old brillo-pad feel of the past and comes in many shapes and colors. It lasts a long time, up to 20 years. It is more expensive to install than sod, 4-times more. But no more watering and no more chemicals. There is an environmental downside as there usually is with any thing synthetic. A Canadian school found that their 90,000 sq. ft of synthetic fields means they would have to plant nearly 2,000 trees over a decade to offset the carbon footprint. Oh well, you can't have everything I guess.

For me - the synthetic lawn seems like a good alternative. The price point will probably keep me from installing it anytime soon. For now, I guess I will live with the large brown lots on my property I have learned to love. Just remember if you have a dog - to watch where you step!

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