Sometimes a home resists home improvement. No matter how much you think about it, fret over it or plan to change it. Things go south and keep going, harnessing the tailwinds of failure.
“You know the backyard is a mess,” Sue said. “The planters are overgrown, the raised flower bed is choked with weeds and the lawn has no grass.”
I got warm around the edges. This woman was calling my landscaping skills into question. She was criticizing the backyard, my backyard, the backyard in which I have spent hours digging, planting, weeding and shaping. She might as well have called my baby ugly.
“The lawn is all dirt,” she said.
Your baby is ugly and has been ugly for a long time.
What’s wrong with dirt? Everything starts with dirt. When you want to grow a crop — potatoes, alfalfa, blueberries — dirt is foundational. You have to start with good dirt, work the dirt and respect the dirt.
I went into the backyard for another look. A fresh look. Sometimes a hot wind has to blow your doors off before you realize your car needs a new engine.
Everything was a mess. When was the last time I had done anything in the backyard? It seemed like yesterday but it may have been years of yesterdays given how quickly time is moving. Had I forgotten that gardening is a contact sport and its participants have to be willing to plant, tear out and replant when things aren’t going according to plan?
I looked at the lawn. It was sad. It was dirt. I could probably raise a crop, any crop, as long as it didn’t include grass.
The lawn was too shaded. It had always been too shaded. The evergreen pear tree blocked most of the sunlight and the liquidambars took care of the rest. It was too shady for even shade grass. The only thing that could grow there was forest moss.
I had 400 square feet of dirt. It was good dirt, but it was dirt. As good as that dirt was, it was not inviting dirt. The dirt did not say, “Put a picnic table on me and eat brunch here.”
I looked at the dirt and the dirt looked at me as if to say, “You will never grow grass here, so give up.”
I did. Gave up. When I did, when I stopped fighting it, the solution wafted in like a magic carpet. A magic green carpet.
Turf. I’m thinking about turf, dreaming about turf and talking to people who already have turf.
This isn’t your father’s AstroTurf. This is 10th-generation turf. This is turf that can fool somebody into thinking that it isn’t turf.
This is turf that makes you want to take off your shoes, stretch out and wiggle your toes.
A friend has artificial turf on his bocce ball court. A down-the-street friend has it in his front yard. When you ask them about it, they get peaceful smiles on their faces.
The turf always looks good. There are no bald spots, weeds, or mounds of dirt. The color is the green of the afterlife, evergreen for evermore.
Other than the price — good turf is not cheap — the only reservation I have about artificial turf is that it reminds me of a toupee. When you see a toupee, it says, “This is a toupee and the man wearing this toupee is bald.”
Toupees might as well come with a neon light that blinks: “Warning. Toupee a-head.”
This is to say that turf is not natural. However, rather than seeing it as gardening, it might help to look at turf as an outdoor art project. Focus on the aesthetics as in “Your backyard looks fantastic.”
Home improvement. My new baby. The baby that is always pretty.