I have written in earlier pieces for this column of the fact that I do not have a lawn.
What passes for a lawn in my garden is much better described as ‘the front grass’, to differentiate between it and ‘the back grass’, these two terms being those favoured by my parents during their lifetimes. Certainly no-one in their right mind would ever call my front grass ‘the lawn’, despite my having spent a great many hours and not a little money over many years trying to improve it. In my heart of hearts I do know that the only real answer is to have it dug up completely, have the stones which underlie the thin layer of topsoil removed, have the subsoil loosened off and drained, add a completely new layer of quality topsoil and then reseed the area with good lawn grass seed or, probably a better option, have the area turfed with a top quality, weed-free turf.
Nowadays, of course, there is another option. I could employ a contractor to dig up the grass, remove the underlying stones, improve the drainage, add an appropriate subsurface and then install artificial grass. Hey presto! No more laborious edging; no more top-dressing; no more weed-killing; no more time-consuming and repetitive attempts to kill off moss; and no more returning from holiday to be greeted by a meadow whose long, swaying grasses would be a welcome sight to any farm herbivore. And if artificial grass is good enough for Falkirk, Stenhousemuir and East Stirlingshire … to name but three of the Scottish senior football clubs who now play on artificial pitches … then surely it is good enough for me.
It was, therefore, with particular interest that I learned that good friends had decided to replace their lawn … and it actually was pretty well worthy of that appellation … with artificial grass. And, now that the job has been done, I must say that the end result is quite impressive. I think that the flawless nature of the new feature does tend to give away the fact that it is artificial, for I don’t think I have ever seen such perfection in the real product: but it’s pretty good and certainly promises to let my friends say farewell to the many tasks associated with the maintenance of the real mackay. But is it maintenance-free, as I admit I had largely supposed?
Well, I have in front of me a leaflet issued by one of the companies which make artificial grass. This leaflet describes the installed product as ‘a low maintenance surface’ and goes on to describe the recommended maintenance regime. “The rules are simple,” the reader is assured. “Remove debris, particularly leaves or pet droppings.” Fair enough, for no-one wants their lawn to sport a pile of dog poo, although I suspect that, deep down, I had hoped that fallen leaves could be left for the wind to dispose of. “Debris may be removed by sweeping and in dry conditions may be vacuumed with a domestic appliance or leaf blower.” Then the authors of the leaflet add a delightful afterthought. “Do not vacuum sand-filled grasses; the machine will fill with sand!”
This touch of humour is followed by a more serious tip. “If moss does form in the pile, it should be treated with a proprietary moss killer and swept thoroughly to remove the dead material.” Moss? I didn’t expect that. “A bass broom or similar stiff brush is best for maintaining a ‘fresh’ appearance.” Then comes another surprise. “Odd weeds, which may seed themselves in the surface, may be removed by hand or spot-sprayed with general weed killer.” Weeds and moss? My deflation is complete; though I am sure that there will be fewer weeds and less moss than before, my dream of a maintenance-free lawn has evaporated, alas.