Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Form, Function, or Eco Friendly

I am at that point in my life, where I tend to sacrifice form for function. Instead of purchasing a charming old farmhouse or bungalow, we purchased a new tract home. My husband and I both work 40 hours a week, and don't want to spend our limited free time maintaining our home or other possessions.

When we tell folks we are buying a home, the first question is 1) are we getting a dog, or 2) are we going to put in a pool.

Answers, no and no. Both of these require lots of $$ and maintenance. I discussed my swimming pool concerns last spring in this post. Dogs, while wonderful, must be walked, fed, can't be left along for long periods of time, and can tear up your house/yard. I already have two young munchkins that have many of those same traits, so I don't need to add more work for myself (we have fish instead).

So this brings me to the issue at hand.....grass. In our rental the HOA maintains our front yard, and both front and back use recycled water. We currently have a nice patch of grass in the backyard that Mr.BT faithfully mows. But we never really play on it.

As we contemplate what to do with our backyard, I am leaning towards a "no grass" yard. We won't have recycled water where we are moving. In my opinion, grass seems a rather irresponsible choice in a drought plagued state. It also must be mowed on a regular basis, which pollutes the air. No grass, means a lower water bill, and less time mowing/edging. This seems like a win/win since the kids don't really play on it much. If they really need some grass to play on, there is a very large grassy park area within a couple blocks of the house.

So what is the argument for grass, as I don't really see that many, aside from the aesthetic?

We still plan to cover the ground somehow. Living where we do, I feel compelled to cover the ground to keep potential asbestos out of the air.


Vanda said...

I'm personally against ornamental grass. You might as well have astroturf. You could plant drought resistant local plants. They could need little maintenance and look good. Heck some of them are even fire resistant.

mcb44 said...

Here is a reference for xeriscapeing in case you have not seen this already. The only case for grass I can think of is personal preference balanced against environmental impact.

When we lived in Colorado, we stayed with xeriscape with one exception. We put in a very small section of lawn just because we missed grass so much. I think it was about the size of a small swimming pool.

mcb44 said...

This time with the reference.


Buying Time said...

Wow, thanks for the links. I have never heard of this concept (xeriscape). It's perfect! I should have known someone has already come up with this line of thought.

Husmanen said...

I could definitely put in Xeriscape in the front yard, you just never go out in the front yards anymore. Plus, people almost always enter their homes through the garage. Makes having a front door kind of useless. Anyway...

Grass. The kids love being outside in the grassy area, which as a play area, swing set, and they love to kick the ball (over the fence mostly), badminton, pickniks, building forts etc. An area for grass and playing is definitely in the cards for us when we buy - part of the criteria.

Pools. We currently don't have a pool. My parents do and they really enjoy it (realizing they do take time and money to maintain), too bad they didn't have it when I was a kid.

Since pools are a sunk cost, we put that on the criteria list too. A bonus, with pools is that you are the house the kids in the area go to. Good way to keep an eye on them.

PeonInChief said...

After I got to the 4th paragraph, I decided I should just write you an email on the subject. I have mixed feelings on the subject.

patient renter said...

So what is the argument for grass, as I don't really see that many, aside from the aesthetic?

More important to me is having a place for the kids to play games/sports.

If not for that though, I'm with you and don't like the idea of grass simply for aesthetic purposes.

Deflationary Jane said...

I was going to suggest Xeriscaoing as well. Nice to see so many people thinking that way!

What I would also do with the backyard is build a small victory garden. You could use a rainwater collector for the extra watering needs (yes this is slightly funny while we are in a drought). It would be a fabulous learning experience for the kids.

anon1137 said...

If you have a park nearby, that is much more functional than a small patch of lawn in your own yard. But who knows, you might find yourself relandscaping as your kids get older, no big deal.

I like decks. They expand your living area outside and cover space that you would otherwise have to landscape. You can plant shrubs and trees around your deck to provide shade and privacy. If you don't have lawn, you can irrigate everything with drip - easy for any homeowner to install/maintain once you get someone to install a set of valves and a timer.

I also agree with DJ - save the sunniest corner of the yard for raised beds where you can plant veggies. Who can live in California and not have homegrown tomatoes?

Bryan said...

Eastern habits have proven hard to maintain in a western land. Shoot, in Maryland we didn't need sprinklers. I remember how they laughed when we first got there and asked where the heck the sprinklers were ("our yard is defective!").

I'm with you on the no-one-plays-on-the-grass thing. We've had the same experience. But the green is so nice to look at. Many backyards that lack it feel less homey. So you have to weigh it. As long as it still feels like your own patch of paradise, whatever.

HOUSE2008 said...

Who can live in California and not have homegrown tomatoes?
Hear! Hear! I Agree!

Grass. Argh! You had to bring ths up. I just installed the sod in my front lawn when I moved into this house. It's not even a season old & I'm thinking about tearing it out! Especially in light of the fact California is/will be facing a water shortage. Besides, grass takes a TON of water to maintain and there's a 35 acre park the HOA maintains here that I can use.

Soooo, Xeriscaping as well as a
Japanese theme have started to develop in my mind. How often have you seen grass in a Japanese garden? Sigh. Landscaping is an ever evolving journey. This is fun though!

norcaljeff said...

Cats are the low maintenance alternative to dogs :)

Buying Time said...

"asked where the heck the sprinklers were"

LOL! Having lived in California for 25 years (and Italy for one), when I moved back East I had that exact same realization. I couldn't figure out how the lawns stayed green in the summer, and where all the umbrellas magically appeard from once I realized how the lawns stayed green =)

Googler said...

1000 Things Kids Do on Grass

Sit on it in the summer to get away from parents

Play Catch, Football, whiffleball, frisbee, make up games, swing set, learn discipline by mowing and caring for it, hang out on it, talk on it, share on it, make necklaces out of dandelions, you can keep an ey on kids there as opposed to the park, build forts on it, develop cordination and motor skills.... etc.....