Friday, May 29, 2009

The Case Against Grass

Grass. In the middle of the city, especially a concrete jungle like Houston, it has so much appeal. It's coveted. People commute an hour or more from home to work and back just so they can have it. Some people in The Heights have it. We are not them.

When we bought our lovely North Norhill home, we had concerns about the lack of a yard. We have a nice size bungalow on a decent size lot. However, a previously added master bedroom and long driveway with car port took up whatever green space there might have been. We had looked at so many houses, though. This really seemed like “the one” and it was only one block from an esplanade and one block from a park, so we reasoned we would have grass nearby when it was needed.

Time passed and we found that we weren't using the driveway for vehicles at all. This means we certainly never made it far enough back to park under the car port. In fact, it hasn’t had a car under it in 5 years. The primary use of the driveway has been to toss a ball for our dog. We ended up putting our patio table, chairs and grill under the car port. It has been great and very functional. But then… we had a baby. I started to fret about the state of the “yard.” I suggested to my husband that maybe we should jack hammer up the driveway and plant grass. It was a lot of space. Shouldn't we have a yard? Kids need yards, right? If we had the room for grass, we should have it. Kids need yards, right?

...And time goes by. We are not the types that are quick to take on large scale home improvement projects. We hemmed and hawed about the idea of taking out the driveway. I kept thinking about it, but just never got my act together enough to gets bids. I lay in bed at night, envisioning the landscaping and telling myself it would be good for "resale value" to be able to offer a yard. But did we want to deal with jackhammering? What about the gas lines? How much would it cost? But, wouldn't it be more appealing? How fun to have a yard! But we would have to mow it. Ugh!

And then, while I over thought the whole thing, our son grew. Now he’s 2 and, you know what? Kids don’t need yards- not grassy ones anyway. For a 2 year old, concrete is complete perfection. He practices his tricycle riding. He pushes Tonka trucks at near warp speed. We inflate “the pool” with no worries of it killing the grass underneath. Balls bounce and bubbles pop and sidewalk chalk art covers every inch of visible ground.

We just had another baby- another boy. Like our 1st, the new one will lay on a blanket on the deck. He’ll be shaded by the car port and we’ll have no fear of accidentally laying him down in a bed of fire ants. We bought our older son a giant playhouse to help occupy him while we are attending to the demands of a newborn. It has a gas station on one side and his little scooter can easily glide down his “road.” The basketball hoop on the other side benefits from a hard bouncing surface.

So, yes, there are benefits to having a grassy yard. These days more and more people sacrifice yard for more house. We didn’t want that. It’s important to have outside space, for sure. Still, I felt so much pressure for this green yard: grass to play in, to walk barefoot in; a place to lay a blanket and plant flowers. Well, that’s what the front yard is for.

Do you have an interesting use of space in your own yard? Tell us about it!

1 comment:

  1. Before I lived in the Heights I lived in Washington, DC, and I loved my yard there. I lived in a tiny rowhouse (it was DC, space was expensive!). In front I had a 10x12 spot that I enclosed with an iron fence and planted a formal garden in. In back I had another 10x12 spot with a privacy fence, and I bricked the whole thing over and set up a table and chairs and some potted plants to soften the space. Perfect.

    Grass? That's what parks are for (and Washingtonians are very fortunate to have tons of small parks, something really lacking here.)

    Now I am in Houston and I have grass - more than most people in the Heights. It is useful for the dog to do his business, though I do also run around with him playing fetch on it. I'm a renter getting ready to buy, and the yards I love when I look at houses are the ones dominated by decks, with just enough grass for doggie essentials.

    That said... everything paved over is not the greatest idea. The grass does not heat up like pavement, and it provides drainage. You might, at some point, consider brick; properly installed, it allows water to drain. (That was an issue; I had sliding glass doors to my courtyard in DC, and I did not want water seeping in during heavy rain or post-blizzard snow melts. It worked perfectly; even after one of the biggest snowfalls in DC ever, and after a hurricane, it drained properly.) Which is why I really prefer having a deck over the ground - there's somewhere for water to go.

    One house I've looked had a lovely solution for keeping the garden safe from pets - along the house and fences in front they installed raised boxes and planted flowers and put lighting in them - it was meticulously done and really lovely, and safe from four-pawed household members.

    And really, an expanse of green is nice, but walking out your door to color and variety is nicer!