The Stepford Lawn

stepford_lawn_01.JPG From a distance, nothing looks amiss. Perhaps a little too manicured, but that’s not uncommon in Suburbia. White picket fence, overly green lawn. Then the late-afternoon smell hits you.

Hot plastic.

Welcome to the world of Waterless Grass. Welcome to the Stepford Lawn.

I was walking the dog on a hot summer afternoon. There were three work trucks pulled up on the street around this house, all with ‘Waterless Grass’ emblazoned on the sides in big letters. From a block or two away, as I tried to figure out what was going on, my first thought was that it was maybe some sort of hardy grass that you could water less: Water Less Grass. At least I was hoping that was the case. As I got closer, however, the truth began to dawn. And the small print on the truck doors just confirmed it; at the end of the bullet-item benefits of not watering your lawn was that this was ‘Not AstroTurf.’

I discovered quickly that this was rather like saying your Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast is ‘Not IHOP.’

Plastic grass. Not only that — you know the white picket fence? Ultimate symbol of suburban home ownership? Yep, you guessed it: plastic. The picture below shows the dividing line between the neighbor’s real grass and the other stuff.


Now if a white picket plastic fence and plastic lawn aren’t the perfect metaphor for Suburbia, I don’t know what is. The dog, who had to pee — and I’m not kidding here — took a sniff of the Waterless Grass by the curb and waited till the next lawn to pee.

I don’t blame him.

Now, I’m all for water conservation. I think of all the things we can do out here in the crazy-hot valleys, in all of SoCal, saving on water expenditures is probably the number one best step to take (tied with not driving so damn much, but that’s another post).

But for the love of all that is holy, this monstrosity is not the way to go about it.

Cultivate native plants. They grew here for a reason. Not only will you use less water, but you’ll do way less maintenance overall. Go read about it.

I can’t imagine this Waterless Grass installation was inexpensive. For the price of that ‘lawn,’ I bet you could have a unique, gorgeous area surrounding your house and have money left over to build a real wooden picket fence. And if you think a lawn with a seam running down the middle is going to help your house’s property values, well, you have a rude awakening coming.

Go over to Take an online gardening class, read articles and FAQs, and learn how to garden in a way that’s California Friendly.

Or if you’re too light-headed from the petroleum-product fumes rising off your lawn to do any reading, just go look at the pictures of this Monrovia Bungalow project, done with all native plantlife. You, too, could have a yard like that. You could have a yard that smells like plants and nature instead of hot plastic.

I would thank you, your neighbors would thank you, my dog would thank you.

And you will wise up and wonder how you ever thought a plastic lawn was a good idea.

5 thoughts on “The Stepford Lawn”

  1. Don’t you think not having the neighbors’ dogs pee in your yard might be one of the BENEFITS of a plastic lawn?

  2. Dog’s gotta pee somewhere. What, it’s supposed to hold it? C’mon people.

    Anyway, that link to the native plants thing is awesome. Thank you for that!

  3. Maybe the homeowner is allergic. Maybe the residents are too old or infirm to do regular yard work. Anyway, what’s it to ya? I’m always amazed at how many posts on this site are random musings on what total strangers choose to do–the chickens, the middle-aged woman in the floods, bad parking. Are you all Andy Rooney wannabes? (Did ya ever notice?)

  4. Perhaps it is an installation piece making a statement on artificiality, or of “perfect” suburban living, or some artsy shit like that. It’s not a monstrosity in my opinion. It’s neat and clean and not cars up on blocks and TVs blaring on porches or whatever it is that pisses some people off (personally I don’t care at all if it’s in someone’s space and I can’t hear/see/smell it inside mine) so who cares? I think it’s sorta neat in a weird way.

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