Everyone likes a nice grass lawn. They’re soft, aesthetically neutral, and you can recreate on them better than plain dirt or asphalt. They require lots of maintenance and water, but there are definitely situations when they’re a wonderful thing, like in a large public park. You can play touch football on it, or croquet, or play with your dogs. You can also have a picnic on a lawn under a shade tree.
They are not a wonderful thing in the apartment complex where I live. San Diego is in the desert, even though we are next to the ocean. Nearly all of our water is imported from the Colorado river or points north. Water resources are finite and San Diego cannot continue to grow without heeding this fact. I find the lawn where I live to be completely ridiculous, and the photo above shows many aspects of why I find it so excessive.
- It has been raining almost once a week for the last few weeks, but not enough to make the kind of mud seen here. Furthermore, I see mud like this all year, including the summer when it never rains. These lawns are either over-watered, poorly drained, or on really bad soil.
- Just beyond the muddy track you can see some dead brown spots. There are spots like this everywhere. Too muddy here, dead just over there. Something is wrong.
- There are concrete paths between all the buildings. The maintenance workers drive around in little carts, usually on the paths. Even so, they feel their time is precious enough to cut off the paths and ruin the lawn like this. Why even have a lawn here when it’s going to get ruined?
- In the corner of the photo you can see some entirely reasonable shrubberies that cover the minority of the ground in the complex. They require much less water and care then the lawn. I see them being tended only a few times per year, perhaps as often as once a month.
- Once a week I see a horde of men (I guess 4) on lawn mowers tear nosily past my apartment. Another day a week someone comes by with an edger, grinding the cutter between the path and the lawn. The next day the leaf-blower comes to blow away leaves and grass cuttings. By adding these up, my guess is that the lawn costs about six days wages per week. That’s a more than a whole employee, and I get to pay for this.
- Because so many of the lawns are either muddy, or brown, I rarely see people recreating on them. It also has to do with the fact we’re all graduate students and have other things to do (like write complaints like this). Since this isn’t a city park, technically the surrounding community can’t use it (there are ‘no dogs’ signs at the entrances), so the number of potential lawn clients is small.
If things were the way they should be, there would be considerably less lawn coverage. There would be some lawns that were kept in good condition, well drained and large enough to recreate on. Places seen above would be turned into something less water and labor intensive, like a path, or native shrubberies.