Should you fake the lawn?

Get the pros and cons of synthetic grass and other low-care alternatives

What we weren't prepared for was the backlash. We told a friend our plan, and she was horrified. It wasn't natural, she said. It was weird. A house should be surrounded by living things, not plastic. We should let what naturally grew there grow. But what naturally grows in my Southern California yard is scratchy stuff that snakes and lizards like to live in. Kids don't like to play on it, and our neighbors would run us out.

So we put in the plastic lawn. First the installers had to take out our pathetic weedy grass ― no regrets there ― and put down sand, so nothing would grow up from below. Then they compressed the sand, which is loud; we told ourselves we were doing all our noise polluting at once.

More: Kick the water habit

They rolled out the lawn in sheets, so cleverly that it's impossible to see the seams or the darts at the corners. It looks like we just put in the world's most pristine sod. My husband's brother came over soon after it was finished, and called me from his cell phone. He said, "I'm standing outside, but I'm not sure if I have the right house. It has this incredibly beautiful lawn." He was unconvinced that two people so lackadaisical about landscaping could grow such perfect grass. And he was right, of course.

My father has remained skeptical about the whole idea. He admits that it looks beautiful, but he can't get over the sound. The grass makes a plastic rustle that makes him laugh out loud. I'm told that if you hose it down, that sound goes away, but then you wouldn't be saving water. And the truth is, my father burns so many hours and so much gasoline mowing his lawns in Montana that he has no earthly right to laugh at a whispery rustle.

Have a fake lawn? Post a photo

You can get synthetic lawn that's late-summer long, or putting-green short, or somewhere in between. You can get dark green or light green, depending on the kind of grass that grows near you. You can even choose the color of the springy underlayer. Ours has variegated strands ― some dark, some light ― and looks especially real.

The best part? No pouring clean water into the grass. No burning gasoline to mow it. No fertilizer running into the sea.

People will stop and stare, and say how magnificent your lawn is. And you don't have to tell anyone it's fake. I always do, in the same way I blurt out that the dress I've been complimented on cost $19. But you can just let people think you have a very green thumb, and a silent, invisible mower. You can act like a girl in a real designer dress, and just say thank you.

More:  Lawns and the alternatives

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