No more grass. Reclaim your front yard.
I really try to be a polite person and find merit in all things, even if they leave a bad taste in my mouth. Hate is never an attractive or healthy quality, and is really just evil, but I am reserving the right to really Hate one thing: GRASS, the go-to green, the lawn. The practice of rolling out some sod in the front really needs an update. The king of carpet has really become a wet blanket, a regime of boring and waste.
Before you get mad if you have a lawn, I don't blame you. There are probably design elements in my house that designers or craftspeople with expertise in that field equally disdain, but I don't know any better. Some things you just do because you think that's what you're supposed to do; put the butter in the fridge, put the couch in front of the TV, hang a painting over the mantle, water the lawn.
A note before I get carried away: I completely approve of the lawn in family settings. It totally makes sense to have a soft area to let the little ones frolic barefoot so they can later relay the memories of "running barefoot through the grass when the sun and the breeze were just so". Oh wait, isn't that the adult fantasy just after you are proposed to? Anyhow, kid uses are legit and you get a pass for that one, as long as you tear it out once they're too cool for playing.
For reasons other than visual unpleasantry, grass is just a really bad idea. More pesticides and herbicides are used in American lawns than in all agriculture in this country. They are over-fertilized to sustain that unachievable lush green glow, causing major algae blooms in natural bodies of water. Then there's the water usage. In the summer, one-third of our water is going towards irrigation. In these times of extreme drought and economic frailty, it seems very shortsighted. Lawns are also incredibly compacted, causing major runoff and consequential damage to local creeks and watersheds. All of that fertilizer, money and rainfall, down the drain.
And then there is the maintenance, the lawn mowers, weedwackers, edgers, & leaf blowers. These are two stroke engines that are incredibly polluting to the air and to our sound space. There's nothing quite like being woken up at 7AM on a Saturday to a cacophony of lawn mowers, or having not a moment of silence on a beautiful summer afternoon to enjoy, ever. And what a waste of gas! It's clear that we don't have an endless well of fossil fuels, and in such a car-centric culture, don't you think people would be concerned about preserving it for the essentials? I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they've just never really thought about these things...
There is another aspect of the lawn, the front lawn in particular that I have been thinking about. The front yard has almost become exclusively ornamental, an expanse of green or brown and then some old-timey shrubs planted right up against the house. If you're not out kicking the ball with the kids, there's nothing to do out there, except for mow it. People are more and more seeking privacy, and hanging out has generally been relegated to the backyard. This has produced a real lack of community and neighborhood camaraderie. Most people pull up into the garage, get out of the car and shut the door behind them, evading even the simplest of niceties with their neighbors. I bet the rate of sugar borrowing from neighbors has gone done triple fold.
I understand why people seek privacy, I do all of the time. The world is crazy and social media knows your happenings at all times. It's nice to have some moments outdoors at your house when no one can see you, but I would also posit that hanging out in the front yard, with an increased amount of casual encounters would give us all a greater sense of belonging, not to mention some really amazing people watching. Who doesn't love to guess what the neighbors are really up to?
Back to the grass... I don't think anyone would want to just plop down a table on their front lawn and hang out, it's too exposing. You might as well go set up a table in a Walmart parking lot. This is where the plants come in. With an absence of lawn and the presence of trees, shrubs and plants, you will have created your own unique world with some screening and a buffer to the outside world.
Welcome to your porch or your front patio! You can now drink a glass of wine and say hello without feeling like you are stark naked in a bad dream with no where to go.
Let's bring back some front yard sitting. Get rid of that grass! Let me help you...
Check out the Lawn Reform Coalition. They do great work in spreading the word about grass. They share design ideas and have lots of information about lawn alternatives.