Grass is an amazing plant. It thrives in the toughest of conditions, it doesn’t mind if you step on it, or if you cut it once a week, or even if you ignore it and let it grow into a tangle. (Although if you do let it grow into a tangle, you are going to regret it, because you will have to go through a lot of ripping up of long grass before you can actually cut it, otherwise it will tangle itself all around your mower or strimmer.) There are hundreds of varieties of grass – from the lawn grasses that are so familiar, to tall grasses with fluffy plumes at the top, such as Miscanthus. When you dig up the land to make an allotment, one of the most important things to do is to get rid of any grass, because it competes with everything and it always wins. Couch grass is a particular nuisance because of the long, fibrous roots. Most of what I had to clear to start making an allotment was clumps and long roots of grass. And as I dug out my allotment into formal rectangles, taking out all the grass and covering it with gravel paths, I finally got to a bit in the far right hand corner that I knew would be my seating area. It catches the late afternoon sun, it’s next to the pond, I can see my house and the valley that it sits in. It’s a lovely, secluded spot (especially with a cutting flower garden all around it). The main thing I didn’t want to do, though, was to sit in my quiet corner and look at weeds, and especially not grass. I wanted a break from reality.
Luckily for me, a friend had some spare astroturf. I’ve tried to recycle as many materials as I can, so I grabbed a few pieces, and an hour and a lot of cutting later, I had made a small, clean, weed free, intimate and low maintenance seating space. Now, everything is perfect where the astroturf lays. No weeds can get through the thick synthetic layer to find the sunshine. The reality of couch grass can be forgotten, for a time. I have placed my table, so I can drink my tea, sit for a while and forget the truth of growing things. But as I sit there, relaxing in a brief moment of autumn sunshine, and I look out at the open ground where nigella, marigolds, verbena bonariensis and foxgloves all self seed in abundance, I know that the place I am sitting is sterile ground. For all its clean look and its apparent benefits, nothing can grow under a blanket of astroturf. And what I really want is to plunge my hands into the dirty muddy soil of life. Because that is where the flowers grow.