Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Walk on the grass as much as you want

I was in Malaysia when my host asked me how I liked his lawn. I remember saying it was "nice, but it isn't grass". The resulting debate was only solved years later when I was able to point him to a real lawn as comparison. The English are absolutists when it comes to lawns and the happy ending is that my host moved house and now has a really nice lawn.

Singapore has green verges and public areas everywhere. Together with the wide-spreading trees which shade the roads, they manage to take the harsh concrete edge off the environment.

But it's still not grass.

The local soils are a heavy, reddish clay and the constant high temperature (27-33C) would dry out standard English lawn grass. Instead they use what is locally called Cow grass (Axonopus compressus). It's pretty ugly up close but it is very hardy & grows slowly so is ideal for municipal use.

It is so hardy that laying it on new verges or repairing areas is an interesting technique. Just roughly level off the ground and then spread tuffs of the cow grass over the area and step it in. Job done. With the sunshine & rain, it just grows. It's not a bowling green - the Indian guys who play Sunday morning football have to accept considerable pitch-induced randomness.

Parks are cut every fortnight using a ride-on mower for large areas and strimmers for the slopes and tight spots. The workers are all Indians since, according to the National Parks dept., "our locals shun such jobs which are considered to be tough". I can't remember where I got the idea than Southern Indians were better at tolerating outside jobs but I asked them once and they said "No, we feel the sun like everyone but other people won't do it and a job's a job".