After years of growing lilies and hibiscus, calendula and pansy, something snapped. I missed grass. Soon after, a visit to Akriti Gallery in New Delhi, that haven for garden accessories, answered the question I had been asking myself: Is grass only for those with their feet firmly on the ground? There it was, a resplendent little lawn, all of 2 sq. ft, planted in a container.
We scuttled around to the various nurseries and asked if they would supply us grass. “Of course!” gushed the nurserymen, “Which one do you want? Mexican feather grass? Australian carpet grass? Indian doob?”
“Which one grows best in a tub?” we asked. The maali ’ s face fell. “Tub?” he drew back, all that enthusiasm transformed into something akin to disdain. “We sell grass by the metre. By the truckful. You could try artificial grass.”
If the official route wasn’t going to work, the unofficial, hands-on method could. We first identified a middling-shallow round bowl, about 5” at its deepest. Then began the process of getting the right soil composition.
No maali was going to guide me about this, so I stopped on my walks to see where the grass was most abundant, read up on lawn care and asked friends with lawns. If you notice, the grass is happiest by the kerbside in soil that you’d never dream of exposing your plants to.
But common grass doesn’t expect too rich a feed. Go for loams and sandy loams, but make sure no water settles because this is the surest way to kill the grass and get a potful of algae.
If the stares of a horrified neighbourhood don’t faze you, take your container down to where you want to transform the grass from, and literally ease out the grass, blade, roots, earth and all. Place gently in the container, lined with a layer of crocks for better drainage and press firmly in place.
It is best to work it out of the kerbside, from where the municipality cleaners will uproot and kill it anyway. This gives the grass a longer lease of life.
It takes grass a few days to get used to the shock of being uprooted, and regular watering by you or the rain should help. When the grass has taken to its new home, cut back the shoots so that it needs to expend less energy, but keep a layer of green for photosynthesis.
You could also plant a crocus or zephyranthes bulb in the centre or wherever your sense of design guides you, and sit back to enjoy your flower-spangled lawn.
Friends have advised me to order little containers of grass meant for larger lawns, from Kolkata. Someone else suggested bringing in Vetiveria zizanioides or khus, the thick and fragrant grass that grows well throughout India . But we stick to our guns.
The doob generally maintains its own turf. Over all these years, we don’t recall having to care much for it beyond daily watering and ensuring no water stands. Unlike a grounded lawn, that’s easy for us: We just tilt the container a little during heavy rains.
Since it stands on a tall base, most of the excess water drains off. The babblers love fussing around on our little patch and even an occasional squirrel visits us on the fourth floor. But the one who’s the happiest with our lawn is our dog, who takes an occasional therapeutic nibble.