If Stefan Barth has his way, homeowners will be mowing their driveways this season, in addition to their lawns.
His Ground Solutions company specializes in an interlocking grid system made of partially recycled plastic that allows grass to grow even with vehicles parked over top.
"You can mow it or drive a snowplow over it, no problem," says Mr. Barth, an Oakville, Ont.-based importer who three years ago secured the exclusive North American rights to the German-made product that has been popular in Europe for the last 30 years.
"The product holds. It's good for cars and for pickups. It can support 300 to 500 tons per square metre, depending on the thickness. There's no equipment heavy enough on Earth to destroy the product. It's really, really strong."
And also really, really good looking -- more attractive than asphalt, anyway.
"It's green. That's the colour you see. It's natural," Mr. Barth continues. "Looking at it, you don't see dents or cracks. You see grass."
After years serving commercial clients like Lester B. Pearson International Airport, where the unique landscaping paving system lines the sides of runways, the residential side of Mr. Barth's business has recently been building, largely on the basis of the product's looks. He now has customers across Canada in such urban centres as Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.
The system sells for between $3.15 and $3.70 a square foot, making it slightly more expensive than concrete and asphalt at the onset but more cost-efficient over the long term.
"Asphalt you have to replace on average every seven to 10 years," Mr. Barth says. "But this lasts forever."
Just add seed, fertilizer, water and then mow.
The open grid design also has an environmental edge over concrete. That's why communications specialist Silke Rudelbach now has 100 square feet of the product installed in front of the garage of her north Toronto home.
"The rainwater sinks right into the ground and doesn't run into the sewage system. There are no puddles," she says. "I also love the green, fresh look and how my driveway melts into the garden. Even in the winter, it's easier to shovel than my old driveway. People often stop to look and tell me: 'What a great idea.'"
Besides erosion protection, the flexible square-shaped cells shield grass roots from extremes in weather, making the product increasingly popular with cottagers, notes Gordon J. Leece, a landscaper based in Meaford, Ont.
Mr. Leece, a Landscape Ontario member, says gravel or stones can be used instead of grass seed to create a variety of different looks. There's also a design meant for equestrian use in paddocks and dressage arenas where the plastic paving system prevents gravel from flying underfoot.
"You can cut it to fit around trees, rocks and flower beds and other garden structures," Mr. Leece says. "It's definitely a growing landscaping trend."
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