How cracks in my asphalt driveway revolutionized my life

If you’ve been to this blog or my Facebook page at least once before, you’ve probably seen photos of my green driveway. They’re all over the place, like in the video here. And yet every year, just like several years before I put it in, some contractor dude who’s thinking “that ain’t right!” drops by with a card to “fix” it. (I can’t blame him for pounding the pavement looking for clients, but still…).

Sometimes he even jots a quote on the back as to how much it would cost me to rip out my green driveway and put down some blacktop asphalt driveway. You know, my green driveway cost a little more than what he’s quoting, because it was kinda fancy underneath, but I won’t have to “repair” it every five years like he wants me to. No, thank you.

I used to have an asphalt driveway. About the only thing you can do on an asphalt or concrete driveway that you can’t do on mine is play basketball. And maybe make chalk drawings, but you know, the city sidewalk’s right there, so that’s no biggie.

See, for a long time I had cracks in the driveway where plants would grow. That’s why they’d wanna “repair” it. But why would I let that bother me? Water percolating into the soil and being taken up by plants actually cools the air through transpiration.

“But frost heaves!” — it’s a driveway, not a highway; a little bump from a crack is not a problem.

“But bigger cracks!” More plants!

Why would I want black top + hot sun make my driveway and home hotter, rather than something cooling it down? Besides, when the plants were growing in the cracks in my driveway, guess what the bunnies’ favourite outdoor snacks were?

That’s right — CRACK SALAD!

cracks in asphalt driveway = crack salad

Bunnies loooooove crack salad. Here, Parker is over visiting the neighbours — and now they won’t have to mind (mowing) the crack.

So, looks, they say. Some people like everything “clean.” Speaking as someone who’s in thrall to sorting through household belongings to get rid of things, who would love to keep the house clean like a catalog photo, I can totally relate. So when spring comes, I’m out there in the yard with my corn broom and my rake, cleaning up autumn’s mess (you should leave your yard a mess in autumn — it’s good for wildlife and the soil). I want it almost as clean as my living room — with the exception of whatever’s sprouting, because I like to see what’s growing before I assume it’s a weed and pull it. Nature abhors a vacuum and I like seeing what it has out there for me today.

So rather than repair those asphalt cracks…

make them the whole driveway. Nothing can top a green driveway for beauty, even in spring, when it looks a little patchy until it fills in. Check these out.

green cobblestone lane

This is literally a drive way — a cobbled laneway through which people get to their courtyard parking lot between two rows of homes. It’s not private, it’s public.And clearly, it’s smooth (relatively speaking) from decades of wear.

alternative pavers on a driveway

Here’s a driveway to a home in stately Charleston, South Carolina. See how it’s got years of different kinds of pavers and flagstones?

When I was doing my B.Sc. in Biology (specialization in botany and ecology), I took a course I loved: Geography of the Natural Environment. It was a full-year course broken up into Geosphere, Atmosphere, Hydrosphere, and Biosphere. I got to see how everything interrelated. One class stood out for showing us a feature documentary on smog in different locations and how it happens in valleys. It contrasted Los Angeles with a city in Germany where they had made traffic and industry regulations to cooperate with weather patterns. One of the things they did, for which I distinctly thought “Why don’t we do that here?” was the lattice-work pavement that allows water to percolate and grass to grow.

It took a long time to arrive (more than ten, maybe even 15 years), but we are finally doing that here. The Caserne des Pompiers in St. Henri has a lattice parking lot. (The image is linked to the map in case you want to check it out.)

lattice pavers for a parking lot

Caserne des Pompiers St Henri — green parking lot

It was in Denmark that many different kinds of green paving inspired me to consider offering this as a service to home owners and small business properties in Montreal, or wherever I may be. Since I started exploring this subject, I’ve even discovered that there’s concrete that’s designed to be porous to let the water percolate through. In some applications, particularly roads — how awesome is that?

Green pavers in Denmark - also known as "græsameringstein"

The inspirational model of green pavers that made me think that I should, and can, do this. They are also known as “græsameringstein.”

So when a contractor comes by and wants to rip out my driveway for one that slicks water into the sewer, rather than serves my garden, for one that heats up the front of my house, rather than cools it down, I don’t think “that guy doesn’t know what beauty is.” Well, actually, yeah, I do kinda think that. I just don’t think he realizes that the prevalent North American model of where you should park your car is not the ideal kind of parking spot. I think he’s hoping for some conventional work.

So if that guy also works with pavers, then I’d like to hire him to help me create driveways for home-owning guys — assuming you’re a guy — like you. Because I know that guys like beautiful homes and gardens as much as women like me do.

Besides, not only was this kind of road the way of the past — it’s also the way the future. And if you’re ready to start your green driveway, like I was years before I finally did it — then call me (the popup has my phone number) or contact me so we can get it done before the season is over.

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Originally published at Big City, Little Homestead.