Here is a post from my guest, Lois Miller, Landscape Designer extraordinaire.
In my line of work as a Landscape Designer I get this question quite a lot lately.
Yes, Artificial Turf has improved a lot and it is the solution for very specific applications but on the whole I would say that artificial turf should not be used to replace the average lawn.
Here is why:
- Artificial turf is costly (3 times the cost of natural grass)
- It is installed in the same manner as Interlocking Pavingstone which is laid on 6-8″ of base rock and sand compacted in place making it paving rather than “turf”
- And lastly it is hot.
(Here’s a link to an interesting article I found on the University of Arkansas website about using artificial turf for sports fields: http://turf.uark.edu/turfhelp/archives/021109.html ).
These are the top 3 complaints from folks getting bids or installing these products. For me the problem is the fact that Artificial Turf is not an environmentally friendly product. Carpeting the earth destroys the biomass and living organisms in the soil leaving not an ecosystem but an inert area. The picture below shows the Carbon and Nitrogen cycles, basically how the earth (soil) interacts with the Sun, air and living organisms to keep a balance in the atmosphere so that we can actually breathe. Not to mention grow living things to feast on!
(Basically, carpeting your yard renders it a wasteland…)
(Artificial Turf does not break down organic matter like the microorganisms do in soil – yeah, this means what you think it does…bird poop, spit, food, and worse, sits on the turf – ewww… which can cause infection to those using it.)
Planting areas i.e. natural lawn, ground covers or mulch also act as drainage fields around our homes catching and absorbing water before it runs off into the sewer and then down into the bay. The dilution of the salinity of the bay over time changes the whole ecosystem of that area as well. Artificial Turf does have very tiny holes that allow for percolation of water, however, as with any type of paving most of the water runs off the surface.
(New ordinances in many areas require that all water runoff be retained on the property, not allowed to drain to the street and the City sewer system, so you should consider that when installing artificial turf. You’ll be required to make sure the water runoff goes into a drywell or landscaped area.)
Areas that I have used Artificial Turf that worked out quite well are poorly drained, dark and small spaces. Most of these projects were for Townhomes or Condo areas where having a tiny lawn on a north facing site made a muddy pit incapable of growing normal turf. The clients in these cases had small children and needed a bit of play space for them.
(Here is a YouTube video on how to install artificial turf http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJSMQmoQJHU )
Sport areas are normally also the first choice for Artificial Turf because it is even, does not wear down easily and can be fitted to the specifications of the sport and client.
Saving water is a needed and important aspect of our future but using Artificial Turf to replace your front lawn is not the solution. As time goes by and the product fades and becomes an icky color it will invariably be removed to be sent to the landfill with all the other un-recyclable products.
Turn instead to a water-conserving garden that will enhance your home rather than detracting from it. Most of these landscapes act as an environment that is friendly to birds, butterflies and other wildlife while naturally percolating water down to the ground water.
(If you decide to install artificial turf after all, check each brand and installer out carefully. Seams can rupture, the carpet can stretch, tufts unravel and shed, UV rays can cause the plastic to break down. Some products even have a high lead content! A quality product and installation will help your artificial lawn last longer.)
For more info on Lois Miller, visit her website at www.loismillergardendesign.com She does marvelous designs for huge budgets and tiny ones.