Turf Wars: Real or Artificial?

Turf in a shady sideyard
Artificial Turf
Artificial Turf

The recent drought in California has heightened the conversation about artificial versus real turf. With many water districts offering rebates to homeowners who remove their lawn and replace with artificial turf, low water plant materials or other materials that do not require water. Homeowners are questioning whether to even consider using artificial turf. Be aware, not all artificial turf is created equal. I have seen artificial turf products that are shiney and have a cheap, plastic look. Then, there are some artificial turfs that are almost indistinguishable from real turf and they have what is called brown thatch which gives a much more organic look. This is the artificial turf I recommend to my clients. Woven from 100% polyethylene blades and usually laid over a bed of layers of sand and crushed rock aggregate for drainage.

What makes this an eco product?

It is 95% recyclable, made in the USA, lead free and is 80% permeable with a built in weed block. As far as maintenance, all you need is a turf rake to fluff the blades and remove leaves. There is a higher cost up front to install, though you will recoup your costs back in reduced water usage and maintenance over the life of the lawn. A few of the perks: no water is required eliminating the need for irrigation resulting in water conservation, air pollution reduction by eliminating the need for gas powered lawn mowers and it has a 15 year plus life expectancy. In addition, it is great for use in shady areas where real turf will not grow and you want a place for the kids and dog to play, and outdoor furniture can be left on the turf as it will not block irrigation or damage the turf.

When not to use it?

Where the summer temperatures are high and it is in direct sun as it will be hot underfoot like walking on concrete. When artificial turf is not a consideration, there are some turf options available that are low water but do require sun and maintenance like Bentgrass and Buffalo grass. Native Bentgrass is evergreen and is available in sod form and Buffalo grass comes in plugs and will need time and maintenance to fill in.

Artificial turf is not for everyone. In light of the drought it is one option to consider.

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