Is Artificial Turf Right for You? 3 Things to Consider Before Installing a Fake Lawn

It’s the American ideal: a green lawn, properly trimmed and free of brown spots or blemishes. Like most American ideals, it comes at a high price – endless weekends of manuring, mowing, and watering.

But what if you could have the perfect lawn without maintenance, chemicals and pesticides, and the three trillion gallons of water that grass uses every year? That is the promise of artificial turf, a product that is spreading to American shipyards as severe droughts weigh on our national water supplies. In big cities like Las Vegas, Palm Beach, California and even Boise, Idaho, all homeowners seem to be clamoring for replacing their lawn with yards of artificial turf.

Veer Singh, who owns four Purchase Green Stores in California and Texas, has up to 100 customers who want to install artificial turf at any time. “I’ve seen a lot of acceptance,” he says. “How are we going to fight the drought? By removing ornamental lawns. A large part of our water flows there. “

It was impossible to witness this year’s fires, droughts and disasters without feeling compelled to reduce litter in our own backyards. As the environmentalist Wendell Berry wrote in his collection of essays Think Little in 1972: “There is no public crisis that is not also private.” However, environmental scientists and landscape architects largely agree that artificial turf – which now covers 265 million square feet of land in the United States – cause more problems than it can solve. So what should you do? Before planning your lawn installation, there are three important things to keep in mind.

Saving water has many facets

According to San Clemente landscape architect Jodie Cook, the comparison is too close, although grass needs drinking water and lawns don’t. Other elements of the water cycle are a big issue. Plants, even grasses, produce water themselves. “When you put down lawns and replace a living plant, you remove moisture from the environment,” she explains. “They’re removing atmospheric water.”

Lawn also affects runoff. Plastic traps heat during the day and holds it through the night, which means that running water makes the lawn hotter than natural grass. “That’s a problem for aquatic ecosystems,” says Cook. Rubber filler, the special layer that gives artificial turf its resilient bounce, can be washed away and contribute to microplastics in waterways.

The impermeability of artificial turf can also prevent rain from returning to the ground to replenish groundwater, an issue that led Los Angeles to ditch lawn discounts in favor of other options. But Singh says that artificial turf technology has improved over the past decade. So when laying lawn, be sure to look for brands that offer cooling capabilities and water permeability.

Artificial turf isn’t green forever

At an average of $ 12 per square foot ($ 7,200 for a 600 square foot yard), installing an artificial turf will get you years of maintenance-free green (or low-maintenance as the lawn still needs to be raked to keep its shape and to regenerate). Filling of filler rubber to keep things bouncy). But at some point these artificial turf will break down.

The average lifespan of artificial turf is around 10 years. This means that unlike other landscaping costs, your upfront investment will depreciate over time. Many manufacturers offer warranties, Singh points out, so keep that in mind when you shop.

In addition, artificial turf is not easily recyclable, and toxic chemicals have been found in both the grass and the crumb rubber that can be a challenge when you’re ready to throw it away.

The alternatives may surprise you

Sloping lawns – artificial or real – are not your only options. “Lawns are nature cleansed of sex and death”, wrote Michael Pollan about his decision to scatter his homogeneous grass in different garden areas.

Instead of lawns, low-water herbaceous plants, native trees, and permeable ground cover such as crushed stone or decomposed granite can all be mixed together to create the space you want while harnessing natural ecosystems, suggests Phoebe Lickwar, a founding director of Forge Landscape Architecture.

First, plan your design: create areas for seating, spaces for children and pets to play, and greenery. Then consider the low water alternatives that may work. Water-permeable paving stones, which allow water to penetrate the ground, can be designed for flat surfaces for gathering and sitting. Native “no-mow” grasses can also be planted for playgrounds.

Lickwar insists that low water landscape ideas can be found everywhere. “Drive around, go to parks, go to natural areas, learn to identify plants,” she says. “Discover which ones really thrive near you – even in the heat of summer.”

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