As a turf company that’s been in business for more than 50 years, we know what homeowners want when it comes to their lawns. Lush green, beautiful grass that can withstand kids, pets, and crazy weather patterns – all with little to no effort. Artificial turf seems to promise just that… but does it deliver?
Artificial Turf as a Lawn Replacement
One of the biggest attractions to using artificial turf as a lawn replacement is the amount of time and money saved when homeowners don’t have to water or mow the lawn. However, it isn’t much of a savings unless your lot was a bare patch of land to begin with.
Nutrient Dead Zones
Covering soil with artificial turf cuts off the natural flow of air and nutrients into the ground, causing the complex ecosystem in your soil to die. Creating dead zones in your lawn may not seem like a problem, but remember that the roots of trees and shrubs spread well beyond the diameter of their above ground branches. These plants depend upon the nutrients and gases found in the surrounding soil to survive. Without the army of naturally occurring microbes and other friendly decomposers breaking down dead grass and other naturally occurring lawn debris to create nutrients, you will find yourself adding larger amounts of fertilizer to keep your landscape healthy.
“Immediately close at hand, around and beneath our feet, lies the least explored part of the planet’s surface. It is also the most vital place on Earth for human existence.” –E.O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus at Harvard and internationally renowned biologist.
Turfgrass and Community Health
Beyond the landscape plantings and aesthetics, living turfgrass plays a crucial role in creating a healthy, comfortable environment around your home. According to a 2015 Health Impact Assessment performed by Toronto’s Public Health Department; “Artificial turf is made of several heat-retaining materials which can significantly increase field surface temperatures, substantially increase air temperatures near fields, and potentially contribute to the urban heat island effect in surrounding neighborhoods. This contributes to increased health risk during hot weather events.” For most homeowners, hotter temperatures translates into less time spent outside chatting with the neighbors or playing catch with the kids – a missed opportunity that won’t come back again.
Unlike artificial turf, living lawns act as environmental coolers, reducing air temperatures even as they filter dust and other particles from the air. Not only that, but residential lawns are known to capture significant amounts of carbon, quietly reducing homeowners carbon footprint year after year.
Living turfgrass lawns provide some incredible environmental benefits. Visit our blog: 4 Ways Lawns Benefit the Environment to find out what they are!
Artificial Turf for Kids Playgrounds
Artificial turfgrass is constantly marketed as the best, bounciest surface for kids to play on when outside and there is some truth to that claim. But just like with lawns, there are more factors to consider.
Playing in the Dirt
Living turfgrass lawns are proven to provide a myriad of benefits to homeowners and their families, particularly children. Although natural grass can’t provide the same level of bounce as an artificial turfgrass, they have been shown to provide significantly better traction. Particularly when damp, artificial turf can be spectacularly slick, leading to an increased number of sprains and abrasions from falling.
Beyond the risk of injury, many artificial turf companies tout the cleanliness of the turf as a base for play areas – “no more mud or grass stains!” Great for the longevity of the clothing, not so great for your child’s immune system or long-term health. Recent studies show that children who played outside and were allowed to get dirty early in life have stronger immune systems and are less likely to have allergies as adults.
“If you look at … Western society diseases — I’m including things like asthma, allergies, obesity, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, depression, stress, anxiety, autism — these things actually all have microbial links.” UBC microbiologist B. Brett Finlay, in a 2016 interview with CBC Radio.
While installing artificial turf in your yard may prevent Fido from digging more holes or tracking mud through the house, there is the trade off of turning your lawn into a glorified litter box.
As part of its 2015 Health Impact Assessment of artificial turf, the Public Health Department of Toronto noted that: “In general, artificial turf lacks the natural biodegrading properties of natural surfaces, making it more susceptible to unsanitary conditions for users.” This means that any pet waste – poop or otherwise – will linger on the lawn long until the homeowner has a chance to clean it off by hand or with the hose. Since there are no microorganisms to help with breakdown, even the most vigilant of homeowners can expect to develop issues with odor control over time. So rather than spending money on watering living grass, homeowners can spend it hosing off the lawn weekly and purchasing specially designed, pet-friendly chemicals to keep the smells at bay.
Another attractive marketing strategy is to point out the lack of ticks and fleas your pet will pick up when roaming the lawn. At best, this is an empty promise as most pet owners who require outdoor space for their furry friend also take their pets on walks. Unless the entire neighborhood has switched to artificial turf and ripped out all of the shade trees, pet owners will still need to invest in flea and tick preventative medicines.
Creating a pet-friendly lawn doesn’t have to be hard work. Explore our diverse selection of resilient, attractive turf grasses to find one perfectly suited to your needs.
The Hard Facts
What is all boils down to is this: artificial turf is a choice that, like all choices, has pros and cons. Homeowners who choose to install it won’t have to worry about watering and mowing, at the tradeoff of losing the many environmental benefits living turfgrass lawns provide for free. Parents who opt for a more cushioned material under the backyard swingset may spend less time on grass stains and broken bones, but more time on sprains and allergies. Pet owners can skip the extra bath and round of mopping after every rainstorm but need to wash the lawn every few days to avoid offending the neighbor down wind. And remember, you’ll have to replace it every 10-20 years (sooner if it gets damaged)… is it really worth it?
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