Where the Grass Is Always Greener
So, you want a green lawn? Your greenest yard yet may well be the artificial kind. This isn't the Astroturf of the old days—today’s “fake” grass has come a long way. There are options available that replicate lush natural grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass, and fescue. Though artificial turf is a viable and increasingly popular landscaping choice, is it right for you? Here are a few grass facts to help you figure out whether it’s appropriate for your property.
Lush in an Instant
Gone are the days that you’ll have to seed and fertilize, water, water some more, cross your fingers, and hope that a lush, emerald-colored lawn will appear a couple of months later. Depending on the size of your property, professionals can install artificial turf in a matter of days (they install 300 to 500 square feet a day, on average). Laying artificial grass is absolutely a project DIYers can take on themselves, though it may take a little longer than it would take a pro.
Watering lawns costs a lot of cash—up to $200 per month per acre. Not only that, but dwindling water supplies and the resulting restrictions in many areas of the country mean there's not much water to waste on thirsty lawns. Here's where artificial turf offers a solution: For every square foot of natural grass replaced, 55 gallons of water can be saved every year. That means you'll still get the lush, green look you want while conserving valuable water resources.
One of the most common culprits of severe seasonal allergies? You guessed it: grass. For those who suffer from grass allergies, runny noses, itchy eyes, and coughing go hand in hand with lawn care. An artificial lawn eliminates these allergens, leaving you free to breathe easier without having to regularly pop allergy pills.
Small kids love running, jumping, and digging outdoors, which is all fun and games until the lawn starts looking ragged and patchy. For those with dogs, the damage can be even more severe, as pet waste is toxic to most grass varieties. Instead of struggling to grow a lawn under such tough conditions, consider synthetic grass over installing sod: Sod and artificial turf will both look nice, but for a perfect lawn without any worries, artificial grass will always look lush and provide a soft and cushy surface for tiny toes.
Maybe you’ve heard that a truly green household is a grass-free one. There’s certainly something to that notion. Artificial turf has a positive impact on the environment because it eliminates the need for toxic pesticides and reduces the potential harm that can result from overfertilizing lawns. Fake lawns also cut down on yard waste, because no mowing means no grass clippings to cart to the curb for trash pickup. In addition, artificial grass is made from many recycled materials, such as old rubber tires, which would have otherwise been destined for the landfill.
No Sun, No Problem
A peaceful tree-lined street is a beautiful thing—but trying to grow grass in all that shade? Not so much. Even so-called “shade-tolerant” grass varieties are difficult to grow under trees or near shaded foundations. That's never a problem with artificial turf. Not only can you install this “lawn” in shady corners of your yard, but it also works in nontraditional areas, such as rocky slopes or sandy soil.
No More Mowing
Traditional lawns require an army of tools for maintenance, including mowers, edgers, sprinklers, spreaders, and so much more. Once you install an artificial lawn, however, you can say goodbye to all that gear and free up much-needed space in your garage or shed.
No More Maintenance
Synthetic turf is designed to last more than 15 years under heavy use, including daily rough-and-tumble sports. It is virtually maintenance-free, requiring only a periodic rinse with a hose. Backbreaking mowing, weeding, seeding, feeding, watering, and other lawn care tasks become a thing of the past, allowing you to spend time enjoying your yard rather than maintaining it.
Reduce Air Pollution
The Environmental Protection Agency reports that “small engines,” including gas-powered lawn mowers, “are big polluters” that produce “high levels” of carbon monoxide and other pollutants that contribute to ozone formation. All that lawn gear that we just mentioned—edgers, mowers, and all the rest? Getting rid of it—which you can do without a lawn to mow—is just as beneficial for Mother Earth as it is for your pocketbook.
Without soil, you’re going to see far fewer insects in your lawn—and far fewer pests, like snakes, gophers and moles, that eat those insects. Grubs feast on grass roots, for instance, and moles feast on grubs. An artificial lawn has no grass, and therefore no grass roots. With fake grass, pests won’t have much to eat around your place and will thus go elsewhere.
Potential Money Savings (Over the Long Term)
We’re not going to lie—there’s a significant initial investment when installing an artificial lawn. Installed, you can estimate about $12 per square foot (HomeAdvisor estimates the whole installation cost at $2,764 to $6,709). That’s no small potatoes, but neither is a weekly lawn-mowing service, seasonal fertilizing and seeding, regular edging, mulching, and other maintenance. It’s worthwhile to do a break-even analysis to determine whether artificial turf will save you money in the long run.
Whether you're a lawn care novice or a master gardener, everyone can use a little help around the yard. Subscribe to The Dirt newsletter for tips, recommendations, and problem-solving tools that can help you tame your great outdoors.