Artificial Grass Plays a New Role in Landscape Design

This article offers the latest information for the landscape community on artificial grass, dispelling the myths and the mystery surrounding it, and its growing benefits in commercial and residential design.

Everyone seems to have a pre-conceived notion as to what it really looks like, and have probably had some limited exposure to synthetic grass in the past.  The good news is that during the past year, artificial grass has undergone a tremendous transformation; it has evolved into an entirely new generation of attractive lawn and turf products that look and feel like natural grass to address a wide variety of landscape needs in the commercial and residential sector.

 This fresh and innovative generation of turf products represents a paradigm shift that has been ocurring in many parts of the U.S. in the face of increasing water shortages and limited xeriscaping options.   What many may not know, is that most of the artificial grasses and turf products in the world, are “homegrown”, and manufactured here in Georgia.

Places, like California, have been conducting a water conservation test program. In Orange County, residents of Anaheim, in coordination with their water company, may voluntarily replace their tradititional lawns with artificial grass for purposes of water conservation.

Landscaping professionals use artificial grass for one or more of the following reasons:

1)  A landscaping tool to solve a particular problem and extremely useful to address areas of:

  1. Extreme shade (insufficient sunlight.)
  2. High foot traffic.
  3. Inaccessible areas such as slopes, or difficult to maintain areas (i.e. busy median strips and publicly maintained roadways and green spaces.)
  4. Areas subject to washout, or that do not dry out quickly.
  5. An aesthetic requirement in a design plan.
  6. Any other grass adverse condition, such as creating a xeriscape.

2)   Life Style Choice. With all of the new grasses available raises the question of choice.  Landscape design should no longer assume natural lawn and turf grass are the only option in residential and commercial design.   Homeowners now have the option of having an impeccably  groomed lawn look year round, while reducing water, fertilizer and pesticide usage and routine maintenance.  Synthetic grass substitutes can especially have a positive aesthetic impact in many types of commercial and public spaces such as road medians, edging around sidewalks and street corners while reducing maintenance costs.  From pre-school to high school , from play areas to playing fields, schools are choosing to incorporate these products, for their ability to quickly transform an indoor area into a temporary or portable practice field and to provide maintenance free, superior playing surfaces in any indoor/outdoor environment

 

3)  Life Cycle Costs.  In comparing the life cyle costs between artificial grass areas with the inherent costs of maintaining natural grass, the only shared cost factor would be for the task of   leaf and debris removal, although frequency of this task could vary    Depending upon the size of the installation, type of synthetic grass used and installation costs, there is normally a return on investment within an average of four (4) years if a residence, and two (2) years or less, if a business, and in some commercial projects, the savings are immediate.

Artificial grasses are, for the most part, installed basically in the same manner, with a few variations.  Typical site preparation involves removal of existing sod and applying a crushed stone, gravel base, base.  You can use any crushed stone base or sand/gravel combination usually to a minimum of two (2) inches, up to 3 to 4 inches and compact.  Existing sprinkler and irrigation systems are capped off. The turf backing is permeable, so water passes through into the soil while the carpet acts like a weed barrier.  Other forms of drainage can be installed underneath the lawn grass.    Artificial turf grass comes in fifteen (15’) foot wide rolls and typically 100+ feet to a roll . You simply cut it to fit any landscape design, making the appropriate cuts to accommodate your design, seaming the edges together with seaming tape and adhesive.  One of the benefits is that it can be cut and re-seamed as often as necessary. Similarly, you can change your configuration and/or re-install it; something that is not possible with natural grass.  The first generation of synthetic grass always required some type of a fill to separate the blades of grass to make it stand upright and to fill in and soften the turf to make it feel like real grass.  The latest generation of artificial grasses are those that you install without any fill; it is not necessary.

If installing a turf that requires an in-fill you would then, as a last step, spread the in-fill product using a lawn spreader.   You can also sweep it into the turf using a stiff broom. Typically, 2 to 2 ½ lbs. per foot is recommended.  Sand or rubber in-fill are the usual choices.  Rubber in-fill is comprised of fine rubber granules, available in 2,000 lb.sacks (which should cover approximately 2,000 feet of turf per sack) or is available by the truckload.  If your