Yardsmart: Artificial turf grows up

Yardsmart: Artificial turf grows up








When watching a fantasy film, you suspend disbelief and become part of an impossible happening. High-tech special effects can fool the brain into accepting a whole different reality. When my practiced eye was fooled by the new artificial turf, I knew it had finally come of age.

I am not an easy sell.

When the first “plastic grass” came on the market decades ago, there was no way to suspend disbelief. It was obviously fake. The earlier products denied oxygen and moisture exchange to the soil underneath. It literally smothered to death, losing vital microbe populations. We also found that trees could not survive within the fake grass because the roots died. Water would pool on the surface if the ground underneath wasn’t perfectly graded. And then there was the wear and tear of kids and bikes and pets.

Today’s artificial turf is a whole different animal. It’s made of space-age materials resistant to traffic and extreme UV exposure. The foundation fabric is permeable so water can move straight through and oxygen exchange is free. Colors are more accurate, too, with variations that match every region’s specific grass types, so it blends in with the living lawns nearby.

In the West where the land is dry and the climate rainless for much of the year, thirsty grass lawns are rapidly being exchanged for these new products. In this hot, arid region and elsewhere, too, this material expands your landscaping opportunities.

In the past, hot pavement has made it impossible to add turf-grass bands into paving to break it up with a cooler color.

The problem has always been heating of the concrete during the day, which dries out the adjacent soil and burns grass leaves. At night the absorbed heat is radiated back into the soil so these strips of turf never find relief during summer and fall.

The other problem is irrigation. To make grass or any other matlike plant grow in slots, you must ensure that enough water gets to the super-heated roots every day. With so little soil surface for water to flow through, it’s not easy. Getting deeper penetration is quite problematic.

Enter the new artificial turf, and a swanky design trend has emerged.

New homes and remodels are featuring patios, walkways and driveways with inset bands of turf in paving. Designers are creating gorgeous patterns of strips and grids and latticework. Now you can do this, too, for more-lush appearances in areas that are paved. This also helps rain penetrate a patio to reach subsoils without runoff.

In areas where Environmental Protection Agency LEEDS regulations require that all drainage remain on site rather than flowing into the storm drain, artificial turf is a perfect solution. When these spaces are filled with fine gravel, it’s a maintenance problem keeping all the pebbles in place. If you use artificial turf, there is no maintenance and it looks greener overall.

When turf is used to replace a larger lawn, you save water as well as the cost of watering, mowing, fertilizing and, in some areas, over-seeding the dormant turf. Some water-challenged communities are demanding that artificial turf be used in lieu of living grass on all new construction. Some cities are offering tax credits and rebates for residential artificial-turf projects.

Going green was never easier and more beautiful. Let your imagination run wild, for no matter how hot it gets or how long the drought, your turf will remain perennially green all by itself. If you’ve longed for those trendy grass strips in your paving but it’s too hot to keep them alive in summer, help is on the way.


  1. Deborah Crotty says:

    Can you please give more information in you articles. There is no mention of what name the turf uses or where to purchase it.

  2. Pat Murdy says:

    Hi Mo,
    Recently learned about you & your work through a piece in our local paper, Santa Barbara News Press. I live in a mobile home park in Carpinteria and interested in replacing my small side lawn (well actually it’s clumps of burned straw & dirt with some green patches.) Size is about 300 sf. Am in a quandary over whether to install artificial turf or rolled sod. Also would like to know who in my area of the Central Coast (SB, SLO, Ventura) does these types of installations. And I know cost is a factor but would like to know about pros & cons of each one. Thank you for your assistance.

    Kind Regards,
    Pat Murdy

    P.S. Current “lawn” has been ruined by neighborhood pets doing their business by both cats and dogs. Area is open to street and not fenced.

    • I’d try artificial if I was you. The pet factor is a major one and you won’t get “female dog spot disease”. Plus in SB area we should always think water conservation so that alone would be a deciding factor.

  3. Margaret Retting says:

    Would this new “grass” be good for a dog run in back of our house? Now we have to wipe down grass and soil from our dog. Would we be able to hose down the urine and pick up B.M.s as we do now?
    Surely would be a great look. Is it very expensive?
    Roy & Margaret Retting

  4. The design is very beautiful. I am also planning to buy similar artificial turf for my garden.

  5. I’ve heard good things about Field Turf which is used extensively for professional sports nationwide and it would be a good place to start. FieldTurf.com or use the link below for their residential site:

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