Better Than The Real Thing?

Imagine a lawn that looks beautiful all year-round without watering, weeding and mowing.  If the kids take a tumble playing ball, there are no tough grass and dirt stains on clothing.  The burned, brown patches that Fido leaves in his wake would be a thing of the past.  Dandelions would never again take over your yard.  All of this is possible with an artificial lawn.  Unlike the bright green, plastic turf commonly used on putting greens, modern products are realistic, attractive, durable and often made with recycled materials.

From an environmental perspective, artificial lawns offer many benefits.  In addition to saving substantial amounts of water, homeowners avoid using fertilizers and herbicides both of which can be detrimental to wildlife and municipal water supplies.  Moss is a common problem for natural grass lawns.  This invasive plant crowds out grass in areas that are shaded or in soil that is too sandy or acidic.  Eradicating moss requires applications of chemicals and a regime to improve the health of the lawn through compost applications and aeration.

Artificial lawns are also notable for what they do not create: airborne irritants and pollutants.  Allergy sufferers will appreciate a reduction in pollen from grass, dandelions and other weeds since plants cannot grow through the tough backing and dense ‘grass’ mat.  Eliminating the need to mow the lawn also eliminates hydrocarbons (a principal component of smog), particulate (damaging to the respiratory system), carbon monoxide (a poisonous gas) and carbon dioxide (a factor in climate change).  The Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S. estimates that 5% of air pollution is created by lawnmowers.  Older, two-cycle engines release approximately 25% of their oil and gas unburned into the air.  Each one also produces emissions equal to 43 cars running for the same period of time!

In some regions, manufactured products are the only way to enjoy a lush, green lawn.  High water rates and/or watering restrictions can make it nearly impossible to maintain an attractive yard.  In other regions, long, wet seasons or poor soil are inhospitable to grass seed.

With all the benefits of artificial lawns, you might be wondering about the downside—that would be the initial price.  Depending on the brand and the type (e.g., rye, fescue), prices range from $3 to $6 per square foot.  Fortunately, as with most products, prices are expected to decrease as consumer demand increases.

How does this compare to the costs of a natural lawn over the same period?

Although natural lawns lack the sticker shock of the manufactured variety, you may be surprised to learn that going natural costs two to three times more in the long run (in addition to the environmental costs mentioned above).  A natural lawn requires seed or sod to begin then water, fertilizer, and time and equipment for irrigation, mowing, weeding and aerating.  If your family likes to play volleyball or other sports on the lawn, natural grass can get trampled and become a muddy mess.  Often homeowners will need to reseed or completely redo their lawn every 10 years due to moss and weed overgrowth.  Over the course of a decade, the costs add up to much more than $6 per square foot!

When shopping for an artificial lawn, check out options online as well as at home renovation stores.  Look for products with recycled content to reduce the environmental impact.  Some manufacturers use recycled pop bottles.  Residential artificial lawns look good for 10 to 15 years depending on the climate and after that, most products can be recycled.  Check with your municipal recycling depot.

Better manufacturers offer warranties of 10 years or more.  Approved infill (the layer beneath the product) is often a condition of the warranty.  Infill can range from sand to innovative recycled materials.  In the U.S., Nike has a “Renew-a-Shoe Program” that recycles used athletic shoes that are then ground up for infill.  It has proven to be very successful for professional sports fields.  

Installation of an artificial lawn is much like installing carpet.  The process requires careful measuring and some skill in cutting it to an exact fit.  If your yard has a pool, numerous trees, a curved walkway or other special features, it is wise to hire professionals.

Maintaining your artificial lawn can be as easy as a summer storm.  Wind and rain help to wash away dust and for more thorough cleanings, a leaf-blower works well.  In the autumn, rake to remove dead leaves just as you would with a natural lawn.  

An artificial lawn is a new concept for many homeowners but the idea of having a virtually effort-free lawn that is perfectly lush and green all year-round is enticing.  Warm months in Canada can be so short; why tend the lawn when you could enjoy it? 

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