The case in favor of real turf grass

The Lawn Institute has an extensive list of benefits and value of maintaining natural lawns or real turf grass in our society. They point out a number of benefits including environmental, economical and even psychological issues to make the case in favor of real turf grass. They do not however, make a side by side comparison to the artificial grass alternative. So as you read through all of these benefits, think if artificial grass would provide the same benefits.

I  particularly liked the quote , “Surveys conducted by … bare out the fact that green space and especially green lawns may be as American as apple pie, hot dogs and baseball”. The issue is green open space.

The following survey results speak for themselves:

Psychological Health

  • 93% of homeowners rank green space important
  • 86% find that a nice lawn is a positive reflection on the homeowner
  • 63% of homeowners feel a landscape is an outlet for self-expression and creativity

Regional Economics

More than 90% of homeowners surveyed feel that having a well maintained lawn improves property values.

  • Roughly 74% of homeowners feel lawns and landscapes of neighbors are important when buying a house
  • 73% said the lawn is an important consideration when buying a house

The artificial grass alternative

I often bring up artificial grass as an alternative to real turf grass in most cases where the grass area considered is not too large. Since artificial grass costs much more than natural sod, homeowners often ask, “how much more is it?”. I have found that it is generally 2.5 to 3 times more in terms of initial costs. The maintenance costs including the cost of water should also be factored in over time.

Costs however may not be the only deciding factor and that is where the quote about grass being “as American as apple pie, hot dogs and baseball” is intriguing. I cannot cite an actual survey, but I do believe that all costs and environmental comparisons put aside, people would prefer the real thing over the fake alternative. People naturally will gravitate towards something natural when presented with a “fake” substitute.

Artificial is perceived as having less value and desirability. It’s also perceived as being inferior, cheap, less prestigious and not as sophisticated as the real thing. This is often true with plastic alternatives to natural materials such as stone or plants.  Fake indoor plants are lifeless substitutes for real indoor plants. So of course we would prefer real grass over something fake until we educate ourselves beyond this simple fake vs. real comparison.

Studies have shown that patients in hospitals and nursing homes that have view onto a natural landscape, perhaps one with a nice green lawn improve their conditions compared to patients who are not exposed to those same views. I wonder if those same benefits would be experienced if artificial grass were present. Given today’s technology of being able to make fake grass look as real as natural grass, I would guess that it would have the same psychological effects.

Americans love affair with the natural lawn

63% of homeowners feel a landscape is an outlet for self-expression and creativity (1)

Another psychological factor is the degree of enjoy-ability. Some people take great pride in maintaining their lawns even though they spend hours maintaining it. They see their lawns as an extension of their own identity, and if exposed to the public as in the case of the front lawn, may even be more sensitive of how they (and their lawn) are perceived by their neighbors. Artificial turf takes away any ego identification with how well it is being maintained. They may even be concerned about being labeled as “the guy with the fake grass”.

But as the technology to recreate the real lifelike appearance of natural grass improves with the synthetic alternatives, more and more people will be fooled into believing it is indeed real. And when that happens without the homeowner disclosing that its fake at the outset, they can only feel proud of their choice because almost everyone is usually quite astonished when they are told that it is indeed artificial grass.

Here is the laundry list of benefits of real grass as cited by The Lawn Institute.  and where you can find the citations made regarding the survey results.

Artificial Grass and Synthetic Lawns are replacing natural grass more and more.

Many landscapes have a lawn but whether they should be artificial grass and synthetic lawns is somewhat of a battle between the synthetic lawn industry and the natural grass industry. Both types of grass provide a beautiful green carpet where we can play, have fun, walk barefoot and just admire a clean expanse of open space even its just a little patch of grass.

Some people moving into a new home insist on having a lawn. They may be from the part of the country where virtually everyone on the block has a large front and backyard lawn. Large lawns remind us of English country estates and landscape gardens.

The benefits are overwhelmingly in favor of artificial grass over natural grass primarily for three main reasons: no mowing, no watering and looks great all year around.

Benefits of using artificial grass and synthetic lawns compared to natural grass:

  • Looks Great Year Round – Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter
  • Never Mow Your Yard Again – Save Time and Energy
  • No watering – Water Your Flowers Instead
  • No Brown Patches or Dead Spots – Show off the best lawn on the block.
  • No Fertilizing, No Chemicals, No Overseeding
  • Nearly Zero Maintenance and all the Benefits of Real Grass
  • No Standing Water to Attract Insects
  • Safe For Pets and Kids – No Itching or Sneezing
  • Withstands the Arizona Summer Heat, High temperatures and Monsoons

Even the most challenging terrain can look like a lush oasis with artificial grass.

With today’s technology, synthetic lawns look and feel just like real grass. The fibers are designed to mimic real grass types including Bermuda, Fescue, Bluegrass and Rye. There are even some styles that have brownish thatch weaved into the fibers.

But would artificial grass be cost prohibitive compared to real natural grass? This is the most common question homeowners ask. After recalling all the time you spend mowing the lawn, fixing sprinklers and trying to deal with brown spots or problem areas, it is compelling to think of not having to worry about the maintenance with a new lawn.

So the question becomes, given the additional upfront cost, is it worth it over the long term? I say yes, if:

  • You insist on doing the maintenance yourself
  • But you are not an expert in how to keep it looking like a golf course
  • You would like to save water
  • You would rather spend your weekends with your family and not behind a lawnmower
  • You will be in the house for the next 5 years

Do you think your dogs won’t like fake grass over real grass? Think again. I personally have artificial grass and my dogs love it just like real grass.

If you have decided not to replace your lawn with artificial grass simply because you have pets, you may want to reconsider that decision. New materials have made artificial lawns possible in almost any situation, including households with pets. Even pet owners can enjoy the look of real grass, with the easy maintenance that comes with artificial grass. Phoenix is an ideal region for a synthetic lawn: it reduces water usage, eliminates maintenance, and stays green year-round.

Artificial grass has many benefits for pet owners. Your lawn has insects, soil bacteria, mold, fungus, and other particles that your pet tracks into your home. Muddy paws and dirty coats are also unavoidable when you have a natural lawn. These problems can be eliminated with synthetic lawns. If you are concerned about pet waste, you don’t have to think about it anymore. Liquid waste soaks through just like rainwater, and solid waste is removed just like on real grass. Artificial grass can be easily cleaned with a garden hose as well.

With artificial grass you will not have yellow spots from pet urine, and animals also cannot dig holes in the lawn. It provides a safe, clean outdoor area for your pets and a convenient, beautiful lawn for you.

Artificial grass is the perfect substitute for a real lawn when the area doesn’t have to be large enough to play catch, badminton or other activities that children would like to do on a lawn. It is also perfect for areas where narrow slivers of grass and odd shapes can be designed into a patio area such as a pattern using stepping stones. Real grass in these cases would be very timing consuming to mow and trim.

Artificial grass is good for hard to mow areas where over spray and edging would be a problem.

So if you’re not already convinced artificial grass is a good substitute for the real thing, check out this blog post I made on the environmental benefits of synthetic lawns compared to natural grass lawns.

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