This ‘grass’ is always greener

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Modern artificial turf

Modern artificial turf

Drought tolerant plants and desert landscaping have been popular environmentally friendly options for years.  Now, there is a growing alternative to go “green” on your landscape, literally. Artificial turf is becoming the “go to” choice on commercial and residential products.

Artificial turf has been used on athletic fields back into the 1960s. A few years ago, it took off in residential markets for golf putting greens, low maintenance practice areas in your own back yard.  Due to the evergreen appearance and easy care these areas began to grow until entire backyards were done with artificial turf.  As the price came down, smaller schools began using it for athletic fields.  Commercial buildings are using it on roofs or courtyard areas where traditional sods would have no chance to grow.

This is not cheap or fake looking material.  Most of the time people have to be informed that it is not “real” grass, says Don LeMasters of Golf Turf. The “yarn,” or blades of artificial grass, are made of polyethylene.  The turf installs just like carpet. They glue the seams together and carefully cut the perimeter flush to whatever borders it.  Then, large, very long landscape staples are pushed down around the outside edge to keep them from pulling up.  Bags of “Tire Crumbs” are brought in. These are made by recycling old tires.  They are cryogenically frozen and then shattered to create tiny, soft black plastic particles. This creates the “dirt” between the grass blades. Power Brushes with rotating bristles force the tire crumbs between the blades while lifting and separating. This gives the turf the “real” look.

There are a couple of downsides to having a dream yard. The initial cost is a big factor. Don LeMaster’s turf ends up running about $9 to $10 a square foot. This includes the removal of old sod and prep.  Traditional Bermuda Sod usually runs about $6 a square yard. Artificial turf absorbs more heat from the sun.  So it is noticeably warmer walking barefoot on a hot summer day. Even in the shade, artificial turf has a higher surface temperature than natural grass. It is also not self-repairing like regular grass. If it is damaged, it must be “patched” unlike regular sod that heals itself.

But the positive green aspects must be weighed too. The turf will not need a sprinkler system. This is a giant factor where water is a precious commodity. With no weekly maintenance, there are no fossil fuels used by the landscape contractor. You are also not dumping fertilizer on the yard that can put harmful chemicals into the water supply. There is an eight-year warranty against fading and manufacture defect on turf.  You won’t get that with regular sod.

Kids and dogs love it. Imagine being able to stretch on a soft, green lawn staring up at the passing clouds and not getting an itchy back. In children’s playground areas the tire crumbs provide a cushion for the occasional tumble. Because it is synthetic, no insects will live in the turf. No surprising mounds of ants to stumble upon! Doggy messes clean right off the polyethylene blades of grass. And no yellow spots left by urine (either kid or dog). Some doggy day cares have started installing the turf in their indoor facilities.  With proper drainage and the granite sub base, it provides a great puppy play area for any climate.

Don LeMaster said he never thought he would install yards when he began his putting green business.  Sixty-percent of his business is now yards for commercial and residential properties. So next time you see a perfectly manicured, luxuriously green grass yard, give it a close look to see if it was man made.

Jason Walter Vaile, CGB, GMB, is a Project Manager in Dallas, Texas, for high-end residential and light commercial. He is also an award winning screenwriter.

Posted by on Monday, October 25th, 2010. Filed under Technology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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