Lush, live, green grass is a key aesthetic aspect in many gardens. The greenness it contributes to the space provides tranquility and peace to the garden visitors, bestowing upon them a break from the concrete they are often surrounded with in Chicago’s city environment. While it may seem like a strange concept, more and more gardens are removing natural grass and replacing it with synthetic grass lawns — also known as artificial turf — because of a handful of important benefits.
Perhaps the most recognizable benefit of having artificial turf over real grass is the amount of water saved. On a hot summer day a 1000 square foot patch of grass consumes on average 125 gallons of water; when this is tallied up landscape irrigation accounts for a third of all residential water use, totaling more than 7 billions gallons of water a day. Some experts estimate that almost 50% of the water applied to grass and landscape plants goes to waste due to runoff or evaporation because of habitual over-watering. With a tremendous drive towards environmental sustainability, and a reduction in the consumption of water resources, switching to artificial turf allows city gardens to do their part in the move towards reducing water usage.
Along with a reduction in the amount of water used by the garden, there is also a corresponding decrease in all other chemicals that would normally be applied to the grass. This includes fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. Non-living, artificial turf doesn’t require these inputs since it isn’t affected by weeds, pests, and nutrient deficiencies like real grass. Reducing the application of lawn chemicals in turn reduces the opportunity for runoff into water sources, or potentially hazardous exposure to people and pets. Just as in the reduced water consumption, the reduction in chemical applications by switching to artificial turf further aids in its environmental sustainability.
Regular, living grass will go into a dormant stage and turn brown in the winter to protect itself from decreasing temperatures and adverse conditions. In very hot or arid climates, it may struggle with drought stress in the heat of the summer and begin to die off then as well. Artificial turf on the other hand, remains the same vibrant green color all year long, regardless of the season or climatic conditions. Having year round, green grass is a huge plus for a city garden!
An aspect that is appreciated by many caretakers is that artificial grass has very little maintenance needs. As mentioned before it doesn’t require fertilizer applications, or pest control measures. Perhaps the best part is that it never needs to be mowed to keep it looking neat! When debris such as autumn leaves fall onto the turf they can easily be swept off to maintain its appearance.
These factors listed above — no need for irrigation or chemical applications — coupled with less required maintenance to keep the synthetic grass green and looking nice means that overall it’s incredibly more cost efficient than maintaining traditional grass. There will be a higher installation cost than seeding grass or laying down sod, but the return on investment will be seen soon enough. In a situation such a city garden, reduced expenses means the city can use those municipal funds elsewhere.
While most people wouldn’t think of having artificial grass in their backyards, or a public space such as a city garden, there are some really good benefits to it, making it preferable over grass in certain applications. Artificial turf doesn’t need to be watered, significantly reducing water consumption; it doesn’t need to have potentially hazardous chemicals applied to feed the grass and/or treat pests; it stays green no matter the season or climatic conditions; and artificial turf has little to no maintenance requirements. All of these benefits combine to make artificial turf much easier and more cost effective than maintaining traditional, living grass.