Part of living in Arizona is designing your landscape to withstand the climate, especially the harsh Arizona summers and frequent drought conditions. Many people plan for this by utilizing xeriscape landscape that includes yards made of rock and low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plants like grasss that require little in terms of irrigation.
This xeriscape design works for many people. However, many families with young children like to have a section of the yard where their kids can play, and others simply enjoy having some green turf to look at. For those who want some sort of turf, the question becomes whether to install a natural grass surface or utilize artificial turf.
In years past, artificial turf looked more like green carpet rather than replicating natural grass. However, there have been many advancements in artificial turf with many types and styles available today that do a great job of replicating the look of natural grass. These advancements have resulted in artificial turf becoming a much more attractive alternative to natural grass.
While looks are important, there are many other factors to consider when choosing between natural grass and artificial turf for your yard. We will outline some of the advantages and disadvantages of each product.
Natural Grass vs. Artificial Turf in Arizona
For many people, there is something wonderful about the smell of fresh cut grass. A lush, green, and well-manicured grass lawn is certainly at the top of the curb appeal ladder. The biggest advantage of grass is that it is natural. Other advantages of natural grass have over artificial turf is that grass generally softer; much cooler (especially during the summer months); and cheaper to install.
The biggest disadvantage of natural grass over artificial turf in most cases is that natural grass requires much more maintenance to keep it looking good, including high water usage. High water usage not only makes for high water bills but also puts stress on Arizona’s water supplies. Mowing and edging are the constant maintenance requirements along with overseeding, which all require the proper equipment.
Overseeding must be done every September/October. As the weather begins to cool, it is essential to strip the lawn and install new winter rye grass. When the heat comes early summer, the grass will self-convert to a Bermuda grass to withstand the summer temps.
Additionally, there is the application of fertilizers and weed and pest controls. In recent years, there has been an increase in concerns over the use of these fertilizers and chemicals for weed and pest control both in terms of environmental impact (runoff) and effects on health.
For those who want a low-water alternative to natural grass, but still want the grass look instead of plants or rock, artificial turf can be a viable option. The biggest advantages of artificial are that it is low maintenance and requires little to no water. In Arizona, the water savings can be substantial both on your monthly water bill and assists in maintaining Arizona’s water supply.
For maintenance, all that is generally requires is an occasional hose off to remove dust and pet waste and raking to remove debris and get rid of any matting caused by heavy foot traffic. No other watering or irrigation is required and no need for chemicals such as fertilizers. Artificial turf is durable when it comes to withstanding high foot traffic and can often last 10 or more years.
Other advantages of artificial turf are that it stays green year-round; works well in areas where the grass is difficult to grow; is pet-friendly, and can be better for people who suffer from allergies
While artificial turf offers many advantages, there are several potential disadvantages to consider with artificial turf. Initial installation costs are much higher than grass, although many local governments offer some tax rebates to assist in those costs. While there have been many advancements over the years to make artificial turf look more like real grass, it is still not natural in terms of look and especially feels.
Another big consideration, especially with Arizona’s hot summers, is that artificial turf can get extremely hot in direct sunlight. Whereas grass tends to stay cooler, artificial turf can react similarly to concrete and asphalt in terms of absorbing heat.
In Arizona, there can be the concern that artificial turf can add to the “heat island” effect that roads, buildings, etc. have on our climate. Some artificial turf manufacturers have combated this problem by introducing new infills that can greatly reduce the surface temperature. Traditional infill used in the installation of artificial turf has been crumb rubber made out of old tires.
While this assists in reducing the number of used tires going to landfills, there are questions as to the impact on both the environment and people’s health. However, many manufacturers have developed additional types if infills that are more environmentally and health friendly.
When choosing between natural grass and artificial turf, there are many factors to consider in addition to just how it looks. If you are considering installing artificial turf, it is important to do as much research as possible on the quality of the manufacturer and the different types of products and styles of turf available.