Artificial seems to be no worse than the real deal.

There is no right answer. For lawns that is. Horticulturists who actually enjoy horticulture . . . and are not specialists of turf . . . loath them. (Yes, there are horticulturists who are specialists of turf.) We merely tolerate them because they are so useful for so many applications, and they do happen to be very visually appealing within or in the foreground of interesting landscapes.

After all, lawns are the vegetative green carpeting that covers otherwise bare ground without interfering with the flow of pedestrian traffic. For parks and other public paces, it is better than other types of ground cover, mulch, pavement or lowly mown naturalized weeds that would grow if nothing else were there to occupy the space. For athletic fields, there are no alternatives.

They are just so unnatural. Most plants in our garden are selected for their natural attributes, and because they appreciate our respective climates and soils. Lawns must be mown regularly because they would otherwise get too deep and sloppy. They must be irrigated very regularly and generously because they can not survive on seasonal rainfall or even moderate irrigation.

In fact, lawns are so unnatural that, to many horticulturists, they are no worse than artificial turf. All the plasticky infrastructure of elaborate irrigation systems, all the chemical pesticides and fertilizers, all the fuel consumed by mowers, all the water, and all the labor that goes into the maintenance of lawns is no closer to nature than artificial turf is. Strange but strangely true.

Artificial turf is no fun either. The plasticky texture is so blatant and unavoidable. Although it needs only minimal maintenance and last for many years, it does not last forever, and slowly deteriorates like carpet. Once replaced with more of the same sort of plasticky artificial turf, it must be disposed of like so much other used up plastic that the World should be using less of.


16 thoughts on “Horridculture – Artificial Turf

  1. Totally agree Tony. I had to include an area of this tacky surface into an interior space awhile back, But I would much rather have just minimised foot traffic to a hard path and used a very low growing plant or plants for the rest of the area -but client was wanted low’maintenance’ which is another landscape category I try to avoid. Becasue they are so artificial I they make me feel as if I’m inside even though I’m outside.

    And to lay them well is no mean feat as if too sandy and dry they get all hilly and hollowy – I imagine people have to water them to keep the flat!

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    1. My colleague in the Los Angeles region installed it in his garden to demonstrate its practicality to clients who are considering installing it. It actually dissuades some. I suppose that is as important as persuading others to use it. Otherwise, the landscape is so spectacular that few others look down to notice the fake lawn. I dislike it, but I think it looks better than real turf, which would not do well in the shade of such a thick landscape.

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  2. I can’t like this enough! I get why people use it, but at the same time it just is so… unnatural, just like you pointed out. We completely replaced our front lawn with an assortment of moderate to low water use flowering plants and our back “lawn” is just whatever weeds happened to take up residence in what used to be grass. The front yard is not any less maintenance, but it looks much nicer, absorbs more CO2, and feeds the bees and birds. We mow the back lawn when we get to it with an electric mower. It too feeds bees when the “weeds” flower and birds get a nice meal from the insects flying around. This is just how we roll!!

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    1. I dislike both. Artificial turf is so fake to me, that I would be just as pleased with some sort of weatherproof carpeting or rug. It seems like artificial turf with patterns and colors like those of ornate rugs would be marketable. There would be no need to try to conceal the fakeness.

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  3. I agree with you. I have a tiny bit of fake and it is always full of sand. Our well expired and I can’t swallow digging another or dealing with irrigation and city water. I am trying a bit of Turkey Tangle Frogfruit lawn – I see they sell the plants in California, have you heard of this?

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      1. Well, it is rated for this climate. The flowers look familiar, but I have not seen the plant yet. Because of the many distinct climate zones in California, it could be popular in Southern California, such as San Diego, but unknown here.

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      2. It is hard to get a straight answer on this. Which leads me to believe it is more difficult to grow than it appears. However, I am going to give it a try. There is one turkey tangle lawn on the native plants continuum a bit north of me and nobody wanted to talk about how much water it takes.

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