Surfing should be done in the ocean.

No, that is not backward. It refers to a legendarily disastrous incident with artificial turf at the Morgan Hill Outdoor Sports Center. Prior to about 2010, while I was the only horticulturist on a big staff of a big so-called ‘landscape’ company that expressed almost no interest in horticulture, I was summoned to the site to investigate an ‘issue’. I was told nothing about artificial turf.

Upon arrival, it became immediately obvious that this was no horticultural issue. Wind was generating waves in the recently installed artificial turf that were taller than the unfortunate guy who was scurrying about in an futile attempt to nail the turf surf to the ground. I was dismayed. I know nothing about artificial turf. Why was a so-called ‘landscape’ company even involved?

I suppose I should not have been too surprised. It was not as if many of the rest of our collective staff knew any more about horticulture than artificial turf. They seemed to take me way too seriously when I joked about the special farm that grows the artificial seed for the yellow and white stripes and yard line numbers. Otherwise, I would have told them about blue Smurf Turf.

As much as I dislike it, I know that artificial turf is quite practical for particular applications. However, it is most certainly not a horticultural commodity. It is a synthetic turf substitute that works like carpeting for landscapes and athletic fields. So-called ‘landscape’ companies that maintain it should be qualified to do so, with at least some sort of relevant and practical expertise.

That being said, why is it all green? We all know it is fake, so why not have some fun with the color, like the colorful fake snow on flocked Christmas trees in the 1970s? Some of us might like penalty line yellow. Yard line number white would be my favorite color, but would look like snow, and be difficult to keep clean. I think iron oxide red might be nice, or perhaps simple brown.

Heck, why not mix it up a bit? Sky blue with white clouds might be fun. Black and white checkerboard? Purple swirled with orange? Why not make it resemble a made-in-China Persian rug, with patterns of all sorts of colors?! What about a Gothic cathedral labyrinth? Oh, a road map of Route 66! A map of Kansas might work nicely for a small space. The possibilities are endless!

12 thoughts on “Horridculture – Turf & Surf

  1. Your post made me smile. How did you fix the problem – with boulders, perhaps? I have seen artificial turf looking good and with ‘dead’ material woven in, but I’ve never seen anything as colourful as you describe, or at least not yet! I have seen it with (real) dandelions in it, which seemed funny.

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    1. I did not fix it. I left. Of course, before I left, I ran around like a maniac on top of it while the other guy pounded stakes and spikes into it, which actually kept it down. Much of the worst of it was rolled up and left for dead. Much of is stayed put. It had just been installed, and was not yet completed. Unfortunately, it needed to be replaced. I was not involved with any more of it.

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  2. I’m all in favor of your version of turf. A country garden version might be especially nice for people who’ve retired toArizona and miss all their grass and flowers, and who can’t quite get with the xeric landscaping movement.

    It never had occurred to me that problems like the one you describe could arise. I suppose I thought the turf was too heavy to be blown around like that. Like Susurrus, I’m curious about how the problem was solved.

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  3. I guess for sports fields they would need the lines on a quiet background, but I totally see what you’re saying. Lots of residents are starting to use synthetic turf. I would love to see some more creativity there!

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    1. Yes, athletic fields would need to be solid colors. Green is probably the best because it is what the athletes expect to see below their games. (An odd color might be subconsciously distracting.)
      When I was in school, and fascinated with the Mojave Desert, those who had lived there told me that some ‘lawns’ were covered with gravel that was then coated with some sort of rubbery material that was comparable to spray on roofing. It was sometimes painted green, which then faded in the desert weather to bluish gray. Some were sky blue or pink. That is sort of what makes me thin that artificial turf could be more interesting colors besides green.

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    1. I helped the other guy stabilize the situation first. He was actually able to hold it down with stakes and spikes. We rolled some of it up. Sadly, I believe that none was salvaged. I do not know because I did not get involved with it afterward.

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