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Synthetic Grass Has Come a Long Way, Baby

Remember when “artificial grass” meant “AstroTurf?” When you’d only find the stubbly, obnoxious stuff on football fields, putt-putt golf courses and tacky backyard patios?

Synthetic grass has indeed come a long way, baby.

Now, lush looking artificial lawns of rye, fescue and Bermuda are sprouting in yards across the country. The artificial lawn industry is being propelled in part by the very natural look and feel of the top-quality products. The growth is also being fueled by increased concern for water conservation.

Products from companies such as NewGrass Inc., of Scottsdale, Ariz., are made to not only look like the real thing, but to feel like the real stuff, too. For example, one upscale community in Arizona, after years of saying "no" to artificial lawns, decided NewGrass was so close to the real thing, that it allowed its installation in landscaping.

Scottsdale Ranch, a community of 4,000 homes, amended its covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) to allow residents to install NewGrass. For years, Scottsdale Ranch, like many other communities, has argued that artificial grasses look too fake and would hurt property values.

Today’s synthetic lawns have new-age backings that are stronger than ever and allow the blades to stay lifted and true-looking. They have broadloom-tufted blades made from nylon or a combination of polyethylene and nylon. After installation, they are virtually maintenance-free.

Unlike the older generation of artificial lawns, the new ones, like NewGrass, are people-friendly. Synthetic grasses are now a lifestyle choice for the whole family. Dogs and kids enjoy them just like they like playing on the real thing. Today, you’ll find synthetic lawns on elementary school playgrounds, daycare center play areas and pet resort runs.

Water conservation organizations, environmental groups and public agencies are meanwhile increasingly suggesting the use of synthetic grasses in the fight for water conversation.

The trend has been gaining momentum over the past few years. But installing artificial grass in place of natural turf still seems to come farther down the list of water conservation measures, say, installing household fixtures and appliances that consume less water.

Nonetheless, products like NewGrass™ are gaining ground as many areas of the country learn to live under continued draught conditions.

Artificial Turf

The Cochise, Ariz., water conservation office on its Web site has this to say about artificial lawns:

“While natural turf certainly has its place, artificial turf is often a viable alternative, particularly where turf applications are decorative or cover large expanses. Artificial turf eases the labor burden, the expense and time involved in weed and pest control and grooming, as well as the costs of equipment associated with traditional turf.

“Most importantly, (artificial grass) not only eliminates the need for irrigation with ground water, but acts as permeable mulch, as it allows rain water to pass trough and infiltrate into the ground.”

Reno, Nev., in 2003 started paying homeowners willing to remove grass from yards $1 per square foot. The program paid out $13 million in its first seven months.

Tempe, now in its ninth year of drought, also pays homeowners to remove grass and plant cactus. Along with paying homeowners $100 each to remove grass, Tempe offers grants up to $20,000 to businesses that reduce water consumption by at least 15 percent. One of the key advantages of products like NewGrass™ is that they require no watering at all.

The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension office suggests down-sizing, eliminating or replacing natural turf with a synthetic lawn, such as NewGrass™.

“Turf can be the most water-intensive planting in a landscape,” the Extension reports on its Web site. “If you don’t need the turf, replace it with lower water use landscape options. If you need turf, consider a synthetic lawn or a native grass turf.”

Read how artificial turf is especially helpful for dog owners