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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: synthetic turf, Lawn alternatives

I have a client who is interested in replacing a lawn with artificial turf, but I'd like to know of examples out there, and any other thoughts you might have on the subject.


I am guessing your client is interested in a low-maintenance ground cover that gives the appearance of lush lawn without the attending needs to water, weed, fertilize, and so on. On the surface, this makes artificial turf sound like a good alternative. If your client wants a place to sit and relax in the garden, a chair will be required, as plastic is not a welcoming seat. There are other considerations as well.

There are examples of artificial turf throughout City of Seattle Parks and Recreation, and Seattle Public Schools. There are a number of fields which use artificial turf, also referred to as synthetic turf. You could contact people at these departments for their thoughts on the subject. Here is the contact person for Woodland Park field: Ted Holden at 206-684-7021 and ted.holden@seattle.gov
Seattle Public School has a grounds maintenance number, (206)252-0645.

I have some personal observations about the artificial turf installed at Magnuson Park and at Eckstein Middle School. The field at Magnuson is in the middle of a wetland. This turf area sheds tiny crumbs of plastic or rubber which are tracked indoors on shoes (and paws!). In the rainy season, the particles wash over the pathways and into the drainage areas of the remaining wetland. This and the aforementioned school field which was replaced by artificial turf used to have some value as a habitat for birds and other creatures but both are now ecological dead zones. When we have hot weather, these expanses of synthetic turf emit an odor like singed rubber.

Below are various links about the downside of artificial turf:

A related subject is the use of recycled rubber tires (also used in synthetic turf infill) as mulch in gardens. Washington State University Extension horticulturist Linda Chalker-Scott has written about the myth of this recycled product's supposed ecological benefits.

Perhaps your client might consider more environmentally friendly, low maintenance ground covers. You can search the Miller Library's database for ideas about ground cover plants and lawn alternatives.

Date 2017-08-15
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May 31 2018 13:14:08