Artificial Turf Battles have Only Just Begun


by Susan

The editors of E! The Environmental Magazine , in answering a question about the environmental pro’s and cons of artificial turf, cited some interesting news on that front: that Las Vegas now give a $1 rebate for every square foot of real grass replaced with the fake stuff, and Southern California took action last month to initiate a similar program there.  Now can I pick some nits?

E’s answer refers to artificial turf as petroleum-based, but the newer ones aren’t.

And then there’s this:

grass lawns over to less resource intensive landscaping—known as
“xeriscaping”—is also catching on. Drought-tolerant native shrubs,
plants and ornamental grasses don’t require large amounts of water,
fertilizer or pesticides to survive. Many groundcover plants naturally
hold back weeds and contribute to the health of the soil. Even rock
gardens are attractive and essentially maintenance-free. Given all the
natural alternatives, homeowners need not convert their back yards over
to fake turf.

Okay, since I’ve been ranting about sweeping generalizations for a while now you won’t be surprised at my complaints about this story:

  • WHO SAYS rock gardens are "essentially maintenance-free"?  Not the rock gardeners I know.
  • And again with the "drought-tolerant native shrubs" that "don’t require large amounts of water," etc.  Here’s some recent news on the subject, and I have 2 newly drought-killed dogwoods to illustrate the point.
  • What are these groundcovers that "contribute to the health of the soil"?  Gardeners want to know!

For reference, here’s our first discussion of artificial turf – great comments, especially from a savvy landscape professional in arid California.

And by the way, I just got invited to a demonstration of pervious concrete (!) so maybe technology will save our water after all.


  1. Oh Susan,
    Goil-friend you are sooo behind the times !
    You mean you haven’t been keeping up on your night time reading by scanning the pages of Erosion Control Times or BioEngineering Monthly ?
    In between the low gloss natural fibre pages are scintillation stories and photographs of ground covers that “contributor to the health of the soil”.
    Why just a few months ago Salix stolonifera ( Red twig dogwood ) was the horti- hustler center fold beauty baring her bright red shapely branches while stoically stablilizing an eroding river bank.
    But my bets are on the willowy colorful ground covering beauty ; Salix integra ‘Hakura Nishiki’ ( pussy willow ) to be the next center fold extolling her soil eroding and stabilizing capabilities.

    But if those ground covers are enough to convince you of their healthful contributions to the soil then look no further to those ground cover plants that are in the legume or vetch family that fix nitrogen back into the soil.
    A favorite of mine is the Fava bean ( Vicia faba ) . I love them raw or sautéed with a little garlic, lemon and olive oil. … yum. – good for our bodies and good for the health of the soil !

    Now, as far as “essentially maintenance free rock gardens”, I’m going to mention just a few names of some landscape architects who have designed breath taking sculptural gardenscapes using nothing but rocks and a few plants scattered here and there.
    Many are ‘essentially maintenance free’,
    Google the work of Isamu Noguchi , Shodo Suzuki or Ron Hermann .
    I’ve even tried my hand at creating a maintenance free ‘rock garden’.

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