Fake grass. When we think about fake grass, many of us think back to the astroturf in football stadiums, or the cheap fake grass they used to use in the grocery store produce sections or various department stores. The fact is that ‘fake’ or man-made grass has come a long way since then. Stick with me here.

Now, you can actually buy artificial grasses that look like fescues, buffalo grass, St. Augustine or Bermuda as well as many other species. Not only that, but there are actually companies out there that help you pick out what you like and actually install it for you! Install it, you ask?

A football field for a yard?

The first time I saw an artificial lawn in the Austin area I couldn’t believe it. I could not understand the appeal at the time, but had not really even thought about it before. Upon further reflection and after living through this record-setting drought, it’s all started making sense. The watering, the weeding, the chinch bug applications, the fungicide applications, the mowing, the edging, the fertilization, the yearly dillo dirt application, the watering, the watering, the watering…

It’s no wonder people are looking for other options. Standard xeriscaping is not for everyone. The goal here is water conservation and the reduction in fertilizer and chemical applications.  But, how can it be good for trees?  I thought it would be awful for trees, suffocating and sterilizing the tree roots. Boy, was I wrong!

Better than the real thing?

Artificial lawns are porous, allowing water and oxygen to get to the tree’s absorbing roots. Artificial grass has no roots to compete with tree roots. Weed killers, which are always used on lawns and which often kill trees outright via Roundup, weed and feed or other herbicides, are no longer needed. Pollution due to lawn mowers is eliminated.  Thousands or dollars per year are saved by the homeowner. So let me get this straight, the trees are actually happier and the homeowner saves money?  Exactly!

I never thought I would be touting artificial anything. I hate artificial Christmas trees, wreaths, etc.  In this case though, there are more than a few things to think about.  First, we live in a desert environment here in the Austin area, where everything has to be artificially watered in order to survive in the blistering dry summer heat. Droughts are constant. Water is expensive, and as you water the grass it grows and then has to be mowed and maintained.  Water is a limited resource and we all waste more of it than we should.   If not for irrigation, it would all be live oaks, cedars and cactus in the yard.

Think about this.  We treat water so that it is potable (drinkable), then waste it on our lawns. Lawns don’t need heavily treated, drinkable water!  Jerry Jeff (the country artist) told me recently that he has a house in Belize where he has a holding tank under the house the same size as the foundation. This tank catches the rain water that is then used to flush the toilets and irrigate the landscape. What is the point in heavily treating water that you flush down the toilet or use for irrigation? Not only that, but the chlorine used to treat water is not optimum for plant health anyway.  This is simply one thing most Americans just don’t think about.

An idea worth considering

So back to fake grass.   It’s just another option for the Austin area.   Maybe it’s not for you, but maybe it is.  It is expensive to install, but once installed it looks real!   And it lasts, too.  For up to 10 years or more before it starts to fade.  We are getting better at making it, and it’s a more viable option than ever before.  As we seem to be getting worse and worse droughts here all the time, andLakeTravisjust gets lower and lower, maybe we should be getting more creative with our options.  I’m just saying…

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