Question

My parents want to add a bit of lawn to their yard for a bocce ball area. Is synthetic lawn a good idea?

Asked by Sydnor Elkins
Chapel Hill, NC

My parents would like to add a bit of lawn for a bocce ball area in their wooded yard. I suggested they look into synthetic lawn as a sustainable, low-maintenance and durable solution for the area. I live in San Francisco, where it is not hard to find synthetic lawn dealers, but how about in Chapel Hill, North Carolina? Do you have any recommendations for where to start? Or companies that make more than just the putt-putt miniature-golf-looking greens?

Answer

Richard Heller

Answered by Richard Heller

New Rochelle, NY

Greener by Design

April 19, 2010

The synthetic lawn business has taken off in this country, and much like nuclear energy, synthetic lawns have been packaged as “green.” Many folks have decided that grass is not “green” because of the level of maintenance it demands and particularly because this maintenance has been framed around chemicals and gas-driven machinery. It is true that chemical fertilizers are oil-based, and gas mowers and blowers (like planes, trains, and automobiles) do pollute. However, that does not mean grass lawns are less green than synthetic lawns.

First, it's possible -- and even desirable -- to control weeds and feed your lawn with a combination of compost tea, corn gluten, and organic (from composted material) fertilizers. Go to Safelawns.org for more info and links.

Second, studies show that even using gas mowers, properly-cared-for lawns sequester five times more carbon than ornamental grasses and certainly more than synthetic lawns. There is a Kansas State University study on this and you can find several others if you search the net. However, if you’re not a fan of gas mowers, there are now electric and push mowers that will do the job nicely for homeowners.

Finally, what could the environmental benefits be of covering the earth with a synthetic mat that simulates grass? It covers the soil, killing soil microbes and the beneficial insects and wildlife that depend on them, but more important, there is evidence that artificial turf contributes to heat island effect in that temperatures can reach up to 140 degrees over these areas. See the Boston Globe's website for arguments on both sides of this issue.

However, if the issue is “I want a no-maintenance bocce court” -- which is understandable regardless of the “green” issue -- my advice would be to build a clay bocce court in the Italian tradition. This will be a cooler, more eco-friendly solution. Follow the link for somewhat daunting but in-depth "do it yourself” instructions on how to accomplish this task (you may want to hire someone to do it).


For more information:

Learn more about natural lawn care in Sherri Osaka's article, "Take Steps toward a Poison-Free, Natural Lawn." 

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