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Debunking Myths Around Artificial Turf

The surface temperature of an artificial turf field is 170 degrees on sunny Colorado day.

One of the most controversial topics in the landscaping community is Artificial Turf. Is artificial landscaping better than natural grass? How about the health benefits of a natural vs artificial lawn? Is one better for the environment than the other? We’re here to debunk some of the myths around artificial sod.

Myth 1: Artificial turf uses less water

While this is true, it’s not necessarily the whole story. Artificial turf temperatures can soar, especially in summer. This requires water to cool it down if you want to be able to enjoy your lawn, especially in western climates where installing an artificial lawn might seem like a smart idea to save water. According to Turfgrass Producers International, artificial lawns have been documented to be up to 86.5*F degrees hotter than natural turf under identical conditions. On an average summer 90*F degree day, the surface of artificial turf will be 165*F degrees — that’s hot! Human skin begins to burn at 110*F for long exposures and as little as a few seconds at 165*F. This means frequent watering to cool the surface temperature down for your children or pets to enjoy on a summer day. Water is the only way to cool excessively hot artificial turf.

It can also contribute to the heat island effect. The heat island effect describes built up urban areas that are hotter than nearby rural areas. Which leads to increased energy consumption, elevated emissions of greenhouse gasses, compromised human health and comfort, and can lead to impaired water quality. Artificial turf elevates the temperature of the ground, which in turn elevates the overall temperature of the earth unless cooled by excessive and unnecessary watering.

Myth 2: Artificial turf is made from recycled materials

Many types of artificial lawns are made from plastics, mostly polyethylene and polypropylene — not actually recycled plastics. Plastic grass is a petroleum based product that emits greenhouse gases while it’s being produced. There’s just no getting around that. In addition, most artificial lawns last for about 8-10 years and after that can not be recycled. That ultimately means every 8-10 years the whole lawn has to be thrown away. And here’s the kicker — dumps won’t take them, they’re considered hazardous waste. They also contribute to the microplastics problem. Microplastics are found in our food, water, even in the soil, are consumed by animals — especially sea animals, and are extremely harmful and toxic. As artificial turf is made from plastic, it’s impossible for it to not contribute to the microplastic epidemic we are currently facing.

Myth 3: Artificial turf cuts down greenhouse emissions

Another common setback people point to with traditional lawns is the maintenance they require and the fact that lawnmowers and fertilizer aren’t exactly good for the environment. As we’ve already discussed, plastic turf is still made of plastic and does release greenhouse gases while it’s being made. Another common practice with artificial turf is to remove the soil below and replace it with rock which releases even more CO2 emissions! Overall, natural lawns contribute to filtering CO2 from the air while plastic sod actually does the opposite. It’s easy to make a natural lawn more environmentally friendly by making the switch to organic fertilizer and electric mowers, but artificial turf will continue to contribute to creating more unnecessary plastics, and therefore contribute to creating more greenhouse emissions.

Myth 4: Artificial turf helps bolster wildlife because it’s better for the environment

Artificial Turf provides absolutely no nutrients to any wildlife and actually harms very important members of our ecosystem — worms and bees. It seals the ground below keeping essential nutrients from finding their way back into the soil. Because of this, it starves earthworms from what they need to survive. This makes it impossible for them to continue to bolster the soil quality helping plants grow. We also know how important and crucial bees are to the environment, nothing grows without them! With the plummeting number of insects on earth it’s important to support these species as much as we can.

Myth 5: Artificial turf is cleaner than natural grass because it doesn’t require fertilizer.

Another area artificial turf falls short is in the health department. While natural grass can be criticized for its use of fertilizer and pesticides, there are tons of natural and effective alternatives out there. Organic fertilizer is a great option that still supports your lawn without all the harmful chemicals. Artificial turf is often filled with recycled tire crumbs which have high pollutant content — including lead. The CDC and EPA are currently studying the carcinogenic effects that being exposed to artificial fields may have on public health.

Myth 6: Artificial turf is more cost effective

Champions of artificial turf will say that an artificial lawn is more cost effective because they don’t require water or maintenance throughout the year. We already debunked the water myth earlier, and actually, artificial sod does still require maintenance. Especially in a professional setting. Artificial fields still require a field manager to keep up with the quality. For homeowners, this isn’t as much of a concern, but the initial price of installation is.

For a 500sq foot lawn, the average price of installing artificial sod is around $6,250. That’s nearly 5 times what it would cost to have a professional crew like our sod installation crew come to your house, fully soil prep and grade your lawn and then lay the sod for you. Installed artificial sod is typically between $5-$20 per square foot, on average about $12.50, versus natural sod which, with full soil prep grade and installation, costs about $2.70 or bought on it’s own and easily installed as a weekend DIY, about $0.71 per square foot.

Myth 7: Playing on artificial sod is the same risk as playing on natural sod

Given the rise of popularity of artificial turf for professional sports fields, many studies have come out in recent years tracking injury rates. The NFL has reported non-contact injuries are 27% higher on synthetic turf. Studies have also shown that there is a 50% higher chance of knee or ankle injury on artificial turf as opposed to natural grass. Artificial turf can also cause more turf burns, higher risk of concussion, and higher risk of ACL tears. Players generally prefer playing on natural grass, and Dick Allen, 1972 American League MVP, even said “If a cow can’t eat it, I don’t want to play on it”! How does this translate to the homeowner? Your kids and pets will use your yard to play. When doing so, they run a significantly higher risk of injury when it’s comprised of artificial turf. When it comes down to it, choosing a natural lawn will literally cut the risk of injury to your kids by half.

In Conclusion

While artificial turf certainly has some benefits, its overall impact on the environment is ultimately negative. Natural lawns are, in the grand scheme of things, the best and most environmentally friendly option out there. They are also more cost effective and significantly safer. For more information on the environmental benefits of natural lawns, see our previous blog “5 Reasons Lawns are Beneficial for the Environment”.

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An update on COVID-19 from Green Valley Turf Co

Green Valley Turf Co. is open for business.

To Our Customers,

We remain determined to continue providing top-notch service and are announcing today a new way of making our stores and picked up items accessible while making things safer for our customers and employees.

Curbside service, Littleton and Platteville locations

Beginning Thursday, March 26, we will offer curbside service. Rather than ask you to come into our stores, purchase any sod or landscape item over the phone or online. Either call ahead or call when you’re in our parking lot or use our website gvt.net. We will help you shop over the phone and can accept credit cards and charge accounts. Please note we will not be accepting cash at this time. We will then deliver the items to your car in our parking lot or sod loading area in a touch-less manner.

Touchless Sod Loading

Call in your sod order and call us again when you get here. A Green Valley Turf Co. employee will coordinate a touchless sod loading experience. Sod deliveries will also be touchless. We want to keep everyone as safe as possible during these uncertain times.

All of us at Green Valley Turf Co. are grateful that we are an essential business, allowing us to continue to serve you when you need it most. We thank you for your patience and loyalty and look forward to continuing to provide you with the freshest agriculture products and essential construction products. – GVT

03/23/2020 Update

With the current global crisis ongoing, we wanted to update you on some current precautions, we as a company are taking to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Continued Business

While considering governor Polis’ announcement, we have decided to continue conducting business with several modifications to keep the workplace as safe as possible. We will continue providing quality sod and landscaping services. We have limited employees coming into work, and those who can work from home will do so. We have cut staff by 50% and are maintaining proper social distancing techniques throughout the day. We are also continuing to support employees financially and will continue doing so as the situation evolves.

Increased Presence Online and Via Phone

We are revamping our website. It is an excellent resource for DIY lawn care instruction and advice, as well as other information on how to maintain your yard. With all this extra time at home on our hands, now is a great time to get outside and spend some time doing yard work! We also plan to continue answering the phone, even in the event of a full closure of business, we will still be able to answer questions and offer advice.

Install and Delivery Crews to Remain Operational

Since the majority of our installation and delivery work is outside, we plan to continue with the business. We harvest sod with automatic sod harvesters, meaning there is no human contact from field to pallet. Our crews are wearing gloves and masks to load sod into cars and on deliveries. Sod crews will also be adhering to proper social distancing techniques, and we have encouraged everyone to stay home as much as possible. Sod and bulk material deliveries are a great option right now with almost no contact. 

Take Advantage of This Time

We understand that this can be a very stressful and scary time for many members of our community. With all the extra time at home, this can be a great time to get to that yard work you’ve been putting off, and we are here to support you. For our professional clients, consider using this time for field maintenance without the stress of a normal game schedule. Public health and safety are of our utmost concern, and we will work with you to ensure all personnel follows the current government and CDC guidelines to create the safest and most healthy work environment for everyone.

Restricted Travel and Events

We have restricted all non-essential work-related travel for our employees and will not be attending any events over the next 30 days minimum. 

We understand that this situation is ever-evolving and has been closely monitoring everything going on. At this point, these are the steps we are taking to keep not only our employees but the general public as safe and healthy as possible. We will continue to update the public on any changes, but for now, we are here to help!

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5 Reasons Lawns are Beneficial For the Environment

Lawns help combat the heat island effect and helps keep your home cooler in the summer.

It can be easy to write off turf as a sign of excess or purely there for aesthetics, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. According to one of America’s leading turf experts and the chief scientist at the International Sports Turf Institute, James B. Beard Ph.D., “As a society we tend to take the benefits of grass for granted”. Not only have lawns provided a backdrop for our children to play and our friends to gather for more than 10 centuries, but they can be a huge benefit to the environment. Choosing to have a living landscape as opposed to rock, mulch or plastic turf can help improve air and water quality, maintain cooler temperatures, and control soil erosion.

1. Lawns Filter and Capture Runoff

When it rains, lawns capture the rainwater and cause it to slow down instead of “sheet off”, which is when rain falls on hard concrete surfaces and turns into fast moving storm runoff. This provides excellent flood control by absorbing and filtering water. Lawns also enhance the water quality tremendously! Water filtering through the fibrous root system of sod and soil causes it to be much more balanced than water running off of blacktop and picking up all of the toxins there. In fact, Water filtered through a healthy lawn can be 10 times less acidic than water running off a hard surface.

2. Reduce Heat

Lawns can help combat the heat island effect, in which cities experience exponentially higher temperatures than the surrounding rural areas. The heat island effect leads to increased energy consumption, elevated emissions of greenhouse gasses, compromised human health and comfort, can lead to impaired water quality and even the death of aquatic animals. In one study focused on Los Angeles, experts found that getting rid of lawns and grassy parks and replacing them with native bushes and other drought hardy landscapes would increase daytime temperatures by 1.3*F on average. Lawns and other greenery help to keep the air temperature significantly cooler, and keep our cities a happier and easier place to live in.

3. Improve Air Quality

As we learned in biology class, plants use a process called photosynthesis to turn carbon-dioxide into oxygen. Because of this, plants are regarded as one of the main carbon sinks on the planet. Carbon sinks act like sponges and absorb carbon compounds, playing a huge role in controlling greenhouse gasses. According to a study from University of California, Davis, grasslands are more resilient and reliable carbon sinks than forests. Grass does such a good job storing carbon, that it as much as seven times outweighs the carbon used to maintain a lawn! Grass effectively captures airborne pollutants, smoke particles, and dust, pulling them out of the air. Plus, an average lawn also exudes enough oxygen to meet the daily needs of a family of four. So your yard provides your family with clean, fresh air while also working to diminish greenhouse gasses and make the planet better for future generations.

4. Supports Biodiversity

With human development, we have modified about 95% of nature, creating huge challenges for native plants and animals. Grasses, trees, and shrubs all support biodiversity by providing habitat for birds and small mammals. Under our lawns live all kinds of worms, spiders, and other insects who are pivotal in our ecosystem. By creating more green space for these little guys to thrive, we are supporting every part of the food chain and helping the circle of life to continue. Planting more greenery, including grass, native plants and trees, contributes to the healthy biodiversity of our earth and keeps all those little critters we love from going extinct.

5. Controls Soil Erosion

Soil erosion can be wildly detrimental to the quality of water. When soil erodes into streams and lakes, it causes the waters to get murky and prohibits sunlight from penetrating deeper into the water. This, combined with the added nutrients and chemicals can cause algae to grow, which suffocate aquatic insects and cause fish to die. Soil erosion can also lead to land and mudslides and put human life in danger. Lawns help combat this with their dense and fibrous root system that holds the earth in place. Healthy lawns root systems are strong and dig deep into the ground, holding everything together and saving the lives of many fish and people.

6. Sequester Carbon, Natural grass

It’s important to remember that lawns are beneficial to the environment, especially when they are cared for with an eco-conscientious mindset. When choosing sod, choose something that is well suited to your environment. There are hundreds of varieties of turf, so it’s easy to find one that makes sense for where you live. It’s also important to remember that over watering your lawn is not only bad for the environment, but very bad for your sod! Turf is resilient and ebbs and flows with the seasons. If your lawn starts to go dormant in the heat of the summer, that is ok! Lawns don’t need to be green all year, and in fact shouldn’t be. Grass grows in cycles based on the resources available to it. It will green up again when precipitation returns. It’s also a great idea to add native plants and grasses into your landscaping. By being thoughtful and making smart and informed decisions about your lawn you can make a huge difference in helping the planet!

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Different Grasses for Colorado Lawns

A dew drop on a blade of Kentucky Bluegrass in Colorado.

Bluegrass

Kentucky Bluegrass is the most widely used turfgrass in the Denver metro area. About 95% of all lawns and parks are Kentucky Bluegrass. Bluegrass produces a fine dense textured turf that can stand up to heavy traffic and use. Bluegrass is a rhizomatous turf that spreads through underground roots or rhizomes and produces new grass plants to stay dense and thick. It is deep green and is very heat and cold tolerant, and is the best choice for high elevation use. Bluegrass also is very drought resistant and will go dormant in the heat of the summer if not watered. Once it cools down in the fall and warms up in the spring, bluegrass fills itself in. If you want a fine lawn that can take a lot of abuse from kids and dogs, bluegrass is an excellent choice.

  • Can become dormant & survive 1 to 2 months without irrigation once it is established
  • Uses 24″ to 26″ of supplemental irrigation per year for high turf quality
  • Uses 15″ to 20″ of supplemental irrigation per year for lower turf quality
  • Best grass for high use areas and dogs

Tall Fescue

Turf Type Tall Fescue is becoming more common in the Denver metro area due to its ability to go longer between waterings. If Tall Fescue develops a deep root system in properly amended soil, it can capture water from a greater soil depth. This can translate into less irrigation or fewer waterings per week. Tall Fescue is very heat and cold tolerant, it has good green color and a medium size blade. When mowed lower and more regularly, Tall Fescue can come close to a bluegrass texture and appearance. Tall Fescue can become clumpy is it is not watered or cared for properly.

  • Uses 20″ to 22″ of supplemental irrigation per year for high turf quality if rooted deeply and subsurface moisture is present
  • It can root very deep and pulls water from deeper down in the soil. Deep soil prep is recommended before sodding
  • Good turf quality, medium green, medium texture

Buffalograss

Buffalograss is a native, low growing warm-season turfgrass that, once established, uses very little water. Buffalograss develops a very deep root system and likes clay soil. Because of this deep root system, it can draw water and nutrients from a large area. Buffalograss thrives on 1/4 inch of water per week during the heat of the season. Buffalograss is light green and has a soft fine blade that stops growing around 6 inches. It is slow-growing and only needs mowing every two to three weeks or can be let go for a native look. Buffalograss spreads and fills in with stolons or above-ground runners. Buffalograss goes dormant in the fall, September/October after the second frost and greens up in April. Natural rainfall will dictate when, and if, additional water is required for a buffalograss lawn.

  • Uses 8″ to 10″ of supplemental irrigation per year for good turf quality that will tolerate moderate traffic
  • Not best for the traditional lawn. It is brown and dormant from October to April. More of a native type lawn.
  • Good turf quality, light green, medium texture, very soft to the touch.
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Smart Irrigation

MP rotator sprinkler nozzles are 30% increased efficiency over sprays nozzles.

Check you lawn sprinkler this July

July is Smart Irrigation Month. One of the key parts of saving water is to have a water efficient sprinkler system. To celebrate Smart Irrigation Month, we switched out our spray head nozzles for MP Rotators. MP Rotators are a type of sprinkler head nozzles that lowers the application rate of the water. Putting water on the ground slowly and evenly allows the water to soak into the ground.

Traditional spray heads tend to soak the lawn with a higher volume of water in a shorter period of time, spreading the water unevenly and creating dry spots in some sections of your lawn while overwatering others. Additionally, since the water is applied quickly, it doesn’t have adequate time to soak in. This can cause flooding in the lawn and run off onto the pavement. By switching away from spray head nozzles, these problems can be avoided and you can water up to 30% more efficiently. MP Rotators also use larger water droplets that are less affected by wind, wasting less water.

Water smart and save water

Simple sprinkler maintenance is another way to save water. It’s important to watch your sprinkler system run periodically to check that water is being distributed effectively. Check your yard for dry spots where your sprinklers may not be reaching, as well as signs of too much water, such as moss or mushrooms. Water smart! Adjusting your sprinkler schedule for rain and other weather conditions is a simple way to avoid overwatering.

So this July as temperatures soar, make sure to take some time to check up on your sprinkler system. Your lawn, your water bill, and the environment will thank you. 

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GreenCo Person of the Year

Rusty Wilkins, owner and founder of Green Valley Turf Co is the GreenCo Person of the Year for 2012.

2012

JR “Rusty” Wilkins, owner and co-founder of Green Valley Turf Co is the GreenCo (Green Industries of Colorado) Person of the Year for 2012. Rusty and father-in-law K.C. Ensor started Green Valley Turf Co. in 1962. Mr. Ensor, who was a home builder and developer, needed a local source of sod for his new homes. The appeal for the new homes was that they came with a lawn. The slogan said it all. “The Homes with the Instant Lawn” and “Lay Today, Mow Tomorrow”.

50 years of innovations

In 50 years, Rusty has built Green Valley Turf Co. from the original 5 acres to over 600 acres with farms in Littleton, Platteville and Ft. Lupton, Colorado. In the 60’s, Rusty started using pallets and fork lifts to move sod around rather than loading turf by hand. In the 70’s, Green Valley Turf began using slab harvesters to cut sod which was a quicker and easier way to harvest sod. In the early 80’s, Green Valley Turf Co. had the first fully automatic sod harvester in Colorado. In 1982, Green Valley Turf Co. hosted the ASPA (American Sod Producers Association) convention in Platteville, CO., which featured the first sod rodeo and international attendees. Also in the 80’s due to drought conditions, Rusty started experimenting with alternative grasses for turf production and grew wild flower sod. In the 90’s, he was one of the first in the area to harvest and install big rolls making sod installation more efficient with less seams.

Invaluable member of the green industry

Rusty has been an advocate for the Green Industry for 50 years. He is a founding member of the Rocky Mountain Sod Growers and has held numerous positions there. Rusty was an active member with ASPA (American Sod Producers Association) and a current members of TPI  (Turf Producers International). He was on the GreenCo legislative committee and on the board of the RMRTA (Rocky Mountain Regional Turfgrass Association) for five years. Rusty continues to be an invaluable member of the green industry and sod growers community across the United States.