The choice between natural grass and synthetic turf can be a difficult one. Whether you’re landscaping a commercial project, revitalising a residential space or designing a playing surface, both natural and synthetic turf have their own unique benefits and drawbacks.
The right option for your project will depend on a variety of factors, however one thing is clear: synthetic turf requires significantly less maintenance and uses much less water, so if these factors are important to you, synthetic turf may be a wise choice.
One of the most important distinctions between synthetic turf and natural turf is how it feels. Synthetic turf options have come a long way in recent years, and far from being stiff, spiky and ‘fake’, artificial turf suppliers now use new manufacturing techniques to deliver softer, more realistic turf with several shades of green fibres along with brown ‘dead’ fibres to offer a true mimic of real grass.
We all know natural grass feels great when a lawn is in peak condition, but it’s usually more common to see grassed areas that are full of weeds, bindii, bugs and dead patches.
If you can’t commit to the extensive time and effort it takes to keep a natural grassed area or sports oval looking great, synthetic turf provides a ‘close to nature’ effect that is consistently soft, attractive and comfortable.
Natural grass is the traditional option for sports fields, and for good reason. It provides a natural, comfortable playing surface, looks great and can add to the overall aesthetic of a sports field.
However, natural grass does require a LOT of regular maintenance, including watering, mowing, and fertilising, to keep it looking its best (all of which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars every year!).
It can also be prone to wear and tear, particularly in high-traffic areas which can leave bare patches and hard-packed spots that reduce the quality of the field during gameplay.
The fidelity of the playing surface can be also a significant factor in high-level sports matches, where the stakes are high and every moment counts. For soccer fields, for example, a synthetic turf surface mustn’t just be any type of turf: a FIFA-approved artificial turf such as our 50mm or 60mm Allsports turf is the best choice for a synthetic pitch.
Natural grass provides a traditional playing surface that is comfortable and familiar to most school students, athletes and recreational users. However, it can be expensive and time-consuming to maintain, and may not be suitable for all sports or climates (especially Australia’s hot dry summers or unpredictable La Niña periods).
Synthetic turf, on the other hand, is a man-made surface made of quality synthetic fibres that accurately mimic the look and feel of natural grass. It is far more durable than natural grass and requires less maintenance, making it a popular choice for council recreational areas, commercial spaces, sports fields and playing surfaces.
When weighing up the differences, consider access to the site for maintenance and upkeep, potential drainage issues, and other factors that could make natural grass unsuitable for the space. In urban environments, natural grass can be particularly difficult to install on rooftop gardens and high-rise buildings, whereas synthetic turf (or rubber soft fall) can create the same natural effect without needing significant maintenance requirements, and without adding unnecessary weight or moisture issues to the structure.
The durability of your grass is another key factor to consider. A more durable outdoor space can save you significant time, money and effort because it remains looking good for longer. With factors like heat, wind, lawn grubs, weeds and pests impacting natural grass, it can be seen as a less durable option.
Synthetic turf is quite rugged and long-lasting once installed and is not affected by pests or wild weather fluctuations. Synthetic turf will never wither in a drought and, provided the correct drainage layer is installed, will remain relatively free of surface water.
Synthetic turf may be more expensive to install initially, although the savings definitely swing in its favour over time. When you factor in the savings on maintenance and upkeep, the slightly higher installation cost of synthetic turf becomes more and more appealing.
Both natural and synthetic turf can be installed fairly quickly, although the proper establishment of natural turf takes time, potentially inviting problems such as root die-off, dehydration and inability of the newly laid turf to take hold in the soil.
In contrast, synthetic turf is ready to enjoy as soon as the installation is complete (and the glue is dry), with no time wasted coaxing roots to grow and no excessive watering in. Even when factoring in the base layer preparation for synthetic turf, installation is still quite quick and easy.
Elite grassed sports stadiums are often purpose-built to promote the healthy growth of natural grass, using specific soil mixes, in-ground irrigation systems, expensive fertilisers and premium maintenance equipment to ensure the grass is always kept in top condition.
On a more day-to-day level, commercial spaces, schools and community playing fields may not have the budget to deliver this kind of high-end infrastructure to support natural grass, not to mention the ongoing maintenance costs associated with upkeep.
This is where synthetic turf can be a true cost saver for schools, landscapers and councils: ongoing maintenance is minimal and the project will remain looking good for years with only minimal maintenance. Grooming and brushing synthetic turf can be done at regular intervals, with a deep clean 2 – 4 times a year to maintain optimum performance.
Ultimately, the right choice between natural grass and synthetic turf will depend on your specific needs and preferences.
If you want a low-maintenance option that can withstand heavy use and adverse weather conditions, synthetic turf may be the best choice for your school or sports field. If you value the natural look and feel of grass and are willing to invest in regular maintenance, natural grass may be a better option for you.
Either way, the Preferred Turf team is here to offer honest advice and recommendations for education, council or commercial projects across NSW.