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If you’re looking for a low-maintenance lawn, then synthetic turf is certainly a great choice. But is it compatible with trees? Will it cause the the roots harm?
Artificial grass can be laid around trees. However, the artificial grass must be permeable to allow oxygen and water to reach the roots, which are vital for the tree’s survival. In many cases, fake turf is preferable to real grass as it doesn’t compete with the tree’s roots for water and nutrients in the soil.
There are different considerations depending on the type of tree you have in your backyard. The most popular types are going to be addressed in this article, along with how to deal with freshly planted saplings.
Does Artificial Grass Harm Tree Roots?
Tree roots tend to extend deep into the ground, where they absorb water and nutrients, so any ground coverings should not make a big difference to the roots. Real turf consumes a lot of water and nutrients, so tree roots will receive a lot more water if you use fake turf.
Good quality artificial grass is porous, which prevents flooding on the surface and allows rainwater to seep into the ground. Though one issue you may face is tree roots growing up and tearing holes through your synthetic turf.
Tree Irrigation Under Artificial Turf
Freshly planted saplings are more sensitive to changes in soil moisture than an established tree. An old tree will have deep roots that can reach down to a constant source of groundwater. You may want to cut around a sapling to allow more water to pool around it and to give it space to grow.
Some tree roots are also ground temperature sensitive. So, a tree that grows its roots near the surface may find artificial turf lacks the insulation to protect it from the summer heat or frost in the winter.
Artificial Grass and Oak Trees
Natural grass copes well with harsh conditions. But oak trees can upset the growing conditions of natural grass. Real turf relies on a healthy balance of soil acidity, groundwater, and oxygenation to flourish.
Here are some reasons why artificial turf under oak trees is better:
- Tannins – Oak trees release tannins in the leaves and branches they shed. As this foliage decomposes, it releases these tannins into the ground, which increases acidity, killing the grass.
- Food – Real grass is hungry for nutrients and will deprive the roots of any tree growing beneath.
- Water – Real grass is thirsty for water and can even be an efficient water-resistant barrier. Natural turf will reduce the water content in the soil around an oak tree’s roots.
- Shade – Artificial grass does not need the sun to grow, so it will stay a consistent color whether in full sunlight or shade.
Artificial Grass and Fruit Trees
Fruit trees are more sensitive to the slight changes in water and soil acidity that grass can cause. Real grass is a perfect host for weeds and holds in moisture that causes mold to develop around the base of the tree. Though it is more probable that the shade from the fruit tree will kill off the natural grass beneath it.
Synthetic grass does not need sunlight and will not consume any of the water or nutrients that fruit trees rely on. There should not be an issue of fruit tree roots growing through your turf, and you can lay fake grass right up to the tree trunk.
Artificial Grass and Pine Trees
The height and diameter that pine trees can grow make it difficult to grow anything in the shade beneath, including real grass. Pine trees are also thirsty trees that aggressively suck up groundwater and nutrients.
Though resilient and non-threatening to plants, pine trees can still pose serious issues to fake grass.
Pine trees look beautiful, but they produce and leak vast amounts of sticky sap. This sap will stick to anything, and it is problematic to remove from synthetic surfaces without causing more damage. Cleaning sap away from synthetic grass is a time-consuming business, and pulling a few fibers out is unavoidable, but it can be done.
With real grass, you can leave the sap to grow out and then cut it off with a lawnmower. But once sap sticks to synthetic grass, you will need to try either grease remover or try to freeze it. Applying refrigerant or dry ice to the affected area will harden the pine sap, making it easier to peel off.
Pine trees produce plenty of needles, and as the wind blows, these pine needles fall in big clumps that will hook into your turf. A power broom is the best tool for removing pine needles, and the broom will also spring some life back into the grass fibers.
It is also possible to use common gardening tools, though less effective than a power broom. A rake will pull away big clumps of pine needles, and a yard broom will help with the individual needles. It is better to work in grids of 4 to 8 square feet (0.35 – 0.75m2) rather than trying to brush the needles across the entire turf.
You can then use a shovel to empty the needles into a trash bag and a wet-dry vacuum cleaner to pick up any remaining needles.
Artificial Grass and Bamboo Plants
Bamboo is a type of grass, though it grows much taller and faster than your common garden turf variety. Bamboo is also more like a weed in its ability to spread and compete with other vegetation for nutrients.
Since bamboo can propagate anywhere it chooses, it can cause problems for both real and artificial grass. If you have bamboo and want to install fake turf, start by laying a weed barrier over the soil.
The weed barrier should stop any baby bamboo shoots from being able to break through, killing them off. Since bamboo is a persistent species, it is a smart idea to use a sub-base, which will add an extra barrier.
If possible, it is better to avoid planting any species of bamboo altogether or install artificial bamboo.
How to Install Artificial Grass Around Trees
Artificial grass takes time and money to install, and there is a good chance that this is your first time installing it. So, you should follow this step-by-step guide to ensure that you get it right the first time.
- Inspect – Scan your property and sketch a plan of the sprinklers, plant borders, and other obstacles you need to work around. Look for soil texture. Clay soil will pool surface water, so you may need to add drainage. Sandy soil may need stabilizing with gravel to prevent sinking.
- Plants – Plants such as bamboo can be destructive to fake grass, so consider a workaround or give the turf a wider berth. All weeds need to go, and certain herbs and spices can cause similar problems with roots spreading out and growing through your turf.
- Trees – Even though fake grass should not affect the growth of an adult tree, young trees need space, so create a wider border around the base. Fully-grown adult trees will be fine with a smaller gap, as they are at less risk of strangulation.
- Sprinklers – Artificial grass does not need water, so remove any sprinklers you have set into your old lawn. If you want to continue with automatic watering of other plants, consider rerouting the pipes to run along the outside of your lawn’s border-in case you need to dig them up for maintenance.