Should You Choose Artificial Turf or Sod in Phoenix?
August 20, 2018
Natural or Artificial?
A common question for new homeowners and new Arizona residents is, should you choose artificial turf or sod for your Phoenix landscape?
At Straight Line Landscape we do both. Either option can be a great fit, but what’s the difference and how do you decide?
Here we cover differences, advantages and disadvantages, and questions you can ask yourself to help you decide which is right for you: artificial turf or sod for your Phoenix landscape?
Artificial turf is manufactured synthetic grass, made in various types and styles to look like different types of grass. With advances in manufacturing technology, today’s artificial turf looks just like a real lawn.
It’s installed on a higher grade so water drains off, as if we were installing a patio. It looks perfect every day, requires no sprinkler system or maintenance and comes with an extensive manufacturer warranty—typically 10-15 years against tearing, fading and manufacturing defects.
Because it’s made from plastic materials, artificial turf tends to get hot, particularly with our harsh desert climate in Phoenix. While you can use sprinkler heads, a misting system or simply hose it off for cooling, the overall temperature in your yard will tend to be warmer.
If you have pets you’ll be better off training them to relieve themselves on the side yard. When pets use artificial turf as their primary bathroom you’ll need to hose it down and use an enzyme cleaner, so you can expect a bit more maintenance.
While most manufacturers offer an extensive warranty, this doesn’t cover your turf melting. This can sometimes occur when the sun reflects off windows at a particular angle—like how you used to burn things with a magnifying glass as a kid.
Finally, artificial turf typically requires a higher up-front investment than sod—more on that in a moment.
Sod is fresh, living grass harvested from a sod farm where different varieties are grown and cut per order. You can choose a variety that best suits your taste and intended use, each with different look, feel and ideal growing conditions.
For example, Midiron (hybrid bermuda) has minimal seedheads that are sterile so it doesn’t grow where you don’t want it (this also makes it hypoallergenic). Tiff 419 (hybrid tiffway), looks more like a putting green and grows well even in poor soil conditions.
Sod offers a cooling effect in your yard via transpiration and is generally less expensive up front.
While the smell of grass and cooling effects can be pleasant, sod does require a sprinkler system, fertilization and regular maintenance. Owners will need to understand how to water correctly and make seasonal adjustments, and sod needs to be mowed no less than once a week during the summer.
Most varieties require full sunlight, though some perform better under shady conditions.
Questions to Ask Yourself
1) What Will You Use It For?
Will you spend much time on your grass? Will you be running routes and rolling bocce balls? Or will you be enjoying your lawn from your kitchen window?
If you spend a lot of time in your yard and you prefer a cooler environment, sod is the way to go. If you don’t mind the heat, don’t care for the smell of grass or you have sensitive allergies then artificial turf may be better suited for you.
2) Who Will Handle the Maintenance?
If you choose sod, you’ll need to cut your grass, fertilize and adjust your sprinkler systems. You’ll need to take care of this maintenance yourself, or hire someone to take care of it.
Artificial turf requires virtually no maintenance if not being used by a pet, other than using a blower to blow off any leaves or debris.
If you don’t want to be bothered with maintenance, artificial turf is your best bet.
3) Do You Want to Incur the Expense Upfront or Over Time?
Artificial turf will generally have a higher overall cost up front, but the higher monthly cost of sod will eventually catch up. The cost of ongoing maintenance—whether you do it yourself or hire someone to help—adds up over time, as well as the cost of water, sprinkler repairs, fertilization, etc.
This breakeven point can occur anywhere between 8-15 years, at which point the lifetime cost of artificial turf becomes lower than sod. This can be an even shorter timeframe if you have a bigger area and/or a higher cost of water in your location, so consider your budgetary preferences in your decision.
Artificial Turf…or Sod?
The choice is yours. Start by answering these questions for yourself and you should have a good idea which will be the best fit for you and your family.