Reed PughSynthetic turf just right for this play area

I am sure that people will bristle at the idea of using synthetic turf in their gardens. I hear people talk about removing or wanting to remove lawn from the landscape because of its high maintenance and chemical dependency, but replacing it with synthetic turf would be tantamount to heresy. I love a natural garden and I even love grass, but sometimes situations prevent you from utilizing traditional solutions.

Finished project with almost 1,000 sq ft of new play area and fence to keep balls and kids contained. ©2013 BDG

Finished project with almost 1,000 sq ft of new play area and fence to keep balls and kids contained. ©2013 BDG

Recently I needed to create an area for athletic kids to play on a sloping property that received very little sunlight. For several years they had been playing their sports on the driveway, but the space was limited. Every direction off of the driveway sloped down so netting was employed to contain soccer, lacrosse, field hockey balls and hockey pucks.

Sloping area before construction of retaining wall. ©2013 BDG

Sloping area before construction of retaining wall. ©2013 BDG

The challenge was to create an area that could contain their sports paraphernalia, provide more level space, was softer than the asphalt driveway and was safe for all the activity.

The sloping grade was the initial challenge and the solution was to create an interlocking concrete block wall to level the grade with the driveway. These concrete wall products have improved so much in recent years, and while I am always a fan of using natural stone products we found a nice blended brown product that would not stand out from the plantings on the other side of the property line. A natural stone wall would have been cost prohibitive, and these interlocking products provide great stability.

Wall nearly finished with anchor tubes for fence posts. ©2013 BDG

Wall nearly finished with anchor tubes for fence posts. ©2013 BDG

Once the level grade was established with the driveway, the question was what to use for the play surface. With only dappled sunlight, a shade lawn would never thrive, and being on a slope the additional water for irrigation could become a problem, not to mention the mud from constant play. Extending the driveway with asphalt would provide more water issues with the challenges of infiltrating the runoff before it hit the slope, as well as providing an aesthetic eyesore with so much asphalt.

Redmond Design crew finishing the sub-surface preparation.  ©2013 BDG

Redmond Design crew finishing the sub-surface preparation. ©2013 BDG

Synthetic turf was the perfect solution. It will be playable 365 days a year, infiltrate rainwater and provide a clean and safe extension of the driveway for play. Additionally, by placing a slot drain between the driveway asphalt and the synthetic turf we were able to take surface water from the driveway into an in ground collection basin, thereby almost eliminating driveway runoff and keeping it off the turf. A surrounding black chain link fence keeps balls and kids from going over the edge and raised netting will keep wayward balls from flying through the neighborhood.

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I grew up in the 1970s when Astro Turf was developed in that awful neon green with the hard plastic blades of ‘grass’. Nowdays synthetic turf is everywhere in sports venues but only recently is it being utilized in residential situations. The grass blades are longer, softer and far more natural. The range of products is incredible and the colour choices are quite natural. Now, I am not advocating turning your lawns into nylon green carpets, but for this situation it provided the perfect solution in a challenging environment. Synthetic turf was the right solution for this play area.

Slot drain in front of Turf to infiltrate driveway surface water.  ©2013 BDG

Slot drain in front of Turf to infiltrate driveway surface water. ©2013 BDG

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Reed Pugh

About Reed Pugh

Horticulturist and landscape designer living in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. Reed is passionate about gardens and plants and loves writing about horticulture, plants, garden accoutrements, best garden practices and whatever else comes to his frenetic mind. He tries not to take himself too seriously but has been known to 'geek out' on occasion. Reed, and his company Barking Dog Gardens, can be found at Reeds Garden Ramblings

3 thoughts on “Synthetic turf just right for this play area

  1. I can see that this is EXACTLY where artificial turf is useful. Excellent solution for a difficult brief, Reed.

  2. Good idea! Given me some other ideas for my own sloping block which also includes 2 athletic kids! Fence and timber screen handy ideas too – practical with kids.
    Thanks for the post.

  3. Annette on said:

    We LOVE our synthetic grass but still feel a tad ashamed! It looks fantastic, especially with a bit of leaf fall on it, and overcomes years of shade problem, dog wee dead patches, dog digging and death in general. Our grandkids love it and in our courtyard we love it 24/7, 365 days of the year.

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