Fake Grass – Real Problem Solving: The Decision to use Artificial Turf

small strip of artificial turf

It was initially the client’s idea to use artificial turf, and admittedly, we were skeptical. However, the closer we looked at property within the context of the larger project, the more inevitable it seemed.

We were talking about a strip of grass – maybe five feet wide – between two multi-story buildings. There was little-to-no direct sunlight. It bordered a mulched area containing freshly planted Green Giant Arborvitae. The ground was flat, which caused drainage issues. The client was an upscale bed-and-breakfast, so the finished product needed to be immaculate.

And on top of all of that, it needed to be pet-friendly.

Landscaping is essentially problem solving: the end result needs to be visually appealing, but it also needs to work.

So we started doing our homework.

We learned about the different varieties of artificial turf. We refreshed ourselves on installation best-practices.

And the more research we did, the more viable it became.

Not only was artificial turf the only solution, it actually turned out to be the best solution for the situation.

We never thought we’d say it, but the artificial turf turned out to be a practical-yet-elegant solution to an unusually complex landscaping challenge.

This article isn’t an attempt to try to get you to invest in artificial turf for your next project. It’s not going to be the next “big thing” and it’s not going to be our “go-to” material of the spring.

Instead, this is a breakdown of how our landscape professionals analyze and solve complex problems to ensure that we develop and install the best possible solution for your unique needs.


Details matter. Appearances always matter in landscaping projects, but in the case of an upscale bed-and-breakfast, appearance is also a function. The side yard was only a small part of a larger landscaping project, which, itself, was only part of a larger property renovation. The client was investing in quality so their own customers could do the same.

Genuine fake grass. Once the decision had been made to use artificial turf, we set out to learn everything we could about the different varieties. Honestly, we were surprised at the quality of materials that are out there. We found a variety that mimics natural grass very well. Like natural grass, it isn’t one hundred percent green and it even has a layer of thatch down at the ground level – the old clippings that fall to the ground and turn brown. It looks beautiful and it’s engineered to do what it’s supposed to do.


Wear and tear. Pets are hard on lawns, and directing all of the pet traffic onto such a small portion of the property – which is already affected by limited sunlight – will turn it into a muddy mess. That mess would cause additional problems inside the bed-and-breakfast. Additionally, we selected a pet-friendly material that is odor-deterrent and can be easily cleaned.

Pet safety. Not only is the front lawn perfectly manicured to give guests the best first impression possible as they approach the main building, but it also situated at a busy intersection. It’s simply not safe for pets or drivers to use this portion of the property for exercise. It was briefly proposed that a small metal fence could be erected on the front yard for dogs to play in, but this would do too much damage to grass – and the small fence wouldn’t work for larger dogs so it failed to meet the requirements for protecting both the dogs and the lawn.


Poor sunlight. The side yard is North-facing with a two-and-a-half story building one side and a two-story building on the other. Being situated in the shade, any grass that did grow there would be weaker and break down easier – which would be exacerbated by dogs exercising in the area.

Privacy planting. As part of the larger landscaping project, we had planted a row of Green Giant Arborvitae that over the next few years will fill out and serve as a “green wall” or a natural alternative to a fence. As we often find with landscaping designs, a solution on one side creates complications elsewhere in the design that need to be accounted for before installation.


Installation standards. Artificial turf is more commonly used in southern and western states like Arizona or Florida, so when we were considering installation standards, we had to be sure that the material could handle the freezing and thawing cycles of southcentral Pennsylvania. This needed to be a long-term solution, so we needed to be sure that it wouldn’t pull itself apart after a few years.

Water drainage. This particular area was on a side of the property that didn’t have the best or ideal yard drainage. It was a very flat, narrow yard with nowhere to push the water. Underneath the artificial turf is a layer of gravel – not unlike a patio surface that we would install – that allows for drainage and water percolation.


Concealing and reinforcing. When you’re dealing with any material larger than a small table top, there are going to be seams. We put a lot of effort into designing it and ordering the sizes in a way that would have as few seams as possible. During the installation, we made sure to factor in temperature changes and precipitation so it would hold up long-term and we wouldn’t discover wrinkles and waves in the surface down the road.

Seamless blending. Because the project includes both natural and artificial elements, there was the additional complication of blending the two. The artificial turf goes up against a mulch bed on one side, which includes the Green Giant Arborvitae, which are going to grow so we needed to account for the roots as well. Additionally, the client didn’t want to put in a strong stone border. We did a little more research, and we found a material produced by a different manufacturer that helped soften the transition from artificial turf to mulch.

This is just a glimpse into the problem-solving skills that our landscape design professionals use when you hire us for your project. We consider every element from every angle at every time of year to design a custom solution that looks great and fulfills your needs for the long-term.

Our spring/summer schedule is filling up fast, so contact us today to discuss your landscaping project.