Does Artificial Turf Harm Tree Roots: Tips For Installing Artificial Grass Near Trees

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By Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer

In a perfect world, we would all have perfectly manicured, lush green lawns regardless of what climate we live in. In a perfect world, grass would grow to the exact height we want in full sun or deep shade and never need to be mowed, watered or treated for weeds or insects. You can actually have that perfect, maintenance-free lawn with artificial turf. However, like anything, artificial turf has its pros and cons. Installing artificial grass near trees is a specific concern. Read on to learn about using artificial grass around trees.

Does Artificial Turf Harm Tree Roots?

People often consider using artificial grass around trees because they can’t get real grass to grow there. Dense tree canopies can make an area too shady for grass to grow. Tree roots can hog all the water and nutrients around them.

The other benefit of artificial turf is all the money saved by not having to water, fertilize, now or treat the lawn for pests, weeds and diseases. Chemical herbicides and pesticides we use on our lawns can be damaging to trees, ornamental plants and beneficial insects. Mowing and weed whacking can also damage tree trunks and roots, leaving them with open wounds that can let pests and disease in.

Artificial turf is probably sounding pretty good now, isn’t it? However, tree roots need water and oxygen to survive. Naturally, that fact brings up the question: does artificial turf harm tree roots?
The answer really depends on the artificial turf.

Installing Artificial Grass Near Trees

Good quality artificial turf will be porous and allow for water and oxygen to flow through it. Artificial turf that is not porous can make it impossible for tree roots to get the water and oxygen they need to survive. Non-porous artificial turf will basically kill and sterilize the soil beneath, and everything living in it.

Artificial turf is mostly used on athletic fields, where there is no concern about tree roots or organisms living in the soil. Before installing artificial grass near trees, you should do your homework and make sure you are getting artificial turf that allows for adequate water and oxygen. Good quality artificial turf will also look more like natural grass, so it is worth the extra cost.

Even porous artificial turf can have its drawbacks around tree roots, though. Artificial turf draws heat that can be quite harmful to roots and soil organisms that are not used to hot conditions. In the south and southwest, many trees are accustomed to hot, arid conditions and will not be harmed by this. However, northern trees that are used to cooler soil may not be able to survive it. In northern climates, it may be better to create natural looking landscape beds filled with shallow rooting shade plants and mulch in areas around trees where real grass won’t grow.

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