Is the grass really greener when it's plastic? - FOX 13 News

Is the grass really greener when it's plastic?

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Weekly mowing.  Water restrictions.  Fertilizer bans. Cinch bugs.  If you own a lawn, there's surely a special place in the pit of your stomach reserved for all these pressure points.  

But imagine a yard where you don't have to worry about any of that.  Some call it the holy grail of turf -- a picture-perfect yard made of plastic. 

"It's beautiful.  Live grass just isn't the answer," stated David Sheffer, president of Sarasota-based Alternascapes.  

Real grass is touchy.  Too much water? It drowns.  Too little water? It starves.  Each square foot of real turf drinks 3 to 5 feet of water a year. 

The team from Alternascapes scrapes up fickle old grass, yanks sprinkler systems, adds rock for drainage, and then rolls out durable new turf.  It can take up to a full week to complete the job.

But not everyone considers fake grass a cure-all.

"[We get] a lot of calls about that," says Brian Niemann of the University of Florida Extension.

The University of Florida does not endorse man-made lawns.  It warns synthetic turf emits more heat than the natural variety.

"Live turf grass, now, acts as a huge air conditioner. It cools the air," Niemann explained.  "We don't have enough right now to make a recommendation either for or against artificial turf grass."

In parched southern Nevada, homeowners who ditch their lawns are paid.  The water authority gives them $1.50 a square foot every year they roll out the green carpet.

Florida's not there yet, but Sheffer argues water shortages are inevitable, so there's got to be a solution better than needy live grass.

What it doesn't demand from the faucet, it could drain from your rainy day fund.  This artificial turf costs $9 to $15 a square foot.  Sheffer's company offers a 15-year warranty and a long-term payment plan.

"The costs are all up front," continued Sheffer.  "People shake their head and say they don't want to pay monthly.  But they already are."

Sheffer figures most customers break even in five to 10 years -- especially when you compare the monthly expenses of natural grass, like mowing, fertilizer, weed control, pest control, and water -- to the costs of buying plastic turf.

"The lawnmower's gone.  The weed whacker is gone. The edger's gone.  The fertilizer spreader is gone," said Sheffer.

Installers offer free estimates, but your first call should be to your homeowner's association.   No matter how good plastic grass looks and how common it's become, many HOA's still outlaw it.

LINK: Learn more about Alternascapes at their website: http://www.justlikegrass.com

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