Keith has been involved in the gardening and landscaping industry for the past 21 years. From a jobbing gardener to running his own landscaping services....
Despite the fact that artificial turf is a man-made product and that it doesn’t need water to thrive or grow, there are a considerable number of benefits that result from its regular watering. When, and how often, you would look to water artificial turf would depend largely on the type of artificial turf you have, its use case, and your climate.
There are though, several considerations that need to be taken into account when considering watering artificial turf, these include drainage and local watering restrictions. Once these have been taken into account watering can go a long way to making the experience of owning artificial turf as good or better than real grass.
There are several types of artificial turf installation. The most common of which are sporting/commercial, residential, and public use. The reasons for watering in each of these use cases are slightly different and so too is the watering regime that you would use.
Watering Artificial Grass Sports Fields
If you have ever turned up early for a game or have avoided heading for snacks at a half-time break, you might have noticed that the artificial turf football field is being watered. You may or may not have stopped and thought to ask yourself why the artificial turf is being watered?
There are in fact a number of excellent reasons why, before a game, and sometimes during a break in the game, the field is being watered.
Artificial turf is constructed from tufts of synthetic grass fibers that are sewn into a base. Synthetic fibers do not have the same properties as natural grass, which is a cellulose material made up of around 80% water.
While synthetic grass does an incredibly good job of mimicking real grass in terms of looks and feel. In terms of play, it can be very different.
Synthetic Grass and Friction and Ball Movement
Friction is one of the biggest differences. The friction generated as a ball moves across a synthetic surface is different from the way it would move across a real grass surface. There is far more friction generated with synthetic grass fibers than with real grass.
One of the easiest solutions to reducing the friction levels and allowing a ball to travel in a more similar fashion to real grass is to lubricate the surface. Watering the artificial turf surface achieves this, allowing the ball to move faster and at a more even pace. It provides a slick surface for both ball and player movement. It does though require players to wear the right cleats for artificial grass in order to maintain a firm grip.
A secondary advantage to watering is that the water can dampen the bounce. In general, artificial turf can produce a higher bounce than traditional grass because of the firmness of the base that it is laid on and the rubber pellet infill. Watering the turf can reduce this bounce making it both more even and consistent with the bounce you would expect from natural turf.
In the same way that a ball moves differently over synthetic grass fiber, so does a player that might dive and slide during the course of a game. Being able to slide on artificial turf is far more difficult than on real grass and has an increased possibility of inducing carpet /rug burns to the player while doing so.
The lubrication of the grass by watering largely prevents these sorts of abrasion injuries and allows the players to slide and dive around more easily in a similar manner to the way they could on a real grass playing surface.
The Temperature of The Pitch Surface
A further benefit of watering artificial turf is that it brings down the temperature of the pitch. The synthetic fibers and matting that make up artificial turf retain heat in a way that real grass does not. This can be a particular problem. In hotter temperatures, not only does the pitch become extremely hot to the touch, but the heat also radiates up from the pitch increasing the surrounding air temperature. This is likely to impact on the performance of the players.
By watering the pitch you can reduce the surface temperature and the surrounding air temperature. In particularly hot climates on hot days, this is why you might see the pitch being not only watered before a game but again during intervals in play, such as at the halftime break in soccer.
Watering Artificial Turf Used in a Residential Setting
In a residential setting, some of the aspects discussed regarding the purpose of watering a sportsfield apply to this use case too. However, there are other reasons relating to general family use that you might need to water too.
The Temperature of The Lawn
Just as the artificial turf on a sports field retains heat so does the artificial turf on a domestic lawn. Granted, there is likely to be a big difference in the size of each installation but the turf can still become too hot to touch and the air temperature for the lawn area will increase.
The problems that these can cause are different in nature to those of a sports field. It can be an immediate problem if you have children or pets that like to play on the lawn. Children could easily receive burns if their skin comes into contact with the surface.
Whilst you may not necessarily be looking to use the lawn in the height of the day’s sun and heat, even as the ambient temperature of the day cools in the late afternoon, the temperature of the artificial turf on your lawn can remain high because of the retained heat. Watering the artificial lawn can mitigate this problem by bringing the surface temperature of the lawn down, which would allow you to use the lawn just as you would a natural grass lawn.
Pets and Cleaning
Aside from the temperature issue that could arise in certain climatic conditions, pets using the artificial lawn will result in pet waste.
Much of the hygiene issues that are associated with pet waste can be dealt with by using an artificial turf infill that is suitable for pets such as Zeolite. These infills trap the ammonia from pet urine and the water not only helps clean the synthetic grass but also washes away the gases retained by the infill.
Of course, the turf can become dirty through general use and doesn’t possess the regenerative cleaning and organic processing power that natural grass and soil have. Regular watering will help clean away most of this dirt leaving a fresher and more pleasant surface.
Artificial turf is becoming more common in public spaces because of the reduced maintenance required. It can be seen in children’s playgrounds schools and even some commercial premises might have it installed.
Much of what has been said with regard to residential use applies to artificial grassed public areas. Watering will be important in terms of keeping the areas clean and maintaining the quality of the surface.
Cleaning is likely to be one of the primary reasons to water as artificial turf in public spaces is likely to accumulate dirt far more quickly. It is probable that the owner or local authority responsible for these areas will have a regular rota to ensure the surface remains clean and safe.
Artificial Turf Drainage
Most sports fields will have been designed and installed with drainage in mind. They are usually built in a slightly convex shape that isn’t necessarily obvious to the eyes but allows the water to run off to the field’s edges. In addition, the mat bass into which the synthetic fiber tufts are sewn has small holes allowing the water to escape and preventing pooling when the surface is being watered.
In a domestic setting, although the turf base will have tiny drainage holes, it is unlikely that the surface will have a convex curve but when installing, the ground should be graded, so that there is a slight slope away from the building allowing water runoff. are built with
Local Water Restrictions
One problem with watering regimes for any lawn, either grass or synthetic, is the possibility of watering restrictions. Normally this is usually in the areas where watering is likely to be most needed.
Whilst these regulations often make some exceptions for sporting venues it is likely to affect residential lawns. The rules will differ from area to area and state to state so you would need to check locally as to the best solutions such as using recycled water.
Other advantages of Watering Artificial Turf
There are other advantages to regularly watering your artificial turf. From appearance to longevity, watering on a regular basis can make a big difference.
Extending the Longevity of the Artificial Turf
Possibly the most important benefit is the likely increase in the longevity of your artificial turf by regular watering. One of the great advantages of synthetic grasses is that they require very little maintenance compared to a traditional lawn. This is because by watering you are reducing friction through lubricating and softening the synthetic fibers during use.
Improving the Appearance of Artificial Turf
While the synthetic material is colored to your specifications before being installed, by watering it, you can add a sheen to the surface that enhances this color whilst it is moist.
This of course in addition to the fact that regular water will help keep the surface free of dust and other debris enhancing the overall appearance of the surface.
Watering will wash away a lot of the dust that can sometimes have a tendency to sit on the surface as latent static electricity can cause the dust to cling to the synthetic blades. During windy conditions, this can be whipped up into clouds of dust.
Summary: Why Do They Water Artificial Turf
Watering artificial turf has a multitude of benefits. These benefits vary in relation to use cases. Watering synthetic grass surfaces is particularly important for sports fields as watering not only reduces friction injuries but also provides a more consistent and natural grass-like surface to play sports such as field hockey or soccer.
In residential terms, it can make a big difference in keeping the surface cool and usable as well as the additional cleaning benefits that come with regularly watering an artificial lawn.
This is in addition to the general benefits that watering any artificial grass surface has, such as improving the appearance and increasing the longevity of the installation.