The use of synthetic turf is expanding — and not just in sports applications. As materials used to create synthetic turf improve, resulting in a much more realistic product, the use of synthetics in landscape applications continues to grow as well. Especially in regions that are faced with water use restrictions or all-out watering bans, many clients are turning to synthetics as a way of enjoying green turf in their landscape. To examine this evolving trend, Landscape and Irrigation recently spoke with Domenic Carapella, president and founder of Geo Safe Play, a New York-based provider of synthetic turf for sports and landscape applications.
LI: Tell us about your company and the product.
Carapella: In Europe, Limonta Sport [the parent company of Geo Safe Play] mandated its own policies to deal with any problems occurring with synthetic turf — especially with crumb rubber infill. Limonta created InfillPro Geo, an organic and blended infill product made of coconut fiber and cork. It has an extremely high tensile strength, and is UV- and heat-treated to kill any organisms on the material.
The turf itself is a lead-free yarn. Developed by TenCate yarns in Holland. It is primarily designed for sports applications. Our MAX S product is 60mm pile height, which is approximately 2-1/4 inches. For landscape applications, we cut that down to 40mm or approximately 1-3/4 inches in height.
LI: What are the benefits of organic infill?
Carapella: Synthetic turf, if you just go with the turf — without infill — is extremely hot. The organic infill reduces the ambient temperature and also prevents water runoff. The permeation rate is 20 inches of water per hour. Heat is drastically reduced, and, because it is organic, at the end of the 8- to 10-year life of the turf, the organic infill can be recycled. You can dump it into planting beds to create a thermal blanket. Crumb rubber on the other hand would have to be disposed of properly because it is a biohazard.
LI: Are you marketing your synthetic turf directly to landscape contractors?
Carapella: We are marketing directly to landscapers and residential clients. We have also received tremendous reception in playgrounds, because the abrasion level emulates that of natural turf. We actually had a school nurse write to us that our turf had cut down incidents of bruises, scrapes and abrasions by 70 percent.
LI: What type of acceptance is synthetic turf receiving in the landscape market?
Carapella: In Australia they are ordering 14 shipping containers full of landscape turf per month to meet the demand created by laws and regulations, as well as the drought conditions. The landscape turf is being used to completely replace existing lawns.
LI: What type of installation is required for synthetic turf?
Carapella: Installation is similar to installing carpet. It has to be on a firm base, so there are two ways of installing:
Prepare a sub-base similar to putting down paving stones, with a crushed stone or gravel foundation that is tamped down and leveled.
A company called Brock makes an extruded polystyrene panel that is 1-inch thick. You would remove the organic materials and roots and allow for the 1-inch-thick panel, which comes in 4-foot by 8-foot panels.
In either case you would still put down a sand base at one pound of sand per square foot, and then one pound of infill per square foot. The sand forms a base for drainage.
Small pieces of turf, say 10×10, would require landscape pins or edging to hold the edges. In larger installations, the weight of the synthetic turf itself keeps it down.
LI: What advice would you have for landscape contractors who are interested in offering synthetic turf?
Carapella: Be sure to research the products. Make sure you have a product that is guaranteed, make sure it doesn’t contain lead. Find the best product, and be sure that you are offering something unique. Know what you are selling.