A well-maintained lawn is central to your home’s curb appeal and even adds to the value of your property. However, your turfgrass lawn is more than just eye candy. It provides a variety of environmental and health benefits.
Freshome asked Dan Sandor, a postdoctoral associate in turfgrass science at the University of Minnesota, to tell us more about the benefits of turfgrass lawns.
The environmental benefits of turfgrass
“Environmental and functional benefits of turfgrasses include soil erosion control; dust stabilization; carbon sequestration; groundwater recharge and improvement of surface water quality; reduction in pollution and contamination from runoff of sediments, nutrients and other organic chemicals; heat dissipation and temperature moderation and much much more,” Sandor says.
Sandor explains that turfgrasses also promote biodiversity, serving as an ecosystem for wildlife and, specifically, for many different species of invertebrates, such as insects and earthworms.
Turfgrass lawns and landscape plantings can reduce noise levels by absorbing and deflecting sounds. Additionally, they reduce glare and light reflection during the day. “Turfgrasses also function as natural firebreaks, which can lower the fire hazard of a home on the property,” Sandor says.
The health benefits of turfgrass
Turfgrass lawns also have health benefits, such as cleaning the air, which makes it easier to breathe. “By reducing pollution and allergy-related pollens (except for those allergic to grasses themselves), a properly-maintained lawn (i.e., a routinely mowed, dense lawn) reduces the amount of weeds and undesired flowering plant species that can contribute to allergies,” Sandor explains.
Managed turfgrass lawns reduce the nuisance and incidence of pests such as snakes, mosquitoes, ticks and chiggers. Sandor also says some of these critters are known vectors of diseases harmful to humans, such as malaria, Lyme disease and the Zika virus, just to name a few.
The energy benefits of turfgrass
Grass lawns also save energy by dissipating heat. Sandor says this reduces the required costs associated with cooling the inside of the home during the summer. According to one estimate, just planting lawns and plants could lower your air conditioning energy requirements by 25 percent.
A temperature comparison study in College Station, Texas found that green, growing turf had a maximum daytime surface temperature of 88 degrees. Dry, bare soil had a maximum daytime surface temperate of 102 degrees and synthetic turf had a maximum daytime temperature of 158 degrees.
“Other health and recreational benefits include provision of a low-cost, safe surface for sports and recreation and the resultant mental health benefits from partaking in such activities. Plus, the resiliency and cushioning effects of turfgrass lawns – which, if you have asked anyone who has played tennis on hard courts vs. grass courts – make a noticeable difference on the joints,” Sandor says.
Turfgrass lawns have a therapeutic impact. “Studies have shown mental health benefits and improvements to overall well-being when people are near green, densely vegetated areas, such as lawns, especially in urban environments such as the workplace, hospitals, low-income areas, prisons and retirement communities.”
For more information, Sandor recommends The National Turf Federation, The Lawn Institute and these two studies:
Beard, J.B. and R.L. Green. 1994. The role of turfgrasses in environmental protection and their benefits to humans. J. Environ. Qual. 23:452-460.
Stier, J.C., K, Steinke, E.H. Ervin, F.R. Higginson, and P.E. McMaugh. 2013. Turfgrass benefits and issues. In: J.C. Stier, B.P. Horgan, and S.A. Bonos, eds., Agronomy Monograph 56 Turfgrass: Biology, Use, and Management. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America: Madison, WI. p. 105-145.