Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Lawn and beyond: The powerful benefits of natural turfgrass

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(BPT) - Healthy, natural turfgrass is more than just a pleasing addition to your yard and home’s curb appeal. Natural turfgrass is among the most resilient plant materials and provides many benefits that can improve your quality of life and the environment. There are countless turfgrass species and cultivars that are adapted to different climates and uses, and researchers from universities and companies like ScottsMiracle-Gro are driving innovation in this area as the environment and consumer needs continue to shift.

“Natural turfgrass is often misunderstood,” says Dr. Kelly Kopp, Extension Water Conservation and Turfgrass Specialist at Utah State University. “Misconceptions and misinformation have given it a bad reputation in some circles. But the truth is that natural turfgrass has the potential to foster a healthier environment and provides a multitude of benefits to the individual, local communities, and the planet.”

The benefits of natural turfgrass

According to Dr. Kopp, natural turfgrass can be a powerful tool for promoting sustainability. As a groundcover, it prevents soil erosion, slows the flow of stormwater, filters nutrients out of stormwater, and improves soil structure. Like all living plants, it also absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen, trapping carbon underground and reducing atmospheric concentrations. It is also proven to lower atmospheric temperatures, which are increasing in certain areas known as urban heat islands.

Ecosystems also benefit from natural turfgrass. It provides a habitat for wildlife, from bees to birds to bugs, while also supporting the growth of native species of plants.

Growing natural turfgrass helps create a more resilient environment, too. During a storm, the roots stabilize soil, slowing water runoff and preventing erosion. They also act as natural water filters, keeping contaminants from entering local water systems. Dr. Matthew Koch, Director of Biotechnology, Genetics, and Grass Seed at The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, explains that diverse varieties of natural turfgrass species are even more beneficial for rainwater absorption than one species alone. Dr. Koch explains, “Different natural turfgrass species have different root structures. Some are deeper and more extensive, while others are shallower. The diversity of roots helps to improve soil structure which reduces erosion and enhances water absorption.”

Along with the many ecological and environmental benefits, natural turfgrass is also beneficial for mental health and well-being. According to Scotts’ The Benefits of Lawn report, natural grasses and other ornamental plants can reduce noise levels by 20-30%,[1] creating a tranquil environment, which is especially helpful in loud, urban areas, and allows for outdoor play and recreation. Studies have also shown that spending time in natural environments can reduce cortisol levels, which are associated with stress.

Cultivating sponge cities with natural turfgrass

Natural turfgrass has an important role to play in cities, says Dr. Kopp, especially in large urban areas prone to storms.

Many urban areas face challenges when excessive rainfall overwhelms inadequate stormwater management systems. During a heavy storm, rain cannot infiltrate the concrete and asphalt that dominate traditional urban areas, and this causes flooding. Instead of building more impervious surfaces, Dr. Kopp says cities should utilize the water retention and infiltration properties that natural turfgrass provides by increasing its use in green spaces and cultivating “sponge cities.”

The idea behind sponge cities is fairly simple: increase green spaces using natural turfgrass and other plants, replacing impervious concrete and asphalt where possible, to reduce flooding. By increasing green spaces in cities and large urban areas with trees, plants, natural turfgrass and other green infrastructure, the landscape is better equipped to absorb rainfall and filter water efficiently. Similarly to the way grass prevents soil erosion during storms on your lawn, natural turfgrass and other green elements can reduce the burden on stormwater runoff systems and mitigate flooding. In fact, lawns can balance out 100% of runoff from roofs, drives, and streets that are connected to storm sewers and convey stormwater directly to streams or lakes (see Footnote 1).

Combating urban heat islands

Flooding isn’t the only challenge cities face that natural turfgrass can help solve. Because concrete and asphalt materials can’t absorb and release water efficiently, they can’t cool the environment. In fact, these impermeable materials retain a great amount of heat. Combined with high population densities, cities with large impervious areas can easily turn into heat islands.

Urban heat islands occur when cities experience warmer temperatures than nearby rural areas, which tend to be less developed and have more green space. In turn, those green spaces hold less heat and have grasses, trees, shrubs, and other natural features that keep the area cooler than nearby cities. According to Climate Central’s Hot Zones: Urban Heat Islands report, trees and vegetation, alone or in combination with shading, can help reduce peak summer temperatures by 2–9°F (1–5°C) in an urban area.[2]

Adding natural turfgrass can help reduce city temperature, preventing the urban heat island effect. Dr. Kopp explains that when natural turfgrass absorbs water through its roots, it moves through the plant becoming water vapor that is then released into the air through grass leaves, naturally cooling the environment. Whether in parks, greenways, or lawns, more natural turfgrass in urban landscapes can keep the environment cooler and reduce heat-related risks.

Transform your landscape for the better

From promoting sustainability and biodiversity to mitigating flooding and combating urban heat islands, natural turfgrass has much to offer.

Scotts, a leader in lawn care for more than a century and a half, leverages scientific research and qualified experts to educate and inform the public about the benefits of natural turfgrass while continuously innovating its products to adapt to the changing environment and homeowners’ needs.

To learn more about the power of natural turfgrass and how you can transform your landscape for the better, visit Scotts.com.



[1] The Scotts Company. (2002, July). The Benefits of Lawns: A Balanced Look at Published Information.

[2] Climate Central. (2021, July 14). Hot Zones: Urban Heat Islands.