Can I Install Artificial Grass Under Oak Trees? (Pros & Cons)
Most folks who have tried to grow a natural grass lawn under oak trees quickly learn that this is not a good idea. The oak trees are bad for the grass, the grass is bad for the oak trees, and neither of them end up happy. While the oak tree usually wins and the grass simply cannot thrive in its shadow, there are instances where a natural grass lawn can do enough damage to kill an oak tree. In some cases, this can result in a dangerous situation where a huge oak tree falls on a patio, driveway or house after extensive root damage occurs.
There are several reasons why oak trees and natural grass do not play well together, but here are just a few to give you the general idea:
1. Oak trees produce a lot of tannins. When the leaves, twigs and acorns fall onto the ground and decompose, it introduces these tannins into the soil, which makes it a bit more acidic. Oaks trees like soil that is neutral to acidic, so this is not a problem for them, but it is an issue for many types of plants and grasses you might want to grow near the oak trees.
2. Oak trees and grass compete for nutrients in the soil. The large, extensive root systems of oak trees usually win. The exception to this is with nitrogen, which is usually hogged by the shallower grass roots before it can reach the roots of the tree.
3. Established oak trees do not require much water to thrive, but natural grass does. This causes two issues. The first issue is that the tree roots absorb more than their fair share of the water, leaving the grass thirsty. The second issue is that the amount of water it requires to keep a natural grass lawn alive and healthy is way too much water for the oak trees and can actually rot the root system.
4. Oak trees provide a lot of shade, which is great for outdoor living areas or play areas, but is not good for most types of grass, which require regular sunlight to thrive.
It is commonly known that natural grass generally does not do well under oak trees for these reasons and others, so what are the alternatives? You could opt for wood chips, mulch, bark or gravel. None of these will compete with the oak tree for nutrients and none of them require water, but they will all allow water to permeate into the soil for the trees.
However, none of these options give you the look and feel of natural grass, so if you are hoping for the visual appeal and function of a grass lawn, wood chips and gravel are not going to be able to provide that.
A much closer option to consider is artificial grass. Synthetic turf lawns look, feel and function like natural grass lawns but are much easier to care for, stay the same stunning green throughout the year, and can be installed in places where natural grass would never grow or at least would not grow well.
One of these spots is under oak trees. So, where natural grass would struggle to survive and potentially damage the tree, artificial grass can be installed instead to give you the look and function you want without removing your trees.
Can I Install Artificial Grass Under Oak Trees?
The most common concerns about installing synthetic grass under trees are whether or not it will harm the tree’s roots, whether or not the tree roots will damage the fake turf as they grow, and whether or not it will be difficult to properly install artificial grass in this situation.
Let’s first look at whether or not artificial grass will harm an oak tree’s roots.
Other than spraying it down with a garden hose every once in a while to remove dust and debris, manufactured grass does not require irrigation. Therefore, unlike natural grass, artificial turf does not pose a danger to tree roots in regards to excessive water in the soil. Because fake grass is permeable, the rainfall or irrigation that provides water to the tree’s root system will permeate through the porous backing and into the soil where the roots can absorb it.
Artificial grass does absorb heat differently than natural grass, which can be an issue for some species of trees. However, fake turf mostly increases in temperature when exposed to direct sunlight on very hot days, and the temperature of the grass quickly drops when shade is introduced. Oak trees provide large canopies of shade that would cover much of the grass laid over the root system, which would help to regulate the temperature of the grass. Additionally, the oak trees that thrive in Southern California are well-suited for thriving in hot, dry conditions. And, of course, artificial grass under oak trees can help insulate the roots of trees during the colder months of winter.
There is also some concern that manufactured lawns may limit the ability to fertilize trees; however, established oak trees require no fertilizers, so this is not an issue. With other trees, it is possible to fertilize on top of the grass and allow water to take the fertilizer into the soil. However, before doing this, you should talk to your artificial grass installer to determine which fertilizers are the best choice for this and which could clog the backing material or damage your lawn.
The next issue of concern is whether or not the oak tree roots will damage the synthetic grass or cause it to shift as the roots near the surface grow. While it is possible for surface-level oak tree roots to grow in a manner that could make your artificial grass shift or sag in that area over a long period of time, this can be easily fixed. Plus, this is not a common occurrence, and it would take a long time for the tree’s roots to grow enough to cause a noticeable difference.
If this does occur, simply call your installer to come out and fix it.
Another common concern with installing artificial grass under oak trees is whether or not you can properly prepare the base beneath the turf. There are several steps involved in properly installing artificial grass, and base preparation is integral to the overall integrity of your lawn. When a project calls for installing artificial grass under oak trees, a main concern is avoiding damaging the roots of a wanted tree. For example, surface-level tree roots will influence the amount of soil compaction you can achieve without causing damage to the roots.
While installing artificial grass under oak trees is different than installing it away from these large root systems, this does not prohibit the use of synthetic turf in these situations. Experienced turf installers will be able to successfully install your grass and make any necessary recommendations to ensure a satisfactory end result.