SRP Landscape Research Exhibit results

The SRP Landscape Research Exhibit has resulted in a number of findings about the various landscape products and options.

Conducted from October 2004 to April 2006 at an SRP facility in Tempe, the exhibit gathered data on selected grass varieties, synthetic turf, xeriscape, and soil amendments, as well as comparative information about the surface temperatures of different landscapes.

This information is intended to help the community and Salt River Valley municipalities in their water conservation efforts, not to endorse specific companies or products. SRP will continue to monitor these and other study components, such as a comparison of the water consumption between summer and winter lawns, and additional findings will be incorporated periodically.

Key findings

Key project findings to date are as follows:

  • Low-water-use and drought-resistant grasses: While all of the low-water-use and drought-resistant grasses remained healthy with less water than recommended by the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension consumptive use curve for maintaining acceptable quality turf, the Princess 77, Tifsport, and SeaIsle 1 Paspalum performed best under artificial drought scenarios that cut water applied to the grasses over a three-month period by 10%, 20%, and 30%, respectively. Click on a photo below to see a sample of that grass in use.

  • Warm season turf dormancy: Unlike the other grasses tested, the Princess 77 did not go dormant during the testing period. Instead, it stayed green and active the entire time, indicating it may be a variety that thrives year-round in the Phoenix metropolitan area without overseeding.

    Warm season turf dormancy dates graph
  • Synthetic turf: Synthetic turf is a low-water-use, low-maintenance alternative to live grass, but it is not a water-free, maintenance-free product. It does need some water to clean the surface and cool it during summer months, and it does require periodic maintenance, including weed control, to keep it looking natural. While the synthetic varieties showed no visible fading through the initial 18-month test period, additional monitoring is necessary to determine long-term fade resistance.
  • Landscape surface temperature: In a comparison of surface temperatures including synthetic turf, xeriscape, grass, and an asphalt parking lot, synthetic turf was the hottest surface measured, registering more than 150 degrees during the peak heat of a summer day. However, unlike the asphalt parking lot, the synthetic turf did not seem to radiate heat and cooled rapidly when shaded (as evidenced by the green line on the accompanying graph, which depicts a synthetic turf that received afternoon shade).

    Landscape surface temperature comparison graph
  • Xeriscape: The xeriscape demonstration garden used 12 times less water than would have been needed to maintain a similar-sized area of turf based on the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension consumptive use curve.
  • Soil amendments: All of the soil amendments, particularly the CBX and Organic Gem, extended irrigation intervals by retaining soil moisture longer, made the grass visibly greener, and reduced soil compaction.
    In the long-term, however, issues with the BioFlora and Nutrimoist raised soil compaction and degraded soil health, causing poor drainage and increased salinity levels.

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