If you have kids, you know they’re active and messy. They are also probably part of the reason you have a backyard in the first place. You may be tempted to buy or make playground equipment for them; a swing set is simple enough. But you quickly learn that the grass beneath that swing set gets worn from your child stopping the swing.
So, how do you let your kids have fun while keeping your lawn nice? This guide will tell you how, but we must get one important point about lawns and swing sets out of the way. Don’t worry—there’s more after it!
The simplest answer to protecting the grass beneath your swing set is, unfortunately, “you don’t.” Your grass isn’t the best idea around swing sets, especially ones designed for children. It doesn’t cushion a child’s fall very well (still better than concrete), wears down easily, and gets tracked all over the house.
No matter what you do, the grass beneath your swing set is bound to endure at least some wear and tear. This could just be from children stopping the swing. At some point, you will either want to remove the grass or endure those worn spots. But the wear is inevitable.
Popular substrates for swing sets include mulch, sand, and pea gravel. If you have the time, landscaping experience, and money, it is usually better to create a grass-free area around your swing set.
If you never thought about going that far, there are reasons to keep your grass! For example, if you ever plan on moving, the next person in your house might not need space for a playground. And if your kids outgrow their swing set, you might want to do something else with the space.
We don’t give up easily; if this section didn’t deter you, neither do you. There are ways to set up a swing set without heavy landscaping. (Do level the area, though.)
How to Protect Grass Under Swing
Swing mats are simple rubber mats that you place beneath your swing set. They can be used individually or placed side by side to create a “ground.” They aren’t good cushioning, and you will have to reseed your lawn afterward, but the rest of your yard will be intact. No landscaping here!
Of course, using swing mats will kill the grass beneath them. You may want to get rid of the grass there in advance. Otherwise, it may start to rot and smell. Swing mats are readily available at Amazon.com.
Landscaping fabric is more of a supplement than a solution. If you want to put anything but grass under your swing set, landscaping fabric is a much easier option than trying to pull up swaths of grass. Cover the grass-free area with mulch, a swing mat, gravel, or whatever you like after the fabric has done its work.
If you don’t want your backyard to look like a playground, your best bet might be artificial grass. Fake turf has gotten so sophisticated that it looks and feels like the real thing. It doesn’t require mowing, won’t wear down as easily as real grass, and won’t track as much mud into the house. However, it doesn’t cushion falls as well as natural grass (which, again, is not great) and can be expensive to install.
Mulch (Wood or Rubber)
Woodchips, more commonly known as mulch, are a playground classic. They cushion well. They prevent weeds. Depending on whether you choose rubber or wood mulch, there is a risk of chemicals, pests, and splinters. Do your research before deciding; the consensus is that rubber mulch is one of the best substrates for play areas.
If you decide to use mulch, however, it is probably best to do a little bit of landscaping. Create a border to keep the mulch from touching your lawn. This will keep rubber mulch from clogging your mower whenever you need to mow the lawn.
Combine Your Options
For maximum endurance and cleanability, you may wish to combine the techniques we mentioned. There’s no reason you can’t put a mat under mulch, for example, or use a mat or mulch on top of artificial turf.
Many websites act like you have done, or are willing to do, a ton of landscaping work to make your swing set grass-free. This might not be ideal if you ever plan to sell your house (or if you bought the swing set on impulse). We got this idea out of the way early and assumed you wanted to keep most of your lawn.
Even though your grass will get worn down by kids at play, that doesn’t mean you have to terraform your entire yard. Swing mats are an easy solution: remove the grass where you want to put your swing mat, then put the mat down so you won’t have to worry. Mulch and artificial turf are other solutions. If you want to keep it simple, clear one area beneath your swing set, then place the mats.
But know that on a high-activity swing set, some wear on your lawn is inevitable. Your options are to endure the natural damage of your kid’s shoes on grass as they stop the swing or replace/cover the grass. The solution is up to you.