Whether you're constructing a large wooden play structure for your children or are simply setting up a small swing set, you may be wondering what you can do to help protect the surrounding ground from turning into a matted, muddy, potentially dangerous mess. A good ground cover can not only protect the soil from constant pounding and play, but can protect your children from injury if they fall from the play set. Read on to learn more about your ground cover options.
One of the least expensive options available to you is wood chips or mulch. Many areas even offer free wood chips at the local recycling plant, made from unusable lumber and other scrap wood. Although these free wood chips often don't come with a "weed-free" guarantee, you may still find it worthwhile to take advantage of free or inexpensive mulch for your play set and simply pull up any weeds that may emerge.
Because a cushion of wood chips contains a lot of air, these chips create a springy surface that can help soften falls or blows. However, wood chips often aren't ideal for low-lying or swampy areas, as the constant moisture coming from the ground can help attract bugs and other undesirables.
Another relatively inexpensive option that can help dampen weed growth and assist ground drainage is pea gravel. Like its namesake, this gravel is small, round, and smooth—helping avoid skinned knees while creating a thick barrier between the ground and the playing surface. Depending upon the thickness of the pea gravel, it may work to impede speed while running, making it a good option if you're concerned about kids becoming too unruly and ending up hurt.
Pea gravel may not be the best ground cover choice if you're going to have very young children using this play set, as a small child may be tempted to eat the gravel (or place a piece up his or her nose). Some types of pea gravel can also be dusty, so you may want to keep this in mind when making your selection.
One option especially suited to serve as the base for a wooden play set is recycled rubber. This rubber is shredded, cleaned, dyed, and compressed into springy tiles that repel water and avoid wear and tear on the knees and other joints. By placing your wooden play set over these rubber tiles, you can help avoid rotting and warping of the anchor posts due to water exposure.
An aesthetically-pleasing and durable option for ground cover is artificial grass or astro turf. This grass has the appearance of natural grass, but won't be damaged by frequent or rough play (and requires no mowing!) Depending upon the type of play place you're building, you may choose to tack down a standard sheet of this grass, or you might opt for one of several types of underlayment that provides the artificial grass with more of a cushion.
Because this grass drains fairly well, it's also a good choice for wooden play sets. However, the plastic "blades" can become slippery while wet, so it's important to use caution to avoid injury when playing on wet or damp artificial grass. Contact a company like Turf Pro Synthetics, LLC if this is the type of ground cover you'd like.
After the play area is covered, watch the kids have fun!