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Ask Alfie May 2015

Ask ALfie

Q.We are finding it hard to keep our lawn in good condition. What are the pros and cons of installing artificial grass?

A. Artificial grass is becoming increasingly popular and the advantages spring straight to mind in the reasons people choose to make the change. You end up with a surface which is usable and looks good throughout the year and requires little regular maintenance. Visually, artificial grass is becoming more and more realistic, and manufacturers produce a range of styles to reflect both budgets and type of use. For those with children, an all weather facility is a massive plus.

However the decision to go fake is not quite as straightforward as it might first appear and it is worth considering the following factors in weighing up those pros and cons.

Firstly installation costs. The material itself is around five times more expensive than natural turf, and if installed professionally, appropriate base and drainage works will be taken into account as well as a retaining edge to secure the fabric. (This is not to deny that a good new natural lawn may also require significant preparation to achieve a successful result).

Secondly and importantly in my opinion are the sensory considerations. Once you’ve gone synthetic, you forego the delights of the aroma of freshly cut grass and the underfoot pleasure of the summer lawn. And even the best top end artificial grass does not look as good as a healthy natural sward.

Next are environmental factors. It would be highly depressing if all our lawns were plastic and the loss in soil organisms would be tangible, but in many ways those who strive for the perfect natural lawn can do more harm ecologically – watering during dry spells and regular use of lawn chemicals, not to mention the carbon emissions from petrol lawn mowers are negatives if compared to artificial grass. On the other hand if the conditions are right for a wild flower meadow, there might be significant ecological plusses over artificial grass – the bonus of pollinating insects and butterflies and a potential sea of colour in spring or summer.

But if it’s a play surface you’re after then a wild flower meadow makes no sense and small town gardens are often entirely unsuited to this ideal.

Finally I think it is reasonable to say that artificial grasses are less comfortable for picnics and sunbathing and hold heat more noticeably on those few days which might be classed as scorchers.

So taking everything into account if your natural lawn is trouble free and grows reasonably well without too much hard labour and re-patching then why change it, but if you struggle to avoid ugly wear and tear, or find it impossible to use your lawn during wet spells then that high initial investment in fake grass might pay off significantly in the long run.

And a final thought. Don‘t think you can get away with claiming that your artificial lawn is real!!!

That wouldn’t be cricket.

About Alfie Bines (24 Articles)
I have been tending the gardens of North London for longer than I care to remember accumulating a huge amount of horticultural knowledge along the way.