Artificial lawns are becoming more popular
The sight of pristine, green artificial grass is becoming a familiar sight, especially in domestic gardens but what are the benefits and are there any downsides?
What is it made from?
Artificial grass is made principally from a mix of plastics – polypropylene, polyurethane and polyethylene.
How is it laid?
The topsoil has to be removed and replaced with a compacted limestone base which is then covered by a weed suppressing membrane. If there are no firm edges to work to these must be installed. The limestone is then blinded in with sharp sand. The artificial turf is then laid on top of this, trimmed off and kiln dried sand brushed onto the surface.
Artificial turf laying diagram
Where can it be used to best effect?
Anywhere that it may be too challenging to grow natural grass such as roof gardens, balconies, over existing areas of concrete and environmentally difficult areas such as ground periodically flooded by sea water or in very dense shade.
Does it need mowing or watering?
The freedom from the twin chores of mowing and watering are amongst the greatest advantages that it has over natural grass.
No need to mow, just wash and sweep frequently instead
How long does artificial grass last?
If neglected both natural and artificial grass will deteriorate very quickly, looked after artificial grass has an expected life of around 15 years, natural grass can last considerably longer.
A well tended natural grass lawn
Can it damage the environment?
Whereas natural grass assists in carbon capture the same cannot be said of artificial grass. Fossil fuels are used to make it, and at the end of its life it is yet another non-biodegradable plastic to dispose of.
Is it wildlife friendly?
The removal of existing topsoil and grass removes the habitat of creatures such as butterflies, bees, worms and garden birds and replacement with artificial turf creates a barren area for wildlife
Bumble bees thrive in natural grass
What happens to the soil underneath?
Laying geotextiles on top of the soil can in the long term be very damaging. The natural downward flow of organic matter is interrupted to the detriment of soil life. Without the beneficial action of creatures like earthworms the soil may become anaerobic, compacted and poorly drained, in short a barren soggy mess!
Is it maintenance free?
No, unlike natural grass where mowing removes much of the debris that falls onto it, to maintain artificial grass in pristine condition you have to wash and brush it much as you would with a well soiled indoor carpet.
Old neglected weedy artificial grass – unlike natural grass it does not renew itself
Do weeds and moss grow on artificial grass?
Yes, to prevent weeds or moss forming you will have to use garden pesticides, physical removal by scarification may cause more damage instead.
Can embers from a BBQ damage artificial grass?
Natural grass is a wonderful thing, if hot embers burn the leaves it will soon regenerate, unlike artificial grass which will be permanently damaged.
Can artificial grass be damaged by wild animals?
In gardens that have existing problems from badgers or moles digging it is possible that they will also dig up any artificial grass as well.
Laying artificial grass is currently a fast growing sector of the landscaping industry, the short term impacts are aesthetically pleasing and initially it is both durable and relatively maintenance free. However it is far more expensive to install than natural lawn turf, does not regenerate and apparently has negative impacts to both wildlife and the environment.
Tim Brayford Landscapes were established in 1980 and are British Association of Landscape Industries National Award Winners for Garden Design & Construction. For more photos, advice & stories about gardening please visit our website email email@example.com phone 07890 869918