Artificial grass – a gardener’s friend or foe?

While artificial grass has been around for over 50 years, its only recently that we’ve seen a significant uptake in its usage amongst British gardeners and landscapers.

In years gone by, artificial lawn installations were confined to sports clubs and professional or educational establishments, but recent improvements in the production of textile grass-like-carpet materials have drastically reduced its cost and made it more popular for use in domestic settings.

While more homeowners are opting for artificial lawns, there are a number of common concerns that more seasoned gardeners have on the subject.  This article looks at some of the common concerns associated with artificial grass and offers a balanced argument on its usage in gardens today, addressing a few common myths along the way.

Isn’t artificial grass bad for drainage, the wildlife and the environment?

There is no escaping the fact that authentic turf lawns are far more wildlife-friendly than synthetic, man-made alternatives. Many gardeners would argue that replacing real grass with fake grass is essentially deforestation, and they might well have a valid point. Grass and soil is a valuable home to an abundance of wildlife which artificial grass simply cannot maintain.

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However, the perception that artificial grass is bad for drainage is often overstated and exaggerated. As with wildlife, artificial grass will never replace natural landscapes in being able to soak up and drain away water. That being said, it is in fact possible to ensure artificial grass is installed in such a way that it is permeable to a larger extent, allowing water to pass through and be soaked up by the ground beneath.

Where large areas are to be covered by artificial grass, the land can be contoured using multiple base layers of shale granite, limestone and soil to ensure heavy rainfall is channeled off to the sides which prevents flooding and puddles appearing on the synthetic lawn.

When considering other environmental factors, it is worth noting that artificial grass lawns will be unaffected should hosepipe bans be introduced – whereas a real lawn would perish and require considerable effort and resources to re-grow. In addition to reducing water usage, which is arguably an environmental benefit, other ways in which artificial grass could be deemed environmentally friendly includes the fact that no fertilisers are required for its upkeep and neither are petrol or diesel-powered lawnmowers which contribute to pollution.

I’ve heard the sun can change the colour of artificial grass over time

There’s an old saying in life that ‘you get what you pay for’.  Yes, if you scrimp on the cost of purchasing artificial grass then the quality of your purchase will suffer as a result.

Of course, this is not always true, but it is certainly the case when purchasing artificial grass.  Artificial grass which has been produced cheaply in China has started to appear in the UK.  Being cheap and often of a poor quality, this grass often tears and frays easily and has also been known to change colour when subjected to prolonged periods of bright sunshine.

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Be sure to check with your chosen supplier that your grass has been manufactured to include UV protection built in and, wherever possible, look to seek a warranty on the grass – particularly if you’ve had it installed professionally.

Will my children and / or pets be safe?

The safety of artificial grass has been quite a contentious issue recently, with those types of artificial grass which require a rubber crumb infill (which has been known to have be made from recycled car tyres) coming under particular fire in the mainstream media – specifically where artificial sports pitches are concerned. This is largely due to athletes coming into contact with this material when going to ground regularly on rubber crumb pitches using cheaply sourced infill material.

In recent years, production techniques have moved on significantly and now most artificial grass types on the UK market, particularly those aimed at residential customers, contain a sand filled base (as-opposed-to the controversial rubber crumb) which makes them completely safe for children and pets playing on them.

If you are thinking about artificial turf, sourcing a supplier who takes the time to properly discuss all your options where helping to improve child safety is children concerned is a must.

Pets will also be safe on artificial grass so long as it contains a sand-filled base. Cleaning up after your pets can be easily achieved using cleaning products which can be purchased from the same supplier who installed your grass. Other appropriate artificial grass cleaning products should be purchased from reputable home improvement stores and it’s very important to ensure they don’t contain any bleach.

It’s also highly recommended that people with pets which regularly use the garden choose an artificial grass with a shorter pile height (anything 30mm or under) as this also makes cleaning up far easier.

So, what’s the final verdict on artificial grass?

While gardening purists may never consider installing an artificial grass lawn in their outdoor spaces, it is clear that many of the common myths surrounding artificial grass are just that – myths.

Families with gardens that experience heavy footfall, and where maintenance is a particular challenge (think awkward shaped or sized lawns and the gardens of elderly folk) should consider their options where artificial grass is concerned. Many people who choose to install artificial grass lawns in their gardens do so in addition to other materials (stone, decking, gravel, real turf), and these can often complement each other very well.

Remember, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for, and it’s no different when choosing the supplier who will be installing your new artificial lawn.

This article was brought to you in association with Polished Artificial Grass, a company offering artificial grass installations for residential and commercial customers in the UK.

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