April 22nd, 2021 by
Many of us really enjoy having a nice garden to spend time in over the spring and summer. An important element of the look of the garden, and how we use it, is the lawn area. The big decision here is whether to go for real grass or an artificial lawn. We take a look at the pros and cons of both to help you decide.
Real grass is obviously the standard for gardens and first became popular in the UK from the 17th century onwards when the aristocracy started incorporating lawns into their landscape gardens. They are still the staple surface covering for most gardens today. Let’s take a look at the benefits of real grass and the downsides:
- Biodiversity and environment
By far, the biggest selling point for a real lawn is its positive impact on the environment. It’s good for biodiversity, supporting a range of insects, and producing oxygen. 2,500 square feet can produce enough oxygen for a family of four to breathe and an average-sized healthy lawn can capture as much as 300 pounds of carbon per year, so great for offsetting carbon emissions for the ecologically minded.
One of the most iconic scents of the summertime is the fragrance of freshly cut grass, often appearing in many people’s top 10 favourite scents. The sensory nature of your garden can be just as important as the visual look in terms of the pleasure you get from it so this cannot be underestimated. Obviously, you can only achieve this naturally with real grass.
- Good for uneven areas
Real grass is more forgiving of uneven areas and can be used on slopes. So, if your garden isn’t totally flat (and cannot be made so), the grass is probably a better option.
Laying grass is much less expensive than most other surfaces. This obviously includes artificial grass but it’s also cheaper than paving stones, concrete or gravel. Even if you feel your grass is damaged beyond repair, it wouldn’t break the bank to re-turf it.
- Great for keen gardeners
While grass obviously requires maintenance (we’ll come to that in a moment), many keen gardeners actually really enjoy the challenge of creating a beautiful lawn. A lot of love can go into a lawn and it can really become the pride and joy of the garden. Regular mowing (stripes optional), feeding it to get a lovely green colour and applying iron sulphate to improve the soil and make it healthy can all form part of a lawn maintenance routine and be really rewarding when the hard work pays off. Tending to your garden has been proven to have a positive effect on mental health and this can certainly be an important part of that.
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Yes, this is the biggie for real grass; it does require some ongoing TLC to keep it looking nice. An absolute minimum is regular mowing throughout the spring and summer but to really create a lawn that’s the envy of the neighbours, you need to think about scarifying, weeding, feeding and patching it up when needed. Some enjoy this (see above) but many find it a bind.
- More ongoing expense
While grass is inexpensive to lay, there are some ongoing costs for maintenance products, as outlined above.
Very much linked to the above item but worthy of a mention in itself. Clearly, natural material like grass provides plenty of opportunities for weeds to appear and spoil the look of your lawn. Weedkiller isn’t always the best thing for the environment and however quickly you pull them up, more will appear so can feel like a full-time job in the summer.
- Reliant on the weather
As dedicated as you are to tending your lawn you will always, to a degree, be subject to the whims of the weather. Obviously, being a plant, grass needs sunshine and rain to grow but too much sunshine can kill it and too much rain can leave it waterlogged.
- Reliant on aspect
How much sun your garden gets will depend on its position. Obviously, a south-facing garden will get more and a north-facing one will get less. If your grass has too much shade, it won’t benefit from the conditions required for healthy growth. If you have quite a large garden you will find that some areas grow better than others because of the amount of sun and shade and the way it retains water, and this can create a patchy effect.
- More variable
As touched upon in the item above, natural grass can be patchy and even without the factor of shade and aspect, it can vary across the whole lawn for a number of reasons such as use or pet toileting etc. Plus, unless you’re out there mowing every other day, there will be times in between mowing when it gets long and untidy.
- Not as durable
You can obviously look after your lawn, and products such as iron sulphate will help your grass to become stronger, but things like footfall will wear it down if certain areas are used more than others over time and placing objects on its surface will kill it.
The popularity of artificial grass has grown exponentially in recent years and now has a £2billion global market. As with any new product, over time it has improved in quality (many are hardly distinguishable from real grass) and has become relatively more affordable. But how does it compare to real grass? Here are the pros and cons:
- Low maintenance
The biggest advantage, of course, is that it is low maintenance: no mowing, no weeding, no feeding. Great for people who don’t have a lot of time or who are not able to keep up with the garden, but still want a nice, green lawn.
An artificial lawn looks the same across its whole area and it will stay looking the same all year round. No becoming untidy between mowing, no patches where the sun doesn’t reach or the dog has killed it with its toileting. It remains constant without you having to do hardly anything.
- Great for pets
Artificial grass provides a really good surface for households with pets. Pet toileting won’t spoil it and it’s easier to pick up dog mess, though it is recommended to give it a clean periodically with an artificial grass cleaner designed to neutralise pet residues. An artificial lawn is also harder for dogs to dig up!
- Non-reliant on the weather
It doesn’t need sun, it doesn’t need rain, it won’t die in periods of drought – it just looks the same, all the time. It also means it’s perfect for shaded areas where real grass can struggle to thrive.
- Great for drainage
Artificial grass drains really well so it’s really good for areas of your garden that can become waterlogged or boggy. It means you can walk on it all year round and it doesn’t get muddy.
- More durable
An artificial lawn is more like a carpet than grass and this means it’s really robust so it won’t flatten with footfall and you can even place objects on it such as trampolines and garden furniture and the blades will spring back up once the object is removed. This makes it really good for children.
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- Even surface
Part of the installation process includes flattening the area down, giving you a very even surface. This makes your lawn very usable as you can safely place garden furniture and children’s play equipment on it.
- Not environmentally friendly
Artificial grass is a plastic product so not only does it deprive the garden of the biodiversity and carbon-absorbing properties that real grass would, you will eventually have to dispose of a large lump of plastic (artificial lawns usually last around 7-10 years). At the moment, artificial grass is difficult to recycle due to the infill needing to be separated from the plastic, however recycling technology is improving and it may become easier in the future.
While the cost of artificial grass is falling as it becomes more popular, it is still significantly more expensive than real grass. There is a cost to both the grass itself and to the installation, which should be done professionally for the best results. While it may be more affordable for a small to medium-sized garden, it is still prohibitively costly for a large area.
- Low maintenance, not no maintenance
Artificial grass is certainly low maintenance when compared to real grass but it still requires some work. Some very determined weeds can grow through and seeds can be dispersed by birds and wind so these will need pulling up (many weed killers can damage the surface). You also need to brush it periodically to sweep away debris and allow the blades to bounce back up and pet owners are advised to clean it occasionally with a product designed for this purpose.
- Can look too artificial
Certainly, artificial grass has become more realistic over time and a good product will be hard to distinguish from real grass, However, cheaper products and poor installation can leave you with a fake-looking lawn. Even with the good ones, some may think that it looks too perfect, and prefer something more natural-looking.
- Not appropriate for sloping gardens
Just as it would be difficult to carpet a sloped room, artificial grass is not suitable for sloping or very uneven gardens as it’s hard to anchor the lawn down smoothly.
There are lots of factors to consider when thinking about which type of lawn to have. Hopefully, these points here can help you reach a conclusion.
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