Nothing beats a real grass lawn, but artificial turf has grown in popularity over the years as a supposedly low-maintenance alternative.
While fake turf is a lot better than it used to be, can it hold its own in terms of environmental benefits?
In this article, we’ll look at a few of the main differences between real and fake turf and how they might affect the eco-friendliness of your lawn over the years to come.
In an era when we are all trying to cut down on our plastic consumption, laying a lawn made of plastic grass is a major obstacle to your efforts to be eco-friendly.
Real grass not only avoids using plastic, but acts as a store for carbon too. Green grass consumes carbon dioxide during photosynthesis and releases oxygen into the air – something particularly beneficial in urban areas.
While it is true that grass clippings release that carbon again as they decay, you can let your lawn grow a little longer to avoid this, and leave the clippings on your lawn to act as fertiliser for the blades that grow in their place.
Artificial grass drains up to 50 litres per square metre per minute, and this figure has improved over the years thanks to better-designed backing on synthetic grass ‘turf’.
Natural grass drainage depends on the soil conditions, but it’s important to think about where the water goes.
With artificial turf, the water drains straight through and is quickly dumped into the sewers. Real grass – and real soil – slows this process down, retaining some of the water for longer.
In a downpour, that reduces demand on the local sewers and can buy crucial extra minutes for wastewater to drain away, without the nearby drains and pipes becoming overwhelmed.
And when the sun comes out after a storm, all you’ll smell with artificial grass is wet plastic, whereas with a real lawn you can get the evocative scent of petrichor.
Artificial grass lawns have a limited lifespan, often around 7-10 years. If not laid correctly, they will start to show signs of wear and tear much sooner.
They are not maintenance-free, either. You may need to wash your fake grass to remove moss and algae – this could end up more time-consuming than using feed-and-weed on a real lawn, and may require the use of soapy detergents that drain into the soil.
Good quality turf, on the other hand, will last for years once it puts down strong roots. Even after a heatwave, natural grass will grow back once watered.
Artificial lawns are a lot better than they used to be, not only in terms of aesthetic appeal but also characteristics like sustainable drainage.
But they do not store carbon or produce oxygen; they do not slow the release of wastewater during a deluge, and they are far from maintenance-free over the long term.
Finally, natural grass provides a hugely important ecosystem for all sorts of beneficial bugs that work their way up the food chain via birds, hedgehogs and other friendly garden dwellers.
Artificial grass may have the visual effect, but looks can be deceiving, and we believe a real turf lawn will always come out on top overall.