Real vs. Fake: Why I still prefer Natural Lawns
In the agriculture and gardening world there are many controversial topics, like Roundup Ready crops, or native vs nonnative plants. One that tends to hit close to home is the real grass vs artificial grass debate, especially as this discussion often stretches past gardening lovers.
More often than not, artificial grass is laid in the gardens of busy people who wouldn’t normally choose to spend their free time working amongst plants and soil. Unfortunately, not everyone sees gardening as an enjoyable pastime, and to some it can be a massive chore.
So we’re going to unpack the real vs fake subject to see what makes people choose real or fake grass.
Money is on everyone’s minds, whether you intend it to be or not. And who’s to blame you for wanting a stunning lawn while saving some cash?
The initial outlay for artificial grass is high, with costs averaging between £60 to £75 per square meter when fitted by a professional. Many would see this as a long term investment, as artificial grass removes the need for watering and mowing, thus cutting water consumption and bills, and gas or electric costs for running a lawn mower.
The issue comes from any possible repair works as you’ll need to hire a professional again to fix them, as well as paying for new materials.
It’s also not unheard of for weeds to grow through base layers of concrete or sand and get stuck at the weed membrane, causing lumps in your fake lawn. Again, you’ll need to pay for a professional to fix the problem.
Depending on how much footfall your garden sees, or how unlucky you may be, the cost of having artificial grass could easily rack up over its lifespan.
Starting a real grass lawn from scratch isn’t usually required unless your garden was completely paved over. If that’s the case, growing grass is as simple as sowing seeds, watering, and maybe a little bit of fertiliser.
Maintaining real grass is quite cheap in monetary terms – grass seeds cost pennies and fertiliser isn’t regularly required. The cost can become noticeable in hot climates during the summer when daily watering is needed to keep your grass healthy. This can become especially difficult if a hosepipe ban is put in place during droughts. The cost of watering your lawn daily, especially if it’s a large space, can become noticeable in your water bill.
Look, Feel, and Uses
When artificial grass was first created, it was worlds apart from the real thing. You could easily spot the synthetic version a mile off. However, as technology, materials, and techniques have progressed, artificial grass has begun to catch up to its natural counterpart.
Now you can choose from various finishes, colours, and textures. Some types of fake grass come with brown blades dotted amongst the green to give a more real effect. Others come in ‘freshly mown’ stripes. You can even choose your grass based on whether you have pets, or your lawn receives a lot of footfall.
What’s more, artificial grass isn’t confined to the garden. Due to its synthetic nature, it has found its way onto balconies, outside caravans, and even children’s play areas. Fake grass can go where real grass can’t, or would very much struggle to survive.
However, even with its vast progression, artificial grass still isn’t the real thing. From a distance it may fool some, but up close, there’s no hiding those synthetic blades.
On top of that, nothing can beat or compare to the feel of natural grass. In the heat of the summer artificial grass can get very hot, almost making it risky to walk on depending on your climate. Real grass continues to stay cool and safe for bare feet, even in the hottest temperatures.
Although fake grass may have an edge when it comes to location versatility, the real deal still comes out on top in look and feel.
Level of Care
One of the most notable differences between the two is the amount of care each requires.
You can’t quite install and leave artificial grass, but it’s not far off. There’s no mowing to be done, or dead patches to fill in. However, if something gets spilled like drinks, or a pet decides to go to the loo on fake grass, it is advised that you hose the area down to help the liquids pass through the synthetic layer to the ground underneath. This prevents smells and staining.
It’s not uncommon for artificial grass owners to head out to the garden with a broom to sweep their lawn every so often. You can even use a hoover to remove any dust or dirt that may have built up!
Beyond that, there’s not much else to do.
Real grass needs a bit more time invested to reap the benefits. The biggest commitment is mowing regularly to keep your lawn at an ideal length, which can turn into a weekly task during the growing season. If you have a large garden, this can be a lengthy job.
If your garden’s soil is lacking in nutrients, you may need to fertilise your grass every month or so, which again can be a laborious task depending on the size of your garden.
Real grass care isn’t seasonal, it needs looking after in the winter too. Before or after the growing season, and before frost sets in is the perfect time to aerate your lawn to promote deep roots and healthy growth in the spring.
When it comes to caring for your garden, it boils down to how much you enjoy being outside. For some, the tasks that come with caring for real grass sound more like fun than work, and they will enjoy spending the time in their garden. To others, it will sound like another chore to add to a long list. In the end, it depends on your lifestyle and priorities.
We all know that real lawns need water to survive, especially in the growing season. This also coincides with the driest times of year for many countries, which can cause an issue in terms of droughts and water restrictions.
A 1,000 square foot garden uses around 125 gallons of water to keep it happy in hot, bright sunlight. However, on a cloudy day the same garden can use as little as 10 gallons.
Although artificial grass doesn’t need water to keep it healthy, it’s not completely water free. Every so often your fake lawn may need hosing down to keep it clean and dirt free.
In the summer, the plastic material can heat up in direct sunlight making it as comfortable to walk on as hot sand. Water can be used to cool the surface down and make it tolerable for bare feet for a short time. An easy fix for this would be to always wear shoes when in your garden, but what about young children who want to play and roll around on the grass?
We can’t deny that a real lawn needs a lot more water than a fake one, but there are methods you can use to keep water consumption to a minimum.
The main thing you should be doing to prevent water waste in the summer, is water your real grass early in the morning. Many make the mistake of switching the sprinkler or hose on anywhere between 10am and 3pm, when the sun is at its hottest. Watering at this time means you lose a lot to evaporation before it’s even hit the ground.
Instead, opt for not long after sunrise, or later in the evening when temperatures start to cool. This means the water has a chance to penetrate the soil and reach your grass’ roots before evaporating in the heat, saving you water usage in the process.
Natural lawns have the fake version beat when it comes to environmental impact.
The roots from real grass help prevent soil erosion, and real lawns allow excess water runoff to sink into the ground. This is especially vital as more and more homes cement or pave their outside spaces, leaving less opportunity for rainwater to be absorbed.
These two things alone are a massive benefit to the environment.
Artificial grass, however, requires the burning of fossil fuels to manufacture, transport, and install. When being laid in a garden, machinery is needed to level the ground before other materials are laid, and before the artificial grass is fitted. This machinery and the materials all require fossil fuels to run and transport.
Fake grass has a lifespan of around 7 to 10 years, depending on how heavily it is used. Until recent years, it was only destined for landfill, however it is now becoming recyclable, but the process is neither easy nor cheap.
The used grass is made up of plastic, rubber, and sand particles. The plastic needs to be separated from the rubber and sand before it can be recycled, which isn’t an easy process. As you guessed, doing this requires the burning of even more fossil fuels. Once it has gone full circle, fake grass has used a lot of resources!
Considering that the average American alone has a carbon footprint exceeding 20 tonnes, we should all be doing our bit to cut our impact on fossil fuel consumption, and the environment.
The Bottom Line
In the end, it all boils down to your preferences and lifestyle, and for me, a natural lawn can’t be beat. Although I can appreciate why some people choose artificial grass, whether it’s due to time constraints or they unfortunately just don’t like gardening, nothing compares to a real lawn.
The pride you get from maintaining a beautiful, healthy lawn is like none other. The time spent in the garden is good for the soul, you’re growing a living breathing thing, and you have something to show for all of your hard work in the end. That is why I still, hands down, prefer natural lawns.