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Real vs Artificial Grass

What do you do if your lawn is looking worse for wear? Here, we look at the pros and cons of real turf and artificial grass.

Which is best real grass or artificial grass

Us Brits love grass lawns. They are a defining feature of our suburbs and are in most people’s gardens. Yet they do require regular upkeep. At a bare minimum, you have to mow them regularly, strim the edges and dig out the weeds.

If you have lovely-looking grass on your lawn, chances are it will stay like that. But not all gardens are as fortunate. For some, the lawn can be the most high maintenance thing in their garden.

So, here we explore the pros and cons of real turf vs artificial grass.

Real grass

A newly turfed lawn can transform a tired garden into an attractive outdoor space. The process of laying the turves (rolls of turf) is not difficult and you can start using the lawn within a few days.

Most of work is in the soil preparation. It involves stripping the old lawn and a lot of weeding, digging, levelling and raking.

The turves ideally need to be laid within 24 hours of delivery, so you need to work relatively quickly. After it has been laid, it needs to be watered frequently until it has rooted into the underlying soil.

If you want to cultivate a lawn that is long-lasting, make sure you buy the right variety of turf. Many products are described as multipurpose but they may not be suitable for your garden.

One square metre of multipurpose lawn turf starts from £2 to £3. You may also have to buy top soil if your existing soil is poor. A 750 litre bag of top soil will cover 15 to 20 square metres to a depth of 55 mm. It costs around £120.

You’ll need to water it – a lot – when first laid. But thereafter, even in the hottest summers, established lawns do usually recover naturally from dry spells, despite going a little yellow, even without watering.

If your current lawn is suffering from weeds or moss or just never taken properly, you can have your lawn treated by a lawn maintenance company. These services can treat your lawn regularly throughout the year or do a one off treatment. Check the products they use are organic and safe for children, wildlife and the environment.

Find a garden service to help with your lawn.  You can search for a range of garden services with our partners at Checkatrade 

Artificial grass

More people are opting for synthetic grass in their gardens because they require minimal upkeep. They can also work well in a small space and for people who find garden maintenance difficult or expensive.

Artificial grass doesn’t need to be mowed and you get a green lawn all year round. It can’t be dug up, which is why it is particularly popular with families who have young children and dogs.

Previously, synthetic lawn turf looked very similar to the mats you used to get on greengrocers’ displays. Now, you can get products that are a convincing alternative to real turf.

The fibres are cut at different lengths and are in a range of greens and browns, which gives the grass a natural look and feel.

If the lawn is laid and looked after properly, it can last approximately 7 to 10 years.

The main downside is that you won’t get the lovely cut-grass smell and the same biodiversity as a real grass lawn.

Some maintenance is also required. It needs to be swept and watered occasionally. You may get algae and moss growing on the grass and bird poo stains, but they should be easy to remove with hot water and household detergent.

One square metre of artificial grass typically cost around £20 excluding VAT and installation costs.

So, should you fake it or not?

If you’re fed up with your lawn looking like a mud bath/dry and patchy, artificial turf will probably sound hugely appealing. They suit gardens that get a lot of wear and tear all year around.

As we said, it is possible to improve your lawn. Get a specialist round to look at what the issue is. For example, a soggy garden can be addressed by improving the drainage if you put down the right top soil, according to lawn turf specialists.

If you do opt for artificial grass, the installation is the key to its longevity. If it isn’t laid properly, it could look ropey quite quickly.

Synthetic turf specialists are unlikely to offer a guarantee on their product if they have not laid it themselves, so it may be worth paying for the installation costs if you don’t feel confident about doing it yourself.

But nothing beats a real lawn – as many readers below have testified! It’s cheaper to lay, more environmentally friendly overall, means you’re not contributing to the worlds plastic production and landfill (as you would be with a fake lawn) and creates a wonderful space for wildlife to inhabit.

Lawn or Turf – tell us what you think in the comments box below

Leave a comment (11)* Required

  1. MikeMike

    I can imagine artificial grass will be more work in the long run once the weeds start rooting through it. With normal grass you don’t really need to weed it if you mow it, plus you can get free compost if you just throw the clippings in a composter.

  2. Lucy PageLucy Page

    I found this article very disappointing. You say a real lawn is better for biodiversity. Better?! If you want to kill this planet get an artificial lawn! If you want any one with any love of nature feel sick at heart every time they have the misfortune of seeing into your garden, get an artificial lawn. I would also like to reassure your readers that you do not need to kill the moss in your lawn. Moss grows where it belongs and grass where grass belongs. They do not compete with each other.

  3. FleszFlesz

    People are busy with their lives. Artificial grass is a great option for a good looking lawn.
    Last Sunday rather than resting I spent moving the lawn , while my mate was cycling in the lakes.
    UK is covered with tons of green fields, do you think covering your lawn with plastic makes any difference ? It’s like saying smoking a cigarette pollutes the air

  4. FrancesFrances

    You haven’t learnt, HOA: 6 of the 7 comments below are from last year: same article in April 2019. Don’t you think you should take note of your readers? Every comment was against the advance of plastic & you really should be ashamed of yourselves for putting this as if it were a valid consideration. It is not. Are you oblivious to the constant facts about decline in species which threatens whole ecosystems? Our food depends on pollinators, but the focus on those can make people forget that there are countless other insect species which form part of our ecosystems. Most of these do a great job as pollinators too, but campaigns have to make them appear friendly for the public to take an interest which is one reason why the bees get the good PR. The others matter too.
    You also seem oblivious to the tide of plastic polluting the planet. Lipservice is no good. We need real concern and action, public and private to stop it. there are vast areas where artificial pitches have been dumped and it is horrendous. Landfill the public generally knows about. Acres of rolled up & dumped artificial turf is another matter that gets no publicity. Plastic is everywhere on the planet. this has to stop. You are talking convenience when the future of your readers’ children & grandchildren is involved. (The rubber crumb in artificial pitches is carcinogenic).
    For any reader interested there is a petition to parliament to ban artifiacial grass. It won’t get anywhere of course, but it might make government think a bit about permits or taxes.

  5. kirstenkirsten

    I recently cleaned our big garden trampoline and you cant imagine the bird poo smell that came up. Same with our patio. I think that is totally underestimated in your article. To keep astro clean and hygenic you really need to water a lot….

  6. IsobelIsobel

    I have put an offer in on a house that has an artificial lawn I would like to remove it to grow plants. Do you think there’s a market for second hand artificial lawn ?

  7. CharlotteCharlotte

    My next door neighbour has just put plastic grass down. I am dismayed. I really like this person, and I don’t know what I’m going to say to them.
    I just don’t understand what people see in it.
    Also, this garden is a little higher than mine. Will it drain ok? If we get heavy rain, is mine going to get her run off now?
    There can’t be anything good about it in anyone’s book.

  8. FrancesFrances

    Here’s your comment above: “The main downside is that you won’t get the lovely cut-grass smell and the same biodiversity as a real grass lawn”. Biodiversity in one phrase! This just goes to show how many people, or that should read how few, will really think about the consequences. Biodiversity is not something for lipservice only, it’s behind the whole success of the planet. Artificial grass is an abomination and should be very strictly licensed if not banned altogether. Personally I would ban it, but I do sympathise with, perhaps, elderly people who have a small area of grass which they can’t get out to mow but can’t employ a gardener, although if they could afford to put down the artificial stuff then most likely they could pay a nearby school pupil/student some pocket money to do it occasionally. Also there are environmental groups around that could help out, or people who do garden swaps or adoption if they don’t have a space of their own, eg the transition town network.

    Plastic grass makes claims to be environmentally friendly if they use recycled plastic. It is not. The plastic requires power in order to be recycled, but worse than that, the process of installation involves removing topsoil, smothering the ground in sand and thumping, pummelling, pile driving the ground into submission. The worms that we need so much are dumped or left under the sand desert. Their food is gone. The insects that thrive in the soil are gone, the birds that feed on these insects are gone.
    Real grass is home for millions of organisms. Go outside and remove something else’s home and see the loss before your very eyes. Our neighbour worked for one of these companies and put it in his own back garden. His partner said she wanted her daughters to be able to identify the birds as I do, but they certainly won’t see many in their own space any more. Yesterday there were starlings down on our grass (& weeds, and daisies). They have no reason to go in next door, yet they’re on the RSPB red list as being in severe decline and are increasingly losing their feeding spaces. Even our local planning department has listened to being corrected when they referred in the past to “insignificant areas of grass”. There has been at least some acknowledgement of wildlife corridors in a report. Think too of the horrendous decline in insect species. Really horrendous but it has happened without most people noticing.
    In addition the house-shaking thumping that went on for two days while this stuff was being installed was a truly terrible experience. Yes, it can cause horrible friction between neighbours, and I’m using the word friction to be polite. Please shun this plastic stuff because it kills off what’s there now and pollutes the future for hundreds of years if not forever, which is the most likely.
    Thanks Geoffrey & Linda below!

  9. Linda SimLinda Sim

    Note you have failed to say how bad the manufacturing of this plastic carpet is for the environment and how it will still be in landfill when you are long gone, for subsequent generations to deal with.

  10. Geoffrey HartGeoffrey Hart

    I would never, ever consider artificial grass. It would represent another wildlife habitat loss. I’m sure it is only popular because people are too damn lazy to maintain a lawn. Black birds come onto my grass, front and rear, every day, morning and evening. Also I would not want to live in a synthetic world anymore than it already is. Artificial grass is rubbish, end of story. Cheerio Home Owners Alliance dudes.

  11. LindaLinda

    At a time when there is worldwide concern about the plummet in the insect population, air pollution causing respiratory problems, and the horrendous problems of plastic pollution, why would anybody consider covering their garden in what is undoubtedly a cheap, ugly, plastic carpet that can only cause harm to, and certainly has no benefit to, the environment.


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