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Which is best: Real or Artificial Grass?

This guide will explain the pros and cons of each type and provide you with an in-depth exploration of grass, in all its forms.

Introduction

If you are inexperienced in landscaping, deciding whether to go for real or artificial grass can be a difficult decision to make.

Real grass provides a very traditional feel to a lawn, and it can be relatively cheap to maintain. However, not all of us are lucky enough to have perfectly placed gardens, where the soil is rich in nutrients, and where the lawn receives the ideal amount of rain and sun. Artificial grass is a great alternative to having a real lawn, and it is becoming an increasingly more popular choice when people decide to do landscaping. This is a more expensive option but can last for over a decade with little to no maintenance needed.

Contents

Deciding to change your garden or lawn is a big decision and is not one that should be taken lightly. Make sure that you are fully informed of the ins and outs of both real and artificial grass before deciding to invest your hard-earned cash.

What You Should Consider

Firstly, take a look at your garden and its purpose. A ‘high traffic’ lawn is grass that is used often, whether you have animals and children or host plenty of outdoor events. Alternatively, an ornamental garden will require lots of time and effort to keep it looking beautiful and the grass in good condition. To put it simply, Artificial Grass is best for a high traffic lawn and real grass is best for an ornamental garden. However, it all comes down to personal preference and we will explore each of them in more detail further on in this guide.

There are several other factors which will influence your decision, including the kind of weather you experience and the amount of light and airflow in your garden. Some types of grass struggle to grow in certain temperatures. For instance, in a hotter climate, you will need to water your grass regularly, which can be an issue if there is a hosepipe ban. Also, if you are surrounded by trees causing shade, the grass may find it difficult to grow and thrive, which means that artificial grass may be the best option for you.

Next, consider how much time you want to put in to maintaining your lawn. Do you enjoy gardening on the weekend and find mowing the lawn enjoyable? If so, real grass will be ideal for you. However, if you are too busy or find it a chore then perhaps artificial grass is more suited to your lifestyle. Real grass is very difficult to maintain if you are elderly or away from home a lot, and many people would rather not have to add another task to their to-do list.

Finally, have a think about your budget. Real grass is not initially expensive but requires lots of maintenance including purchasing a lawnmower and spending money on water, feed and fertiliser which raises the cost significantly. Alternatively, artificial grass is more expensive but is often just a one-time cost and may only need replacing every twenty-five years.

Real Grass: The Basics

There are two types of real grass, seed and turf. Growing your own grass from seeds is the most cost-effective way but can be very time consuming as it needs a lot of care. It usually requires one season to get into a good condition and this could involve watering and weeding it daily. Although time consuming, growing your own grass is the best option for more difficult garden areas such as slopes and corners which can be difficult to lay turf or artificial grass on.

Turf, also known as sod, is the more expensive option but provides instant, luscious grass for your garden. There are many benefits to using turf including how it grows roots within three weeks of being planted and becomes established quickly. It is ideal if you are under time pressure, do not want to put the effort in or want to have a beautiful lawn as soon as possible. However, turf thrives in perfect conditions, so if your garden does not get much sun, it might not grow very well. Also, if you are a novice, you may have to pay for it to be installed whereas growing your own grass has zero labour costs.

If you decide to attempt to grow your own grass, you will need to research your garden first as the gradient, surface texture, drainage and amount of shade will affect the type of grass seed you will need to buy. If you are unsure, ‘general purpose’ solution is suitable for most gardens. However, if you are aiming to create an ornamental garden, have a look at purchasing seed mixtures that grow fine grass such as Red Fescue, Chewing’s Fescue and Bentgrass. These types of grass will also grow well in shady areas making it ideal for a garden surrounded by trees.

Artificial Grass: The Basics

Artificial grass is made from a mixture of plastics and sand or ground rubber. It was first invented in 1964 for sports fields but since then, huge developments have been made and it can often be difficult to tell the difference between real and artificial grass. It is recommended you pay a landscaper to install it as each type of artificial grass requires a different method of installation. However, if you choose to do it yourself, make sure you have researched it well before attempting it.

Artificial grass is a great option for homeowners who are unable to keep up with the maintenance of real grass, or simply do not want to. It allows you to have a beautiful, full lawn, all year round. There are endless options for you to choose from as companies offer so many different varieties of artificial grass. You can be super specific, all the way down to choosing the colour, shape and look.

In terms of the materials it is made from, there are three main types of artificial grass: polyethylene, nylon and polypropylene.

Polyethylene is the most premium option available and looks the most natural which is great if you are designing an ornamental garden. It is very durable and non-porous meaning that it will not hold onto any odours from animals, which is ideal if you have dogs that enjoy playing outside.

Nylon grass is the strongest type, ideal for climates with intense weather as it can maintain its original shape, even in hot temperatures. However, because of its strength, it is considered stiff and not as natural looking.

Finally, polypropylene grass is the most wallet-friendly option but is also the weakest out of the three types. It will not hold its shape well so is not ideal for a high traffic lawn. Also, it has a low melting point so is not great for anywhere with a hot climate. Polypropylene grass would be best for an ornamental garden in a cooler climate or just for a small area that needs covering.

In terms of safety, artificial grass does not come with much risk. However, some types contain harmful chemicals for you and the environment and in some cases, silver ions have even been found which is extremely dangerous. To ensure that you choose the safest option, check that the artificial grass you are looking at is manufactured in Europe and adheres to the strict regulations set out by the government.

Pros and Cons of Real Grass

Pros

  • Real grass is great for the environment
  • Greenery improves wellness and reduces stress
  • A well cared for lawn is very appealing and can add to the luscious look of your garden
  • Real grass encourages a rich plant and insect ecological system
  • The initial cost of growing your own grass is very low
  • It is cheaper than artificial grass
  • Real grass is self-sanitising

Cons

  • Requires a lot of maintenance, especially in the summer months
  • You will need to dedicate time to weeding, mowing and feeding your grass
  • Maintenance is expensive and you will need to pay for the equipment, feed and water
  • If it is a high traffic lawn then the condition of the grass will become poor
  • Animals will have muddy paws after playing on wet grass
  • Real grass does not grow well in a shady garden

Pros and Cons of Artificial Grass

Pros

  • Artificial grass requires no maintenance and there are no extra costs once the artificial grass has been laid
  • It is ideal for a high traffic lawn as it will maintain its look and shape, even if you use it often
  • Artificial grass is the best option for a shady garden as it will be in great condition, all year round
  • There are so many varieties of artificial grass including colour, length and texture meaning that you can achieve the exact look you desire
  • Some brands of artificial grass use recycled materials such as plastic bottles and tyres which can be much better for the environment than traditional artificial grass
  • High-quality artificial grass can have a life expectancy of up to twenty-five years
  • Artificial grass does not get muddy or wet, which is ideal if you have children or animals who like to play outside
  • Unlike real grass, dogs cannot dig through it
  • If you are away from home often or elderly, you may not be able to maintain your garden and real grass will end up looking overgrown and messy

Cons

  • Artificial grass is a lot more expensive than real grass
  • Artificial grass ranges from £10-£30 per square meter compared with real turf which costs around £6 per square meter
  • Even though it requires no maintenance, the surface underneath the grass may need to be replaced within eight years of installation
  • Artificial grass is bad for local wildlife and the atmosphere around you as there is no carbon dioxide produced from the grass that plants can convert into oxygen
  • Some artificial grass contains silver ions which can be dangerous
  • Artificial grass is bad for the environment as it is made of plastic and is not easily recycled
  • The manufacturing process has huge negative effects on the environment as artificial grass is a petroleum-based product which creates lots of pollution
  • When the grass needs replacing, it will end up in landfill as not many recycling plants will accept it
  • Artificial grass heats up in direct sunlight which can be too hot to walk barefoot on

Cost and Maintenance

The main difference between real and artificial grass is that one requires a lot of maintenance, and one requires a lot of money.

In the summer months, real grass requires the most maintenance and depending on the size of the area, mowing, weeding and taking care of the garden can take hours. It is a huge commitment as you will need to dedicate time weekly to caring for it, otherwise it can very quickly end up looking poorly looked after. If you experience heavy rainfall then you will need to aerate the grass often by spiking the lawn and if it is severely waterlogged you will not be able to use it until it naturally goes away. On the other hand, other than raking leaves occasionally, artificial grass requires no maintenance at all.

In terms of cost, growing your own grass can be done very cheaply but the maintenance is expensive as you will need to purchase a lawnmower as well as regularly water the grass (if there is no rain) and use feed or fertiliser. If you choose to purchase turf instead of growing it yourself, it will cost around £6 per square meter compared with artificial grass which ranges from £10-£30 per square meter.

However, artificial grass can be considered rather cost-effective as even though the initial payment is a lot, it requires no maintenance or extra costs. This means that it only takes eight years for the cost of the installation of artificial grass to outweigh the cost of maintaining real grass. Also, if it is high-quality, artificial grass can have a life expectancy of up to twenty-five years. Although, occasionally the surface underneath the grass may need to be replaced within eight years of installation.

Animals and Children

It is so important to think about the purpose of your lawn or green space, as depending on the size it will be used for different reasons.

If you are planning on having a high traffic lawn, real grass will be difficult to maintain. If you have children or animals that will be playing in the grass or simply host regular events in your garden, this can change the condition of the grass and make it look sparse or not well-looked after. In this case, the benefits of artificial grass greatly outweigh those of real grass. For instance, artificial grass does not get muddy or wet, so there will not be any dirty pawprints or shoe marks in the house. It is also durable and strong, meaning that dogs cannot dig in it unlike real grass. If you do have animals, then it will need to be disinfected every so often simply because it does not self-sanitise like real grass does.

Alternatively, if you are planning on having a low traffic, ornamental garden, either type of grass will be suitable for you. As long as you are dedicated and willing to put in the time and effort, you can create a beautiful lawn.

The Environment

If you are passionate about the environment, the real or artificial grass debate can be tricky to navigate. On the one hand, real grass is great for the environment. It encourages a rich plant and insect ecological system and helps surrounding plants and trees produce clean oxygen for you to breathe. It also improves your mental health, wellness and helps to reduce stress.

However, real grass accounts for one-third of all residential water use and the use of gas and electric powered tools can have huge negative effects on the environment. Lawnmowers, leaf blowers and trimming tools create air pollution that outweighs the benefits of having real grass and the oxygen it produces. Also, fertiliser chemicals pollute groundwater which can harm the natural habitat of many organisms.

If the cost of maintenance and the impact on the environment is an issue to you, perhaps consider investing in a rainwater catchment tank which you can use to water the grass. There are other ways you can grow real grass and be environmentally friendly. You can eliminate the need for fertiliser by leaving grass cuttings on the lawn after mowing, as the natural nutrients will be released while it decomposes and help you grow luscious grass. Also, you can purchase a push-along lawnmower and use shears which will reduce the amount of electric or gas tools you use.

Artificial grass is not inherently eco-friendly as it is made from plastic. Even the manufacturing process is damaging for the environment as it is a petroleum-based product which creates lots of pollution. However, some brands have started to produce artificial grass using recycled materials including plastic bottles and old tyres. Some people may consider it to be better for the environment compared with real grass as it does not need watering, mowing or maintaining in any other way. The only drawback would be that once it needs replacing, the old grass will most likely end up in landfill as it is very difficult to recycle.

Conclusion

In summary, real and artificial grass each have their benefits and drawbacks. The right one for you is entirely dependent on your garden and lifestyle so it is important to identify the purpose of the lawn. Whether you are going to be using it often to play with children or animals or spending hours making it look pristine. Not everyone has the time or motivation to maintain a lawn but if you do, the results of having real grass can be exquisite. There are so many factors influencing the type of grass you choose to go with, so make sure you examine the list of pros and cons above in detail. In the end, it simply comes down to personal preference.

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