Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Alternative Garden Lawns - fake turf

Fake grass has come on leaps and bounds in the past few years. No more cheap, bright green plastic reminiscent of the butchers counter...

You can now get fake grass with a non directional weave and up to four different coloured 'blades' for a more naturalistic look.

The first reaction of any gardener is normally - fake grass...NO WAY... but I have to admit that the new generation of fake turf is really a rather impressive product and can look very naturalistic

Is there any way environmentally conscious gardeners and landscapers can justify its use in the garden? Lets look at some hard facts:

Fake grass is made from crude oil and is not biodegradable. Although it can be recycled, yet more energy would be required to convert it into something new.

However, natural turf lawns are also very greedy on resources, and so fake grass saves on a huge number of resources too:

  • Fake grass doesn't have to be watered.
  • Fake grass doesn't have to be fertilised or sprayed
  • Fake grass doesn't have to be mowed.
So does removing mower emissions, reducing chemical runoff, reducing water use and the noise pollution from mowers offset the resources required to produce and dispose of this material?

In terms of cost, there are huge differences: Fake grass costs around £29.99 per square metre (or up to £100 per square metre installed), A natural turf lawn costs only 10% as much - but there are higher associated maintenance costs so the two options even out over 10-15 years.

Another factor to consider is the effect of the lawn upon biodiversity and the garden environment. Obviously fake turf does not create a rich habitat for wildlife. It does not photosynthesise, and therefore does not aborb Co2 from the atmosphere.

In addition, because it doesn't transpire, you would loose out on the beneficial insulating and cooling qualities of a natural turf lawn. Fake grass is made from polyethelene and so it can get pretty hot in midsummer in fact a real grass lawn is on average 50% cooler. Contrast this with the cool feel of natural grass under your feet and this may be a factor in your choice.

A better compromise might be to consider drought tolerant turf - e.g. Buffalo Grass, chamomile or Bonsai fescue to cut down on the extreme water demands of a natural lawn. You could reduce emissions by using a solar charged mower, like they do at National Trust Nymans, or use a push mower and cut down on noise and emmissions whilst getting fit at the same time! You could go for a no-mow lawn such as cammomile or thyme...

There are plenty of options to consider when it comes to finding the best lawn solution for your garden - and different solutions will suit different situations. What is clear, is that a compromise is neccessary for a greener garden.

It is a good idea to reduce the size of your lawn, or get rid of the lawn if you can... and if you must have a lawn, just take a moment to thingk about how you can care for it in a more environmentally responsible way.

UK Fake Grass Suppliers
As Good As Grass

US Fake grass Suppliers
ALG Grass
Envy Lawn

More information and images available at Artificial Lawn information

1 comment:

Garden4Life said...

This is a great post! I am an advocate of lawn removal for saving water. I wonder if this would be the equivalent of some of the newer mulches that are recycled tires? least in function.

In Texas, we are encouraged to remove sections of our lawn each year with a semi-permeable substance that wouldn't require additional water/fertilizer. The "fake lawn" would definitely help in play areas for children too. :)