Artificial Grass vs Real Turf: What’s the Best Choice?

Artificial grass vs real turf

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One of the most common questions that people ask themselves is whether to use artificial grass or real turf on their lawn.

Artificial grass has a lot of benefits, such as being low maintenance and not dying in the winter.

However, many experts are stating that the rise in artificial grass is affecting our wildlife, and even our atmosphere, possibly leading to big problems for our ecological system.

Turf can be more expensive than fake grass but it will also look better in your garden and last longer with proper care. So what’s best for you?

Which one is best will depend on a few key questions so lets dive right in.

Appearance

If you want your lawn to look like it has been freshly cut all the time, then artificial grass may be best for you.

With hundreds of different shades and textures, you can find the perfect grass to fit your home.

There are lots of different types of fake grass that mimic natural green colour variations; this means if you don’t like the typical green shade, there’s a good chance they have one to suit your needs.

If natural looking is what you’re going for then turf may be a better option. With browns and greens that mimic nature’s look it’ll make the outside of your house seem more welcoming.

Overall, artificial grass offers a much wider variety of choices and means you can choose the exact length, colour and feel that you want.

Winner: Artificial grass

Maintenance

Mowing the lawn

What seems like an obvious win for artificial grass as first glance can be a little more complicated in reality. Artificial grass does not need mowing, fertilising or weeding but it can’t be totally left, especially if you use it a lot.

The bristles on artificial grass flatten over time so to keep it looking good you will need to brush it often to keep the bristles upright.

Artificial grass can also need topped up with sand as the base settles and some lumps and bumps appear. This should only happen after a few years of being laid.

Finally, artificial grass will not cope well with debris and food spills which can soak into the base and begin to smell.

You will need to make sure that loose leaves, food spills and and other mess is cleaned up before it damages the artificial grass. See out guide on cleaning artificial grass.

All that being said, artificial grass is far easier to maintain overall and can be left for a long time with no attention the cleaned with a power broom in a very short space of time. The same can’t be said for natural turf.

Winner: Artificial grass

Environmental impact

Bee sat on some grass

There are benefits and drawbacks to both types of grass. Artificial turf may be more low maintenance, but this can come at a heavy cost to the environment.

Its easy to think that your small patch of grass on our little island won’t make much difference but this is probably what all the people throwing their rubbish into the sea thought and now we have micro plastics in almost every living creature.

When it comes to impact on the environment artificial grass can be devastating for many reasons.

Artificial turf blocks access for insects such as solitary bees.

These ground dwellers can’t get through a lawn of artificial grass because it’s too dense meaning that soil-dwelling worms won’t be able to find any food below either.

Every bit of real grass replaced with plastic removes a habitat and food source for many of the insects which our ecosystems depend on.

Other effects of choosing artificial grass are releasing carbon dioxide from the ground, making local drainage worse and releasing micro plastics into the soil and ground water.

Real turf on the other hand, absorbs water which in turn helps clean up air pollution by removing many chemicals found in soil and fertilizers. Turf also produces oxygen so you’ll get cleaner air if your yard features natural grass.

The real decision comes down to what’s more important: long term health or low maintenance?

If you’re going for less time mowing the lawn then artificial turf may be your best option but really think about the long-term effects before making this choice.

Winner: Natural turf

Cost

When it comes to cost there are a few things to consider. Most obviously there is the initial installation cost but you also need to consider the ongoing maintenance costs.

Initial installation costs will be much lower for real turf than for artificial turf but you will need a lawn mower or a gardener. You may also need to treat, fertilise and weed the lawn which will cost both time and money.

Artificial grass in the past had a short lifespan and needed to be replaced every few years.

Artificial grass has come a long way and now can last significantly longer with many coming with a 10 year guarantee.

However be warned that this guarantee will usually only cover against fade. The most common issue we see with artificial grass is the base shifting around which causes it to become uneven and lumpy.

The length of time this takes to happen will depend on how the area is used and how well the base was installed.

Because artificial grass uses a sand base to keep it soft, this shifting is guaranteed to happen over time so don’t get too frustrated when it does happen.

To fix your lumpy grass you will need to have the grass lifted, the base levelled and topped up then the surface re-laid.

Winner: Natural turf

Use

Artificial grass has become much cheaper and more realistic, it now appeals to a wide range of people.

If you live in a city residents with shaded gardens where the green stuff doesn’t grow well.

Families tired of having their dog track mud into the house or wherever they happen to be lounging outside.

It also attracts older folks and those who are disabled because maintaining an actual lawn can prove difficult for them (everything from weeding burdensome plants that keep invading your garden space all summer long).

Are there children in the household? Children love playing outside with their friends but accidents happen all too often while running across uneven surfaces which are more common in real turf.

Artificial grass helps prevent injuries because it is soft underfoot and provides cushioning when kids fall down, plus they don’t get dirty as quickly as dirt does which means parents have one less thing to do.

It hard to think of many uses where artificial grass doesn’t outperform turf so the winner here is artificial grass as the more versatile product.

Winner: Artificial grass

Shade

There are some gardens and areas where turf will simply not work well. These can either be high foot traffic areas or shaded areas.

High foot traffic areas are a bad idea because the turf will wear out quickly.

Artificial grass is perfect for these areas as it can stand up to heavy foot traffic and won’t need to be replaced in five years like natural lawns or turfs do.

Shaded areas make turf work poorly because they don’t get enough sunlight which means there is no photosynthesis going on (the process of converting carbon dioxide into glucose).

Artificial grass doesn’t have this problem so you’ll still want artificial turf if your house has shaded spots around it.

Winner: Artificial grass

Drainage

Flooded grass garden

Garden drainage is becoming a more prominent issue in many places in the UK. Artificial grass has played some part in making this issue worse.

Lots of our customers seem to think that artificial grass improves garden drainage. This is partly true because the sand base does allow water to move through it quickly but garden drainage is complicated.

Part of the reason that some areas are flooding more is that the surrounding surfaces don’t hold water well.

When it rains in these areas the water can’t be absorbed and it is left on top of the surface. This means that it’s more likely to flow into gardens or homes (as if from an overflowing bath).

Turf and soil hold water for longer than artificial grass and sand, this allows the water to drain away slowly without overwhelming the natural and man made drainage systems in your area.

Its likely that if you replace your turf with artificial grass you will increase the likelihood of flooding in your area. If your area is already bad then this could have a very negative impact on you or your neighbours.

If you are going for artificial grass make sure to read out article on artificial grass drainage so you know what to expect.

Winner: Natural turf

Smells

Bad smelling artificial grass is a common problem that not many people think about. if your dog pees on it or you have water that has stagnated and gone bad then the smell will be unbearable.

Many people are happy to live with this as they think fake grass is worth a few hours of stench over time, but for many this is an irritation that is hard to get rid of.

There are some types of artificial grass which are designed specifically for dogs. These can help to minimise the bad smells.

You will also need to know how to look after your artificial grass if you have a dog. This can involve regular hosing, using special cleaners and sweeping.

Natural turf on the other hand is not a problem with bad smells.

It helps to absorb water and makes your lawn smell fresh, even if it is wet or dry for days on end.

Winner: Real turf

Repair

Repairing natural turf with grass seed

A lot of people think that because artificial turf is fake, it does not wear out or need repairs. This couldn’t be more wrong! Artificial grass will eventually break down and start to form holes in the surface if you do not regularly maintain it.

Although there are ways you can temporarily rejuvenate artificial grass, it is impossible to repair in 99% of cases so make sure you look after it well and avoid setting sharp furniture on it.

The natural grass on the other hand can have minor cuts repaired easily with a little grass seed. It heals naturally and can be fixed in a few days.

Winner: Natural turf

Lifespan

Artificial grass can last for up to 20 years if you take care of it properly. It will start breaking down after that and will need more repairs as the surface is made from plastic.

Natural turf on the other hand does not have a set lifespan but could go upwards of 30-40 years with regular maintenance such as aeration.

Winner: Natural turf

Conclusion

Artificial grass is a great choice for many people. It’s low maintenance, easy to install and maintain, and it can be installed in shaded areas or the shade of trees.

However artificial turf does have some drawbacks like being bad for the environment when you consider all those petrochemical products that are used to create fake grass from scratch. So if you want your lawn to help out with environmental issues then stick with natural turf (or green space) instead!

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