Is artificial grass the right choice for my lawn?
Fake grass today can look almost identical to the real deal. The synthetic grass market is growing, with artificial turf touted as being much more realistic for the average Australian to maintain.
It also appeals to a wide variety of people: city dwellers who want some green on their balcony or courtyard; older people or those with a disability who may struggle to keep a natural garden thriving; families with young kids or pets who don’t want to constantly deal with a muddy backyard mess - the list goes on.
But is artificial grass the right choice for your yard? We go through the benefits and drawbacks of laying down fake turf so that you can decide for yourself.
What are the benefits of artificial grass?
Looks immaculate all the time
A huge benefit of artificial grass is that it looks great all year round. It isn’t affected by changes in the weather, such as in times of drought. It doesn’t die or brown, so it won’t ever look patchy or sustain the level of damage that natural grass does. You’re guaranteed green grass all the time!
Easy to care for
One of the best things about fake grass is that it’s low maintenance. You don’t need to water, feed, or mow the lawn. That saves you a lot of time and hassle, particularly if you’ve got a larger yard.
It also doesn’t require watering, which may be a huge advantage if you’re living in a region that’s particularly water stressed.
With that being said, while it may not take the same amount of elbow grease that natural grass requires, fake turf isn’t maintenance-free. You still need to clear it of litter and any moss growth - some people even vacuum their artificial green.
Those with kids or pets - particularly dogs - often find artificial grass to be a more viable yard option for them because it stops their canines from digging holes all around the yard. They can also skip around the problem of lawn burn caused by dog’s urine.
Laying down synthetic turf also means less mess down the track, as you won’t have to worry about muddy puddles and footprints around the house. Kids and adults with hay fever may also find that fake grass reduces their allergy symptoms.
Those with pets can also opt for fake turf with pet infills (infill refers to the small black crumbs that support the fake blades of grass), which help minimise offensive odours.
What are the disadvantages of artificial grass?
Although some brands claim that their artificial grass is eco-friendly, it’s hard to ignore its environmental implications when natural grass is a viable alternative.
It blocks off access to the soil beneath the turf for insects that like to burrow - like our precious native bees - and to the ground above for living things in the soil, such as worms, who rely on it for food. In short, it doesn’t provide any food or shelter for these little bugs.
Not only does artificial grass not benefit the planet, but the production of the plastic it’s made from uses fossil fuels and emits carbon.
There’s also growing concern about microplastics, which are the tiny pieces of plastic debris from the products we use and waste we produce that end up in the natural environment. These are present in our waterways, air, and even the food we eat. That means if you buy fake grass that degrades, as almost all do, it will likely contribute to this problem.
Some manufacturers may say that their grass can be recycled once it reaches the end of its lifespan, but this is often difficult to do, and it goes straight to landfill if you don’t go the extra mile to recycle it.
While it may not be the most eco-friendly option for your yard, fake grass however is often a greener alternative to laying down gravel, concrete, or paving.
Synthetic grass often costs somewhere between $75 to $100 per square metre, including installation. Natural turf is generally considerably cheaper, costing around $25 per square metre - plus, with the right care, it can last forever.
At the end of its lifespan (which is usually anywhere from 10 to 20 years, depending on which company you buy from and how you use your yard), fake grass will need to be replaced.
Can be uncomfortable and increase risk of injuries
If artificial turf is in direct sunlight, then its surface temperature can reach dangerously high temperatures, and can even cause burns, particularly for young kids.
This heat can also make playing outside on a hot summer’s day even more exhausting. Natural grass, on the other hand, creates a cooling effect, and can be up to 20 degrees cooler than its synthetic counterpart.
The radiant heat could even increase the temperature of your home, which might mean a higher energy bill if you’re blasting the air con. However, some turf manufacturers claim that their products are made with “cool” infill material to combat this problem.
On top of this, artificial grass is considerably harder than real grass as it’s laid over either compacted earth or concrete. This means that taking a fall on it will be more painful, and the risk of injury - particularly concussions - is increased.
To make artificial lawns safer to play on, some turf brands use infills that absorb shock. These are particularly important if you have a swing set or play equipment that a child could fall from.
It doesn’t quite feel like grass
A plastic lawn doesn’t quite feel the same as natural grass. This might be a bit of a disappointment to those who love the feeling of walking barefoot through grass and feeling the soil on their feet.
Kids won’t be able to play with grass or make their daisy chains. They won't be able to exercise their curiosity as freely by looking for insects and other garden dwellers either. These may seem like small things, but for some, they’re important ways to feel more connected to their natural environment.
What’s right for me?
While they may be more costly and less eco-friendly, many people find the convenience of having a lawn that’s fuss-free to maintain invaluable. For some, a well-manicured, natural lawn just isn’t possible - especially in drought-plagued Australia.
These days, artificial grass comes in a range of blade lengths, colours, and textures, so you can try to mimic anything from kikuyu to buffalo grass.
At the end of the day, everyone’s personal preferences and living situations are unique, and these are the main determinants of whether artificial or natural grass is right for you.