How to get a new lawn Artificial grass lawn

Keen gardeners spend hours each year tending their lawns and would baulk at the idea of artificial grass. But if you hate mowing, are too busy or have boisterous kids or dogs then artificial grass might be worth considering. 

How good does artificial grass look?

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Cheap fake grass looks like greengrocers' bright green baize

Like everything, you get what you pay for. The cheaper products look like the sort of bright-green baize used by greengrocers, which is OK on a pitch-and-putt golf course, but not what you want in a garden.

Some of the more expensive types of artificial grass are held in place by brushing a layer of fine sand into the pile, which makes the individual strands stand upright. The mid-priced grass we tested was one of these, but it still looked fake when compared with real grass.

The best fake grasses are hard to tell from real grass from a distance. The most expensive we tested was also the most realistic and could easily be mistaken for the real thing.

How much will artificial grass cost me?

Most artificial grasses come in rolls that are 2m or 4m wide. Cost wise, they work out to anything from £10 to £30 per sq m (on par with carpet!). 

You could try laying it yourself, but if you want a good-quality finish, it's probably best to employ a local landscaper or an artificial lawn specialist to fit it for you. This will add considerably to the cost, depending on how much preparation is necessary. A typical lawn may take a two-man team a day to prepare and lay. 

Compared with real turf (which costs up to £6 per sq m), fake turf is expensive, but if you consider the time and effort involved in maintaining grass, you could make long-term savings. 

It’s well worth researching the colours and finishes thoroughly and requesting samples of the different materials to make sure they fulfil your requirements.

How do I install an artificial grass lawn? 

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The best fake grasses are hard to tell from real grass at a distance

The preparation is very similar to laying grass turf. You’ll need to remove any existing turf then create a firm, level surface topped with a layer of coarse sand. Some manufacturers recommend laying a weed-proof membrane, too. For larger areas, rolls are joined using special tape and adhesive.

The material is cut with a knife and butted against a hard edge, tacked to wooden edging boards or buried to keep it in place. With some types (as with the mid-priced grass we tested), dry sand is brushed into the pile. You can also lay some artificial grass onto a hard, even surface, such as concrete, by simply gluing it. 

It took our experts about 30 minutes to cut and lay the 6sq m rectangles for our test – about three times longer than they took to lay the turf. For large or complicated areas, it’s probably best to get a professional to fit it for you. Professionals should also remove an existing lawn and prepare the surface properly.

Do they need any maintenance?

You certainly don’t need to cut, weed, feed, edge or scarify a fake lawn, but you will need to blow or rake autumn leaves off it and hose off dirt or animal droppings. 

Otherwise, a quick brush over every now and then to raise the pile should keep it looking good. Artificial turf laid with sand brushed into the pile will need an annual top-up and we found that the sand acted as a seedbed for weeds, which need to be removed, either by hand or using a weedkiller. Artificial lawns in shade may attract moss, but this can be controlled with a moss killer.

How do they stand up to wear?

In our tests, the real turf was badly damaged by heavy wear, although it had recovered by the end of the trial. However, wear made no impression on the artificial grass. 

We did find, though, that mud transferred from adjacent areas spoilt the appearance of artificial grass. Most of the products are guaranteed for five years, but the manufacturers claim that products will last at least 15 years.

What are the environmental implications?

Artificial grass is made of plastic, so it's not a sustainable, environmentally friendly product. Most of the worms and soil insects that thrive under a real lawn won’t survive under artificial grass.

This means that fake grass won’t be attractive to blackbirds and other birds, nor do they absorb carbon dioxide or have the cooling effect in summer. However, they will allow rain to drain away as efficiently as real lawns.

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