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How to buy the best artificial grass

By Adelaide Gray

For most gardens, there’s still no substitute for real grass. However, for small gardens or small lawns used by children or dogs, fake grass is a viable alternative.

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Artificial grass is pricey to install, but it will remain green whatever the weather throws at it, will take heavy wear and will require very little maintenance once it’s set up.

How much does artificial grass cost?

Most artificial grasses come in rolls that are two or four metres wide. Cost-wise, they work out at anything from £10 to £30 per sq m (on a par with carpet). 

Compared with real turf (which costs up to £6 per sq m), fake turf is expensive, but you could still make long-term savings. After all, you won't have to buy and maintain a mower, or buy any lawn feed. You'll also save time, as there will be no more mowing, raking or re-sowing. 

You could try laying it yourself, but if you want a perfectly level lawn and a good-quality finish, it’s probably best to employ a local landscaper or an artificial lawn specialist to fit it for you. 

Many manufacturers will offer to fit the grass for you, and prices vary depending on the complexity of your garden. The prices quoted for fitting a 50sq m area ranged from £1,000 to £2,700 - double the price of the artificial grass alone. 

The best-looking artificial grass lawns

Most of us think of artificial grass as being a fake-looking dark green. But a range of tones are available, and many include strands of brown fibre and 'grass blades' of varying heights to simulate a normal lawn. 

It’s well worth researching the colours and finishes thoroughly and requesting samples of the different materials to make sure they fulfil your requirements. With artificial grass, you generally get what you pay for. 

The cheapest 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.

We tested mid-priced grass, and one of the Best Buy artificial lawns looked very good, even when compared with real grass. Some of the the mid-priced grasses have individual strands of plastic that are remarkably similar to real grass. 

The strands are held upright by brushing a layer of fine sand into the pile. The sand will have to be renewed every year and may need to be brushed occasionally to keep the strands upright. Our highest-scoring Best Buy artificial grass was not the most expensive but could easily be mistaken for real grass.

The best fake grasses are hard to tell from real grass from a distance. One of our Best Buy artificial grasses has strands of brown among the green to make it look more natural - after all, not every blade of grass in even very well-tended lawns is pure green. However this one is the most expensive artificial grasses we tested. 

What are the environmental implications?

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 it absorb carbon dioxide or have the cooling effect in summer. However, fake grass will allow rain to drain away as efficiently as real lawns.