WHY USE FAKE GRASS IN NZ?
Fake grass promises a lot of positive outcomes and one of the main reasons people consider it is because it offers a chemical-free, low-maintenance alternative to a real lawn. Or does it?
I created a garden design for a client's holiday home recently and they shared with me their experience about having used artificial turf at their main residence in Christchurch, NZ.
Here's what they said...
"Weeds, weeds, weeds - sold to us on the basis that we would have the "odd weed" but moss and creeper weeds got stuck in the fibres and they were difficult and ultimately impossible to remove.
We tried Roundup but one benefit we though for us not having real grass was to stop us using chemicals to keep it looking good so we ended up in the same position but with Roundup instead of grass treatments!"
They also said "Tracks flatten - the fibres bend over and stay that was unless you are meticulous about brushing them upright again - who has the time for that, as well as weed removal etc??"
Well, that doesn't sound low maintenance to me! But fake lawn is a practical solution for problem areas. Isn't it?
IS FAKE LAWN PRACTICAL?
A fake lawn seems like it would be pretty practical for kids' play surfaces, especially as a replacement for turf in areas where your yard is unusable due to poor drainage and boggy grass. But this young family found the fake lawn... " Hard - we didn't have any soft layer offered to us so the grass was rock hard and unsuitable for family use".
What they also found was that it was "slippery in damp conditions - my children slipped on it multiple times" and "Does not drain well in steady rain - puddles/flooding".
Unfortunately, their fake lawn didn't perform very well in the drier, sunnier areas of the garden either....
DOES FAKE GRASS GET HOT?
Fake lawns heating up in the sun is a common concern. But just how hot does artificial turf get? Does it burn your feet and can it burn dogs' paws? Here's what they experienced...
"...very hot in the summer, needed irrigation 2x daily to keep it cool enough to walk on despite being told when we purchased that new technologies keep it cooler than other artificial turf - it was hotter than concrete and we measured the temperatures in the high 50's so unsuitable for dogs and little feet".
Now, I've always believed that it's the sand used in the base beneath the fake grass that gets hot, not the artificial turf itself. Either way, if you're thinking artificial grass there's also toileting to consider if you have a dog.
IS FAKE GRASS GOOD FOR DOGS?
Dog owners often think that fake grass can be used for toileting their furry friends, but my client's experience with doggie deposits on their fake grass was quite unpleasant.
"OK if the dog leaves a perfect poop but if it is sloppy then the grass has to be wiped clean, every fibre, to remove it" and "Dog urine - smells regardless of spraying because we just couldn't spray sanitiser every day"
Bugger! So far, not so good!
DOES FAKE GRASS MELT?
Another question often asked by homeowners considering an artificial grass lawn is "can fake grass melt?" Well, here's another heat-related shocker that actually happened at their place.....
"Melts if something hot placed on it - despite our warnings, our gardener placed his hedge trimmer on the turf during a gardening visit and melted two large holes in the turf - this was his mistake but an easy one to make if gardeners are used to grass"Back to that
FAKE GRASS VERSUS REAL LAWN
So, if you're planning your garden and wondering if fake grass or real lawn is better, for these particular clients...
"it was awful in the end, and we wouldn't recommend it to anyone with the exception of very small areas.
Overall, artificial turf was the most expensive and biggest mistake we have made. We have gone back to real grass with the exception of a 4x4m area underneath the trampoline."
POSITIVES OF USING FAKE LAWN
In this real-life scenario (I'm seriously not making this up, I'm cutting and pasting from their email) they found "for us, the negatives massively outweighed the positives. "
Because there were a couple of positives, but sadly even they had negatives...
"No mowing (but a lot of weed, leaf matter removal)"
"Always green (looked odd in the summer when everyone else's lawns looked seasonally brown) but also those green weeds..."
I guess you could say that sometimes the grass is greener because it's fake...like in this (image below) successful installation of artificial turf in an Auckland garden I designed a few years back.
8 DESIGN TIPS FOR USING FAKE GRASS
Now, I don't want to sound like I'm 100% beating up on fake lawns, because like anything (even weed-mat) it has some very useful applications.
So, if you're going to use artificial turf in your garden here are my 9 Garden Design Tips for Getting the Best Results With Fake Lawn:
Artificial lawn looks better when used in the shade, as it looks less shiny and fake.
Only use fake grass in shady garden spots, so that it doesn't heat up in the sun.
Plant areas of tidy vegetation around your fake lawn area as when plants transpire they release cool, evaporated moisture into the air, helping keep overall temperatures cool.
When you keep areas of artificial grass visually separated from areas of real lawns, using paving, decks, or areas of planting, there's less immediate contrast between the two, making it harder to spot the fake one.
You can make your artificial lawn look more realistic by using a type with thatching (fake weeds) mixed through the pile.
You can eliminate problems with fake lawns, such as burning your feet and flattening the pile, by limiting your use of it to areas where you don't walk, like under the trampoline or between pavers.
You can offset the maintenance time needed to manually remove weeds from a small area of fake lawn, by only using it in difficult-to-mow places, such as under the trampoline, where real grass struggles to grow and never looks good anyway.
Leave enough money in your landscaping budget for installing good drainage beneath your lawn - real or fake!
Get a good design so that all these problems never happen in the first place.
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