There’s a growing trend amongst gardeners to choose artificial turf instead of a natural lawn. People see it as low maintenance. And I can understand why. No mowing, no feeding, no mud (in theory), no odd coloured patches. But are they missing out on more than just mowing when they dig up the lawn and replace it with plastic?
Benefits of a natural lawn
A natural lawn absorbs rainfall and helps reduce flood risk
Nature’s way of dealing with rain is to allow it to filter through the soil layers and eventually find its way into the water courses and from there into the sea. On its journey, the water helps trees, shrubs and plants to grow and thrive. It also reaches the same temperature as the ground so that when it enters streams and rivers it maintains their temperature too.
Man likes to build roads and cover his roofs and gardens with non-porous materials. To cope with the rainwater which now has nowhere else to go, he builds drains. If the drains are either blocked or overwhelmed, we get flooding.
Natural lawns, green roofs and wildflower areas all help to alleviate the risk of flooding.
Living plants give us the air we breathe
Plants are amazing. They take the carbon dioxide that we breathe out and turn it into energy for themselves and for oxygen for us to breathe. Without them we’d suffocate.
Grass is the third most important source of oxygen behind trees and algae. A 50 foot x 50 foot lawn produces enough oxygen for a family of four every day. An acre of turf produces more oxygen than an acre of rainforest
Plastic grass might give us an extra hour a week to spend not mowing the lawn, but it won’t support life.
There’s a lot of talk about Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and global warming. Scientists are sure there’s a connection between the two and they are encouraging everybody from global corporations right down to you and me to reduce the amount of CO2 they release into the atmosphere. Turning off the heating, insulating our homes, buying locally sourced food and products and car sharing are all lifestyle changes that can help.
Artificial turf comes in may different varients and once down doesn't need regular mowing. It does however need to be swept to remove dust and debris and occasionally washed and disinfected - particularly if your "lawn" is visited by pets. You might decide that any timesaving benefits are outweighed by the lack of environmental benefits.
There is another way to keep CO2 levels under control – and that’s grow more plants. Living plants absorb CO2 as part of their life process. We call it photosynthesis. There are 10 million grass plants in an average lawn, which means that there is a lot of CO2 absorbed.
Creates habitat for living things
I know, nobody likes to think there might be “things” living in the lawn. But not all “things” are bad. In fact, most living creatures have important roles in our ecosystems. Beneath the soil are earthworms – aka food for some of the songbirds that you like to listen too. There is also a huge population of microorganisms that fight lawn diseases, boost our own immune systems and do a lot of good.
Real grass cools your garden on a hot day
I won’t go into the science in great depth but why do you think the countryside more comfortable to be in on a hot day than the town? Come to that, why do you prefer to sunbathe on the grass than on patio slabs? It’s because living plants are really clever at cooling an area down. It’s not just that the colour green is naturally calming, there really is a temperature difference.
A natural grass lawn is not as biodiverse as a wildflower meadow but you'll be surprised at how much life it does support.
Real lawns help filter pollutants out of the air
Dust gets washed out of the air by rain. When it lands on a natural lawn or on a flower bed, it is broken down by soil microbes and turned into plant nutrients. Nature’s recycling system.
Some gaseous pollutants too are absorbed by plant leaves and turned into harmless elements that can be used by soil microbes and by the plants themselves. Lawns help to keep us safe.
Natural Grass is a great surface for sports
There was a time when sports stadia installed artificial grass to supposedly save money. Guess what. They’re changing their minds again now and going back to using real grass. It seems as though artificial turf doesn’t yield in the same way as a natural surface does and that is hard on the athletes’ tendons and ligaments. And do I need to mention the risk of carpet burn?
Feeling content with ourselves is not something that’s easy to describe. Neither is it easy to prove with a scientific experiment. But you have to admit, there’s something about being outdoors in the fresh air, surrounded by plants that makes a body feel calmer, more relaxed, happier. Does that happen with artificial plants? I don’t know, I’ve not tried it myself so I’m not in a position to comment. But what do you think?
Real turf vs artificial turf. Which do you prefer?
I’m not one to tell anyone what they can or cannot like. And I do think there is a place in this world for fake grass. But it’s not for me personally. I’m all for technological advancement to improve lives but in this case, I can’t see enough benefits in artificial lawns to warrant me wanting to buy one. Even if the mowing is a bit of a chore sometimes.
How about you? Which do you prefer?
Artificial turf is sometimes used in gardens where shade is a problem. But did you know that it is possible to grow a natural lawn in low light conditions? Read more in this article