Gardening 2.qxp_Layout 2 24/03/2017 14:45 Page 1
PLASTIC FANTASTIC... When it comes to problematic lawns, there’s nothing wrong with faking it, says Elly West
have a confession to make. I love artificial grass. It’s soft, it’s tactile, it’s practical and it’s green all year round. It’s also a fact that, in some gardens, grass just does not grow very well. Moss, leatherjackets, rust, red thread, weeds, shade, drought and poor drainage can all take their toll on our lawns, and there are times when we have to concede that we’re fighting a losing battle. However much money and time we throw at the problem, the solution could be to simply have a rethink, especially if your plot is small. But grass is the perfect foil for other garden elements, such as planted borders and paving. A swathe of green is restful on the eye and also provides a practical space for leisure, play and relaxation. Not everyone wants to pave, plant or gravel the majority of their plot to replace an existing lawn, however shabby it’s looking – in which case, it could be wisest to roll out the plastic and fake it. Artificial grass is a growing industry and the products today are nothing like their greengrocer matting ancestors. Designers are seeing the benefits, and plastic grass has been winning medals at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show since first appearing there in 2010. Modern turfs are remarkably realistic, with strands of different lengths and colours, and an authentic underlayer of pale-toned ‘thatch’. They’re hard wearing, generally with a guarantee of at least 10 years, and are suitable for high-traffic areas, as well as for children and dogs. And there are plenty to choose from. If you are thinking of going down this route, always ask for samples and look at them in different lights and from different angles. Products vary greatly in quality, but will generally have a pile, and a tendency for the strands to flatten in one direction. However, the more high-end products should spring back when you brush them the other way, all making for a more naturallooking lawn. 90 THE BRISTOL MAGAZINE
There are absolutely tons of products on the market now, so it definitely pays to shop around. Although prices might start at less than £5 per square metre, and I’ve even seen rolls of the stuff outside the local supermarket, for a top-quality product, expect to pay more like £25 to £30 per square metre, then double that cost for professional installation. Don’t be afraid to haggle. It’s a competitive market and the discounts are out there if you are prepared to negotiate. And, although the initial outlay can be high, you won’t then have to spend time or money in terms of maintenance, fertilisers, weedkillers, watering and electricity or petrol for your mower (just think: no more mowing!) Roll widths are normally two or four metres, so keep that in mind when you’re planning the size of your lawn, so you don’t end up paying extra for offcuts. There is also the option to do-it-yourself. Check the supplier’s guidelines for installation, but it can potentially be laid out straight on to a flat roof, decking or paving, perhaps with a self-levelling compound in place first. If you’re replacing an existing lawn though, my advice would be to call in the professionals, as it could be expensive to put right if you end up with lumps and bumps. Apart from the sleek, modern look of artificial grass, which is perfect for small, contemporary urban gardens, I also love its practicality. My two boys adored having plastic grass when we lived in London, and are delighted I’ve finally decided to install some here, near Bristol, albeit in a more rural location. And I like knowing they can go outside and play, even if it’s been raining, and they won’t be treading dirty shoes into the house. It’s quick drying, free draining (as long as it’s properly installed), and is also good for dog owners. No more muddy paws, bald or yellow patches, and it can easily be hosed down and disinfected if necessary.
Image above: It is, and will probably remain, a Marmite product – much higher in quality than its greengrocer matting ancestors, but not the best in terms of ecological considerations
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