Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Seen and Noted, Part 3: Artificial Lawns

The seemingly perfect lawn that you see above isn't grass at all! It's fake!

Artificial lawns are one of the oddest gardening phenomena that I noted in visits to area gardens in 2012.

Once the standard issue of the typical suburban homes, the green lawn has been falling out of favour in recent years.  In many localities, there is a ban on the chemical concoctions that at once kept lawns healthy and weed-free. If you want a dandelion-free lawn, it is now a matter of backbreaking labor.

Rising temperatures, summer droughts and water bans have also taken a toll on the popularity of lawns. What was once a neat carpet of green, is now often brown for a good portion of the summer. 

As evidenced by the book to the left, homeowners have started to look for alternatives.

One of the most surprising manifestations of lawn replacement has been the appearance of artificial turf in home applications.

Take the shade garden below for example. Tired of struggling to get grass to prosper in deep shade, this gardener actually ripped out what was left of her back lawn and replaced it with articial grass.

Except for the slightly greyer color, you might not even realize that the grass was artificial. 

Truly, this was as nice a shade garden as I have seen, but I have to be honest, I struggled a little with the fake grass.

Here are a couple of further examples. In both these high-end gardens, the landscape architects have employed artificial grass in different applications.

In this first garden, a beautiful set of stairs leads you to the front door to your right and a children's play area to your left. 

I neglected to take a picture of the playground, which incorporated a large jungle gym and swing set, but you can see similar projects here. Chosen for its practicality and for its durability underfoot, was...you guessed it, artificial grass.

One final example. 

You can watch a short video of this Backyard Oasis designed landscape architect Mark Hartley by clicking this link

In this courtyard garden, the use of articial grass is more minimal and discreet. In the area to the right of the saltwater pool, the architect has incorporated thin lines of artificial grass to break up the hardscaping. 

I can understand and appreciate the reasons behind the architect's choice. Real grass on the pool deck would have been difficult to maintain.

Still...I have general reservations about this product in home applications. My main problem with artificial grass is that it is "artificial". Shouldn't we be aiming to create "natural" home gardens using all-natural materials? 

What are your views on using artificial grass? Is there a place for it in home applications, or does it only belong in sports stadiums and on putting greens?

I look forward to hearing your opinion.


  1. Personally, I wouldn´t want artificial grass - I´m not such in need of perfect that I´d prefer that to the real thing. It would feel kind of sad actually, to introduce fake in my garden.

  2. If it looked nice & felt good underfoot I think I would like it in small areas. But I have almost 5 acres, we mow at least 3 acres & it is not grass. It's really just mowing a prairie - lots of weeds & wildflowers mixed in with some grass close to the house. Yes, it's all dead by the middle of June or July & we don't water it. But we live in the country & everything around our yard pretty much looks the same by then too.

    So I think if you want green that much it's a matter of choice & it's better than watering all summer. I think people aim too much for what they consider perfection in their garden when we need to appreciate the natural changes in the seasons more.

  3. Friends of ours did this last year and I have to say I don't like it. Perhaps there are versions that are hard to tell from the real thing but our friends' lawn just looks fake. I'd rather put down gravel or some other hardscape than this. Interesting post though and I have to say am impressed by your research.

  4. Artificial grass would be great in dry climates. I think a big splash of green is good for the spirit when your surroundings are brown.

    But if it rains a lot on an artificial lawn, wouldn't it eventually be slimy and grimy from the moisture? I would not be cool with that.

  5. Looks great, but there must be a downside to it, or a few.

  6. Interesting post, but only the name 'artificial grass' already, no fake in my garden! But also in our country artificial grass is seen more and more. Man and woman, both work nowadays, don't have money for a gardener, and don't want or have no time to mow the lawn, so for them it is a good choice.
    Nevertheless, I shall never have an artifical lawn or fake grass on difficult places. There are much better choices.

  7. Replies
    1. Anna, I think artificial lawns require little maintenance and that is part of their appeal.

  8. I dislike it intensely...what have we become to use plastic/chemical grass now in our gardens...it is not a garden for me if there is artificial anything...if grass is hard to grow then don't grow it...there are other better alternatives...I had heard rumblings of this and was annoyed that this is being used in home gardens. What a shame for wildlife...people do not understand how bad this is on so many levels,

  9. Well, why stop at artificial grass? You can also have artificial flowers and trees. Talk about four seasons of interest - plastic would allow us to have evergreen japanese maples and ever-blooming delphiniums!

    Sarcasm aside, for me the point of a garden is to have a living landscape. Smothering the earth with artificial turf will result in far less life in the garden. We know there are better alternatives out there when grass cannot do well.

  10. Artificial lawns have come a long way, but they are definitely not for me.
    There is nothing quite like the smell of freshly cut grass in the spring and summer!

  11. I never would have noticed the grass was artificial but now knowing, when I looked closely at the photos it seemed rather obvious. Personally I just can't get down with artificial grass because of what it represents - someone who had to have it perfect. It's more a showpiece than a home. Do they even venture into their own yards?

  12. An artificial lawn is certainly not my cup of tea. I think the first garden you featured (the Shade Garden) could easily have replaced the other side of the walkway with ground cover, not fake grass. There's lots of great ground covers that do well in the shade.
    Plus - I think that freshly mown grass is one of my ultimate favourite fragrances.

  13. I have always had a hard time with it. A..because like you said it is fake and B...because in order to make fake grass you are using just as many chemicals which is no better than using real grass. Though that shade garden is pretty outstanding! The Japanese Forest grass distracts your eye from the fake stuff. I am saving your post to show my husband...I'm gonna need it when I start ripping out grass in the front for a new bed! Ha..I need all the support I can get! We have gone completely chemical free and to be honest I am just sick of maintaining it all!

  14. I can't imagine using artificial grass in a garden space, ever.

  15. I recoiled in horror at the very thought of artificial grass! Isn't it made from petroleum products, which isn't very "green"? I'm curious as to the carbon footprint of artificial grass vs. the upkeep of real grass.

    I personally am not fond of the modern lawn. Too many chemicals and water go into the upkeep of the "perfect" lawn. In my own space I have removed most of the grass, replacing it with mulched areas and lots of flowering trees and shrubs.

  16. Nope, it's not for me. If you can't grow grass, put in pea gravel, a bigger garden or patio stones. Artificial grass belongs in a baseball stadium.

  17. I would never use it, but then, I'm comfortable with weeds. Having said that, if it's kept in a small area and kind of substitutes for hardscaping, then my attitude is, "Whatever."

  18. I struggle with a bias against artificial grass as well. But I wonder why. Aren't concrete, paving stones and such, just as "artificial." They are already converting outdoor playing fields to artificial turf where I live, so kids can play on them regardless of the weather. I have a feeling we're going in the wrong direction. The earth is a live organism and like all live things, it has to breathe.

  19. I know having grass means work to do in the garden. I love the smell of fress
    cut of grass. And I think fake grass does not smell when it's been cut of.
    Lovely post

  20. Fake grass belongs on putting greens and in football stadiums. Or something like the application next to the pool, in limited quantities. I can't see it as a true substitute lawn, covering large areas. There are better alternatives if true lawn won't work. Our world is increasingly artificial, and too often we are finding that artificial is unhealthy.

  21. I am adding more GREEN this way better for the earth thanks for posting it so others can see the beauty in less lawn chemicals

  22. UGH! Way too Brady Bunch for me. I like my real grass. All that fake grass was made from petroleum if it's plastic based. They have a yard full of oil. Doesn't sound too green to me!

  23. We stayed at a house in Santa Fe a couple years ago, and the small patches of artificial turf in their landscaping were perfect. They were water wise, of course, and the look actually worked well with all the hardscape and gravel / sand / xeriscape plants there. I don't think the artificial turf works among leafy green plantings with boxwoods, etc. But it looked perfectly fine with dry desert plants and hardscape.

  24. I have always hated the thought of artificial grass. But that shade garden is absolutely beautiful, so I began to wonder. And my first thought was that artificial grass would be good in areas instead of rubber mulch, because I've heard so many horror stories about the rubber leaching toxins into the soil. But that made me wonder - what does the artificial grass do to the soil? I bet no good, either. I guess it would have its advantages - as you say - in complete shade, where children played, etc. Still, I don't want it in my backyard - and wouldn't recommend it to anyone else, either.

  25. I can understand why people would use fake grass, and maybe I'd consider it for a very fleeting millisecond (poor lawns everywhere). Replacing grass with some other plant is really hard work and while it is what I would like to do I get tired just thinking about doing the work itself.

  26. I'm of two minds on this. I agree with you about having anything artificial in the garden, it just not right, unless it is for tongue in cheek purposes. On the other hand, if it means someone isn't wasting water on a lawn, spreading excess fertilizer or spraying chemicals to make it perfect, then use artificial turf. For my own garden I have no room for turf, real or fake. It would take away from precious planting space.

  27. I have artificial grass in my garden for nearly three years now and I love it!
    See my blogpost at: http://xinfengchowchows.blogspot.nl/2010/04/eoos.html

    I have tried to grow grass there for 5 years...
    It is a small part of the garden that I like to be green, but is used by the dogs to play (and incidetally pee..) it has green and yellow 'grass', so it looks pretty natural. And stiil loooking good after 3 years!

  28. I think having a grass turf as lawn decorations is a convenience for those who have a busy lifestyle and don't have the time mow the lawn which consumes 3 or 4 hours of their time. It's also perfect for those have an exclusive vacation home where in the owners won't always be there to maintain their lawns.

    Johnson Rondeau

  29. Crabgrass is characterized by its prostrate growth habit, especially after mowing and a light, apple green leaf color. The seedheads are digitate (finger-like) and will begin forming in earnest in August. self propelled lawn mower lowes


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