Turf wars: Why fake grass is the way to go
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Gardening columnist - and former fake grass-hater - Debbie McMorran has said goodbye to endless muddy pawprints in her house after installing an artificial lawn. She talks us through the process.
The idea of 'fake grass' always appalled me. Frankly, the idea of having a synthetic lawn, when we had a decent lawn already, seemed ridiculous.
I had seen various examples of it, mainly during my days working as an estate agent handling new homes developments, and they were very obviously not real lawn.
Seen as a good way of landscaping communal areas, and hugely reducing the need for upkeep, it was an obvious choice for the developers.
I also had images in my mind of the AstroTurf that lined our school hockey pitch, which caused the most horrendous fabric burns when you fell on it, or were unlucky enough to skid along it!
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When we first had our daughter, we realised fairly quickly that we would need to enclose the small front garden. The back lawn is long, and merges with our neighbours, but the front lawn was a suitable place for her garden toys, and was somewhere that she could play.
When the first winter came, we soon became aware that she wouldn't be able to use that lawn during the winter - as much as she wanted to still be outside using her slide, it was impossible due to the nature of the lawn and its lack of drainage.
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It soon became a muddy area, and unless I wanted to be constantly washing her clothes, I found myself encouraging her to play indoors instead. We looked into synthetic lawn at this stage, and went to a local supplier, LazyLawn, and I was pleasantly surprised with the range of different styles that were available.
It would seem that quite a lot has changed over the years since that hockey AstroTurf, and there are now all kinds of different lawn available. I would say that there are some which still look very 'synthetic' - those which are cropped slightly shorter, and which have a very pure green colour.
To me, as a gardener, it is immediately obvious that they are not genuine grass. However, there are also several other options, including the one that we chose to go for, which was slightly longer, with some of the strands being brownish in colour, which gives the lawn a far more genuine appearance overall.
In a real lawn, there will never be a time when the whole area is in the full flush of life, so to have some parts which are browning off is far more realistic.
But the summer came, and as the weather improved, we didn't think any more about it.
Fast forward a couple of months, to the arrival of a puppy in our home and garden... when she started to dig up the lawn on a regular basis, I started to think that perhaps we should have had the work done after all.
It wasn't until September came around, and the first of the heavy autumnal rain, that we realised that we really should have done it: as soon as the lawn got slightly wet, the dog started bringing in huge amounts of mud.
Every time she needed to go outside for a pee, she would bring huge muddy pawprints back into the house - and I seemed to be spending the whole time following her around with a mop and bucket.
So we called LazyLawn and got them booked in as soon as possible - which at that point was only about three weeks later.
I was amazed at how quickly the process was carried out. I was concerned that the dog would dig up the new lawn in the same way she had with the normal grass, but I was assured that in the 10 years they had been supplying it, this hadn't yet happened.
Three months on, and it hasn't happened here - yet... although I'm touching wood as I say that of course!
The whole works were carried out in the space of one day - we were required to clear the lawn of any toys, then the workmen turned up in the morning, dug up and removed our existing lawn, prepared the ground underneath, then laid the new lawn.
By the late afternoon it had all been completed, and we are delighted with how it has turned out. Not only is our daughter able to play on it year round, but it looks far more realistic than I had imagined it would (and even more so with a few stray leaves from the trees having fallen on it).
We are no longer plagued by muddy pawprints every time the dog goes in and out of the house, and many visitors have commented that they didn't notice that it wasn't a real lawn.
We have had one line appear in the lawn - the company came out to assess this, and will be repairing it as soon as we have some dry weather - but the service has been good from the workmen who we've met, and overall I'm really pleased that I revisited my initial prejudices and took a chance on having it done!