Editor-in- Chief Michelle Ogundehin looks into the one fake we approve of here at ELLE Decoration headquarters: artificial grass
Discover why artificial grass is the one fake we do love
Artificial grass! Surely that’s a big no no in the land of ED, authenticity being king and all that?
Well, the fact is, the use of artificial grass is growing in the UK by some 20–30 per cent each year.
Why is it becoming more popular?
Probably because it’s essentially maintenancefree. No chemicals are needed to keep it looking weed-free and neat; nor water, which as another increasingly precious resource is kind of a big deal. Also, the average garden could take quite some hours to mow each month, meaning that by choosing artificial turf you get a big chunk of your life back.
Yes, but real turf is worth the effort, surely?
Well, I have a postage stamp sized lawn in my front garden, which is a lumpy bumpy nightmare that needs cutting by hand (too small for a lawnmower) every week in growing season, so it often looks horribly unkempt. I also have two dogs. Net effect? Something that’s ugly, unhygienic and not remotely verdant.
But doesn’t artificial grass always look obviously fake?
It certainly used to, and there are a lot of different products out there and a lot of confusion, but some companies have invested a huge amount of time and energy creating something that’s a long way from the lurid, scratchy plastic of a decade ago. Part of this is down to the way that it’s manufactured. For example, if you looked at leading Brit brand Wonderlawn’s grass (wonderlawn.com) with a magnifying glass, you’d see that the individual blades are cut into various different X,C, U or V-like shapes.
Well that’s nice, but I can’t see how a fancy profile is going to help the grass...
The shapes each have different properties. Softness, resilience against flattening and so on. And flattening is a big deal. A lot of the products of lore looked pretty good for the first five minutes, but as soon as you walked on them they went flat and stayed that way. Let alone what they looked like if you let loose small children or dogs on them. Great recovery is down to the way the product is made, but a lot lies in the installation too.
You install it yourself, don’t you? I mean I’ve seen it sold by the metre?
You could, but it’s really not a DIY job. Plus many of the commonly available, cheap faux turfs are shipped in from the Far East, and they often have a Latex rubber backing making them completely unrecyclable. They also won’t weather well, quickly flattening and discolouring so when you have to replace it, it would go straight to landfill.
But it can’t be that hard to put down, surely? Don’t you just roll it out like
a carpet? Well, as Mel Wright, managing director of Wonderlawn, puts it: ‘The success of artificial turf really lies in the base that it’s laid upon. Our method involves a sevenstep process that results in a lawn we’ll guarantee for ten years but, realistically, should look great for the next 15–20 years.’
Seven steps! That sounds a bit excessive, spell it out for me.
First, they remove the existing grass and dig down about 10–15 centimetres. Then the ground is carefully levelled and a layer of crushed granite added, which is compacted down to make a firm underlayer. A commercial grade membrane goes on top of that to prevent weed growth, and only then does your Wonderlawn of choice go on top, followed by a fine layer of a special sand infill. Then they clean everything down, take away all the excavated soil, and leave you to admire your new lawn.
I’m not sure about the sand part, won’t I be able to see it? I want a lawn, not a sandpit.
They use a dedicated machine to spread it on in the first place and another special brush-like tool to shake it down. It’s very fine and pours right down to the base of the blades, the point being it not only holds the lawn securely in place, but it ensures the blades don’t flatten over time – the key to a really natural look. Most ➤
companies secure their turf to the ground with a timber frame, which is all well and good, until it rots.
But what about dog pee? Faux turf might look nice but won’t it just end up being a stinky plastic mess after a while?
Again, Wonderlawn is somewhat pioneering here as you can specify its additional ‘Petfill’ infill, which is specially designed to absorb urine odours and trap them until it rains.
Oh great, so when it rains my whole garden will smell of wee?
No! The infill is made of a clever organic material that looks like sand. It reacts with the sodium in rainwater to neutralise the ammonia in wee (the bit that makes it smell). This then flushes into the earth and the infill is ready to do its job again. It’s environmentally friendly and no risk whatsoever to children or animals. Caveat: it’s important to ensure it’s liberally applied as a run of dry, hot weather might strain the absorption quotient a little. And dare I ask, what about poop? Pick it up as normal! But you can also use household cleaners if required. And because there’s no dense rootzone, as is common in many off-the-peg artificial grasses, dirt doesn’t get caught deep down where it can’t be cleaned. You can just wipe down and go! And how does the water drain away? The grass and the membrane both allow water to drain straight through to the soil below, so rain will never sit on the grass. This means no more mucky paws or muddy knees, and a space you can use come rain or shine.
And what of the birds and bees, aren’t they upset by all this fakery?
Actually, data suggests that people who have artificial turf end up spending more time tending their borders, because the grass saves them so much time. So if these can include beeand bird-friendly plants, all will be well.
But how do I know this isn’t all cobbled together from a press release?
Because I challenged Wonderlawn to do its best with my unholy patch, and the pictures ( left) speak for themselves. I can also testify that one energetic toddler and two boisterous hounds have already tried to destroy it, but the lawn just keeps bouncing back. Result (wonderlawn.com).