Gar­den­ing

Edi­tor-in- Chief Michelle Ogun­de­hin looks into the one fake we ap­prove of here at ELLE Dec­o­ra­tion head­quar­ters: ar­ti­fi­cial grass

ELLE Decoration (UK) - - Elle Decoration -

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).

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