How to choose between natural and artificial grass

grandma and grandson playing soccer on the grass lawn

Jenna Meade

Posted October 04, 2021


Having trouble deciding what will be the best look for your lawn? Consider these five key factors. 

Spring is the best time to lay down your lawn. With balmy evenings drawing closer, it’s an ideal window to make sure your grass is lush in time for the outdoor entertaining season.

But how do you know whether to put down roots of real grass or roll out artificial turf? With considerations like upkeep, cost and aesthetics, the choice is as individual as the gardener themselves.

To help you decide what’s best for your yard, consider these important factors before deciding whether to lay out, or roll out.


Is natural or fake grass better?

 

Aesthetics  

Artificial grass has come a long way with its lifelike design, and you can even take your pick between blade lengths, textures and colours. But appearances are subjective. 

While artificial turf is likely to fool most, some green-eyed gardeners prefer the look of natural grass and may be able to spot the difference. It’s worth visiting a display centre to see both options growing side-by-side to see which you prefer. 

Investment and installation

If you’re investing in lawn for the long haul, natural grass ticks the budget-conscious box. Artificial turf costs between $75-100 per square metre for supply and installation, and has a life expectancy between 15 and 20 years.

Natural turf will cost around $25 per square metre to prepare and install and can last forever. You’ll pay even less if you plan to grow a new lawn from seed.

While both options can be installed quickly, a seeded lawn will take between six and eight weeks to establish. There’s also a little more prep work to factor in with artificial grass -laying out a base layer and applying a weed membrane. 

fake grass outside a modern home

Those looking at artificial grass may like it for its aesthetics and low maintenance, although others may prefer the natural environment that real grass brings. Image: Getty. 


 

Health and safety

One of the key differences between natural and artificial turf is that the synthetic option will warm up in the sun, while natural grass will stay cool. Consider how you’re using your lawn - if you’re a backyard cricket enthusiast or have children who love to run around outdoors on summer days, artificial lawn may not be right for you.

Natural grass also offers more padding for clumsy kids (and adults), reducing potential for injury.

If you’re using your yard for entertaining, artificial grass could be a much better option. Not only can you use it anywhere, like your deck or balcony, but it also won’t attract nasty bugs and insects.

Maintenance 

Think of artificial grass like an outdoor carpet: you’ll want to maintain it monthly to keep it strong and looking fresh. You’ll need to remove debris such as leaves and dead bugs to prevent corrosive chemicals doing damage. Hose-rinse it regularly to remove dust and pollen, and brush the grass against the grain in high-traffic areas to avoid it becoming matted. Stains caused by alcohol, coffee or blood can be rinsed with water and a mild detergent, then blotted up with a dry absorbent. Stubborn stains like chewing gum or tree sap will need a more advanced approach, such as using dry ice. 

Maintaining natural grass can be a real pain, unless you're the type who finds mowing the lawn therapeutic (or have kids who can do it for you).  If that’s the case, then you may want to embrace the natural option. 

Lawns should be mowed fortnightly in summer to keep roots healthy, and about every month from autumn to winter. You’ll need to invest in the right equipment for your upkeep, and need to allocate time for weeding, watering and fertilising. 

Environmental impact 

Depending on which kind of artificial grass you choose, it may end up being better for the planet than the natural option, as it doesn’t require watering, mowing or fertilising. 

Many synthetic options are now made from recycled rubber or plastics, including tyres and bottles. Because it always has a drainage point, homeowners can even collect water runoff from the turf for reuse. 

But it does have its flaws. Even though it’s made with recycled materials, the petroleum-based product isn’t biodegradable. Like most products, it creates waste and pollution in the manufacturing process, and after its lifespan, it will end up in landfill.  

A thriving natural lawn acts as a natural air filter and absorbs pollutants. It can be an environmental oasis, providing oxygen, soaking up moisture and creating a healthy home for insects and feeding birdlife. However, care for natural lawn can come at an environmental cost. Watering accounts for about a third of residential water use - particularly during the warmer months. While petrol-powered mowers also contribute carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, and fertilisation can be a major source of groundwater pollution. 

 


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