For most gardens, there’s still no substitute for real grass. However, for small gardens or small lawns used by children or dogs, fake grass is a viable alternative.
Artificial grass is pricey to install, but remains green whatever the weather throws at it, takes heavy wear and requires little maintenance once it’s set up. If you don’t want to pour water over your lawn to keep it green, artificial grass could be the way to go.
Our expert artificial grass tests have uncovered some of the toughest turf around. The best fake grasses are hard to tell from real grass from a distance.
One of our Best Buy artificial grasses has strands of brown among the green to make it look more natural – after all, not every blade of grass in even very well-tended lawns is pure green. However this one is the most expensive artificial grasses we tested.
Types of artificial grass
Nylon artificial grass
Artificial grass made with nylon is better-protected against the elements compared to polypropylene grass. It’s a particularly strong type of plastic fibre, so if you’re looking for an artificial lawn that can withstand children and pets, consider nylon grass.
Polyethylene artificial grass
A good option if you don’t want to spend big. Polyethylene artificial turf has a natural look and a texture that’s soft to the touch like real grass. You obviously won’t be running a lawn mower over it, but remember to brush or rake it occasionally.
Polypropylene artificial grass
Although polypropylene grass will usually be your cheapest option, it’s also the least durable type of artificial grass. As a result, it’s best to use this grass in small spots rather than large lawns.
How much do I need to pay for good artificial grass?
Most artificial grasses come in rolls that are two or four metres wide. Cost-wise, they work out at anything from £10 to £30 per sq m (on a par with carpet). Compared with real turf (which costs up to £6 per sq m), fake turf is expensive, but you could still make long-term savings. After all, you won’t have to buy and maintain a mower, or buy any lawn feed.
You’ll also save time, as there will be no more mowing, raking or re-sowing. You could try laying it yourself, but if you want a perfectly level lawn and a good-quality finish, it’s probably best to employ a local landscaper or an artificial lawn specialist to fit it for you.
Many manufacturers will offer to fit the grass for you, and prices vary depending on the complexity of your garden. The prices quoted for fitting a 50sq m area ranged from £1,000 to £2,700 – double the price of the artificial grass alone. Gardening tool reviews – discover all the garden products we test.
What are the environmental implications of artificial grass?
Most of the worms and soil insects that thrive under a real lawn won’t survive under artificial grass. This means that fake grass won’t be attractive to blackbirds and other birds, nor does it absorb carbon dioxide or have a cooling effect in summer.
In some cases, if the weather gets extremely warm, an artificial lawn could become so hot it’s uncomfortable to walk on As it’s mostly made of plastic, it can be quite tricky to recycle too.
There are some places that will accept it, but they aren’t always very well-publicised, and more often than not old artificial lawns end up in landfill.
Artificial grass won’t last as long as a real lawn either, despite some manufacturers claiming their products last for 10-20 years. If you have an artificial lawn and are looking to get rid of it, your first port of call should be to contact the manufacturer.
Many of them run schemes where they will come and collect your old lawn for free and dispose of it safely. Do not dump it straight in the bin or take it to the tip as it will take decades to break down.
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Best artificial grass: features to look out for
Artificial grass colour
Most of us think of artificial grass as being a fake-looking dark green. But a range of tones are available, and many include strands of brown fibre and ‘grass blades’ of varying heights to simulate a normal lawn.
It’s well worth researching the colours and finishes thoroughly and requesting samples of the different materials to make sure they fulfil your requirements.
With artificial grass, you generally get what you pay for. The cheapest products look like the sort of bright green baize used by greengrocers, which is OK on a pitch-and-putt golf course but not what you want in a garden.
Artificial grass finish
Some of the the mid-priced grasses have individual strands of plastic that are remarkably similar to real grass. The strands are held upright by brushing a layer of fine sand into the pile.
The sand will have to be renewed every year and may need to be brushed occasionally to keep the strands upright.
Our highest-scoring Best Buy artificial grass was not the most expensive but could easily be mistaken for real grass.