How to create an environmentally friendly garden that includes Artificial Grass
By Gavin Hall
Environmental garden fitted with artificial grass
From time to time I hear people saying that using artificial grass is bad for the environment.
Quite often the people saying this are avid gardeners and lawn snobs who just don’t take the time to look at designing a garden with artificial grass. There are many ways of incorporating it into a garden so the garden remains or improves environmentally. Here I will show you some of the design ideas that I use in back gardens, balconies etc to create an environmentally friendly garden that includes artificial grass.
I agree that if every garden was to replace their existing lawn, plants and trees with artificial grass then this wouldn’t be good environmentally. UP Market Research has estimated that the global market for artificial grass will rise to £4.4bn by 2023. That is a lot of grass! And I think home owners, garden designers along with artificial lawn installers should do everything they can to create a garden space that is easy to maintain yet good for the environment.
Well how can this be done I hear you say?
There are garden/outdoor spaces where people live like balconies, rooftops, paved areas, decking and concrete pathways where artificial grass isn’t a substitute for real grass rather it is a more suitable alternative. It adds some colour and softness to an otherwise bland area. It isn’t changing anything in the environment. Below I have highlighted some additions that can be made to these areas.
Front and back gardens that have real grass replaced by artificial grass tend to be the areas of concern. The perception is that these areas will eradicate wildlife. This could be true if you were to completely cover the garden with artificial turf and have no plants or borders.
Here are some ideas I suggest to reduce and possibly enhance the nature in your garden whilst using artificial grass. The ideas can be adopted in small Urban gardens as well as larger gardens. The ideas are mean’t to be quick and easy to incorporate and once implemented require little maintenance. They are also mean’t to involve the family and help educate them on the importance of the environment.
Designing your garden to support the environment
Incorporate borders around the garden
Just because you have an artificial grass lawn doesn’t mean you can’t have a great border with plants in it. We are able to shape our artificial lawns to replicate a real grass lawn. If you have an existing border you may want to increase the size of it so you can have additional plants. This will provide a great habitat for worms and burrowing insects. Plants that attract bees and butterflies like Verbena, Aster, Budleia and Hebe can be planted in these areas.
Have a section of real grass or a wild meadow
In a larger garden it can often be possible to have a section of real grass alongside artificial turf. Choose an area of the garden that has plenty of light and little footfall and grow real grass. Tightly cut grass isn’t great for wildlife instead opt for a grass meadow or a wildflower area. Butterflies, birds and insects will love you for this and it will require little maintenance once established.
Put up some bird boxes and feeding tables
For birds that may normally be feeding for insects and worms in real grass lawn provide them with feeding tables in the surrounding trees or in the borders. I wouldn’t place the feeders directly on top of artificial grass as the food that falls from the tables encourages rodents that dig at the grass. Nesting boxes can be placed in any trees in the garden out of reach of cats and other prey.
Planters can be positioned on or next to the artificial lawn. Fill them with lavender, mint, sage or other plant that attracts insects.
Add a bug hotel
If you have kids this a great project for the family to take part in. There is lots of information on the internet about Bug Hotel construction. Get the right insects in your garden like ladybirds and bees and they will consume the aphids that can eat your plants.
Leave the overhanging trees to grow
The beauty of artificial turf means it doesn’t require sunlight or water to thrive so whereas trees may need to be cut back or down surrounding ‘real grass’ they can be left around an artificial grass lawn.
Is artificial grass eco-friendly?
Can artificial grass be recycled?
Whilst recycling of artificial grass is possible it is not an easy process. Firstly the Kiln Sand needs to be removed from the artificial turf. The actual artificial turf itself is made up of two different plastics that need separating. They are the plastic grass fibres along and the plastic backing. All of our products allow the fibres and backing to be parted so they are recyclable.
In the Uk at present we need to remove the Kiln Sand ourselves first before taking the two plastic sections of the grass to a recycling centre. The first exclusive artificial grass recycling plant has recently opened in Holland. They clean the artificial grass then recycle the sand and plastics in one facility. The sand can be used in the building industry and the plastic is converted into a raw material that can be used by the plastics industry. Hopefully specialized facilities like this will open in the UK soon. Our grass products last 10 -20 years so hopefully by this time they will be more readily available.
In the meantime if you can’t get your old artificial turf to a recycle centre there are other options artificial grass can be used so it doesn’t end up in landfill. Golf courses will often use it for paths around tees and walkways. Farms will use it for cattle tracks and surfaces for festivals. I am sure there are other options out there.
Are there health risks to having artificial grass installed?
There have been many articles written about the negative impact rubber crumb can have on people’s health due to the rubber crumb containing arsonic and other harmful chemicals. None of the artificial lawns that we install use rubber crumb infill. It is mostly used in sports fields and not gardens. We use Kiln Sand as our infill which is a natural product.
I have heard artificial grass overheats in the summer months. Is this true?
Sports fields have been known to increase their temperature by a few degrees when artificial turf is used. Again this is the rubber crumb causing the problem (not used by us) as the rubber radiates heat. We use Kiln Sand to help the grass stand up and keep the lawn flat. Kiln Sand actually helps reduce the temperature of artificial grass as sand doesn’t radiate heat. There will be very little difference in temperature between a real grass lawn and an artificial one in the summertime.
Have you considered the impact a ‘real grass’ lawn has on the environment?
Having a green, well manicured lawn in itself has a big impact on the environment which many purists tend to overlook.
- When you use a lawnmower to cut the grass you will likely be using fossil fuels or electricity. The best option is to use a push lawnmower but this is tough work especially if you have a large lawn.
- During the summer months real grass requires lots of water. With summer’s getting hotter and longer this water consumption is likely going to increase.
- Most lawn maintenance involves the use of fertilizers to add nutrients to the soil and promote strong growth in the grass. Not great for the majority of wildlife. An insect friendly fertilizer is needed.
- How many people who look after gardens allow moles, badgers, insects etc to run loose on the lawn? Not many instead chemicals are used to rid the lawn of these creatures.
- Mowing the lawn tightly takes away the insects playground. They like to feed on the blades of grass.
- Weeding. To rid the grass of weeds weedkiller is used. Often these weedklillers contain a toxic herbicide. Not great for wildlife.
- Fighting disease in the lawn. Weak grass can be killed by fungus. The way to get rid of this is with a fungicide. Not good for wildlife.
and finally …
As you can see artificial grass has its pros and cons when it comes to how eco-friendly it is. Likewise real grass also has its pros and cons.
I hope this blog provides you with some ideas as to how you can help the environment whilst using artificial grass. As manufacturing methods improve and more recycling plants open up it will give us even greater ways to improve the environment Please let us know any ideas you have in the comments section below.
This leaves the question is artificial really so bad for the environment if the garden is planned correctly? I don’t think so.
If you are convinced artificial grass is not for you I see the only real alternative is to have a garden meadow or wild garden. But will your kids and animals be able to play in a space like this and will you be able to entertain in this type of space?