Lawns in a Dry Climate – Artificial Grass and Real Grass Compared
By Jonathan Ya'akobi
In dry climates, water shortages are making the large suburban lawn a luxury less and less people can afford. A garden where 90% or so of its area is taken up by grass is becoming increasingly unsustainable in terms of water consumption and the resulting costs.
This has provided an opportunity for artificial grass manufacturers to offer an alternative. While many people including myself instinctively balk at the idea of a fake lawn, the water crisis is chronic enough to warrant a dispassionate comparison between synthetic grass and a real lawn. To do this we can examine a number of parameters.
Gone are the days when artificial grass has to look like a pathetic, worn carpet. Modern techniques have made for synthetic lawns, or more precisely, the premium products amongst them, that look excellent if excessive wear and tear is avoided. By comparison, if we are to face facts, it is probably no exaggeration to say that most lawns in private gardens look like cabbage patches anyway.
Feel and Touch
In the area of contact and feel too, synthetic products have improved immensely. Once they were hard, abrasive, and prickly, but now, many fake grasses on the market are soft and fairly nice to the touch. Again, it could be argued that the average home lawn, with its bare spots and patches of weeds, is hardly the ideal place for sitting and playing.
This is the big one! The cost of installing a decent synthetic lawn is about 5 times more expensive than laying turf, after including the costs of a professional irrigation system and soil preparation. But even here, the advocates of artificial grass can point, justly so, to the massive, on-going savings not only in water, but in mowing, feeding, and edging, not to speak of labor intensive practices such as de-thatching and aerating.
The trouble is gardening is not about being dispassionate and objective. It is all about passion and emotion, for by the same list of sensible arguments, we could dispense with garden plants altogether and replace them with plastic flowers, bushes, and trees.
We do not garden to create perfection, but thrive in the challenge of overcoming all the difficulties, and in the process, creating something imperfect but beautiful. The real way to save water is to design the garden, or to re-design the existing one, using far less grass than is usual for the standard suburban plot.
It is quite possible to have a delightful and functional garden, where the lawn accounts for no more than 25% of the total area. For that 25% of lawn, we can then invest our energy and our checkbook, to make it the lush, green, living swathe we dream about. This is surely the better way forward for the dry climate garden.