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  • Writer's pictureDoug Hull

Is the grass really greener?

As I write this, the temperature outside is approaching 40 degrees Celsius, and my (solar powered!) air conditioner is labouring away, trying to to make my life more bearable. If I look out of the window I can see my small rectangle of lawn outside, riddled with brown patches from where a certain dog has relieved himself, or where the harsh Perth summer sun has taken its toll, and I can't help but wonder if synthetic lawn would be a better bet. There are some obvious upsides to going the astroturf route for your choice of lawn, but there also some negatives that you may not have considered.

So why go for fake lawn? Well the short answers are: No irrigation systems, no costly water bills, no mowing, no weeding, no pesticides, no fertilisers. I think those are strong motivators! Fake lawns look good all year round (at least until you have to clean up the mess left on your shiny plastic grass by a hound with bowel problems), and cost next to nothing to maintain. What's not to love?

On the flip-side, real lawns are hard work. In my case, keeping them alive through the harsh Perth summer months can be a challenge too. Of course there are ways to mitigate this - a good irrigation system and the application of wetting agents will help the grass survive, and lawn dressing on the brown patches helps to restore them, but the point is that all of this costs money, effort and time. And I haven't touched on the use of pesticides or fertilisers which can be expensive, and are often toxic to your garden ecosystem. So let's rip it up and lay down the plastic stuff then! Right? Hang on mate.. I quite like the real McKuyu stuff, not that plastic crap! What about some positives?

One major benefit of grass lawns is their cooling effect. Ever tried walking across a fake plastic lawn barefoot on a hot summers day? Amazingly, fake turf can reach temperatures of up to 100°C on a hot day, which means 'summer-turf-walking' could soon be the new 'fire-walking' (watch-out Tony Robbins!). Real grass is always cool on the feet. The cooling effect of lawns also, and perhaps most importantly, means that adjacent houses are kept cooler in summer, and consequently require less energy (and less cost) to run air-conditioning and fans. Where would you rather be on a hot sunny day - surrounded by concrete and green plastic carpet underfoot, or on a shady lush lawn? Lawns are also wonderfully rich ecosystems for bugs and microbes, and hold the soil together, thus preventing erosion, particularly on sloping ground. Fake lawns tend to be very sterile ecosystems. And another thing to consider... where does all that plastic turf go after its useful life has ended...?

If you love the real thing, but are worried about water usage, then why not turn your lawn into a mixed garden, with some grass, bushes and (shady!) trees. This is the most effective solution from a cooling perspective, and also reduces your water bill. It may not look quite as good as the fake stuff, but with some creativity and care it can still look amazing, and the birds and bugs will love it. Unfortunately the runny dog poos will still be there waiting for you whatever option you choose!

Until next time!


The Regeneralist

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