Updated: Dec 2, 2020
Synthetic grass seems to be getting a lot of positive attention lately. Many are considering it as a low maintenance alternative to grass lawns. But are we simply creating yet another assault on our planet for future generations to deal with? If you search for information about the potential harmful effects of faux grass, you may come across assuring claims that scientific studies have yet to find any great cause for concern, however, studies are very limited, and one thing that science can assure us of is that nature is already under critical threat! British wildlife is at grave risk, with pollinating insects on a rapid decline.
You may also notice where you do find reassuring advice about the safety of artificial grass, that the source of information often has an obvious bias and a profitable interest in sales either directly or through affiliate marketing. It should come as no great surprise that Astro-turf was first introduced to us by one of the biggest corporate threats to human health and our planet: Monsanto! It was patented in 1965 under the brand name "ChemGrass" and rebranded the following year.
There are many valid concerns about the rise in artificial turf use, however the studies are so limited, so it's difficult to find definitive answers to our questions. We could spend hours debating the pro's and con's of fake vs real grass, with regards to maintenance, health, environment, cost etc but one thing that's indisputable is that we need to be nurturing wildlife not replacing it with harmful synthetic materials, and with so many options available, why take the risk at all?
If you are fed up of maintaining a grass lawn, there are lots of alternatives to consider instead, many of which will play an active role in helping our environment and some which will simply not pose any further threat. Here are some lawn alternatives to consider.
# 1. Clover
Clover is a great alternative to grass lawns, it stays green through dry weather, and requires very little care or maintenance. Nitrogen fixing properties mean it needs no fertiliser and benefits the soil. It's immune to pet urine stains, it attracts bee's and other pollinators as well as other beneficial insects, which can help control common pests such as aphids. It feels great under bare feet. It can out compete other weeds, grows well even in poor soils, it's inexpensive, and like all plants it absorbs carbon-dioxide and produces oxygen! Another idea is to try a clover and grass mix.
# 2. Tapestry Lawn
If you're wanting a low footfall green area with some texture and colour, this may be the answer you're looking for! There are many low growing native and non-native plants which can be incorporated to suit your environment and preferences, and it requires very little maintenance (mowing 2-5 times per annum), attracts beneficial wildlife and can provide pleasant scents to your space.
# 3. Wildflower Meadow
British wildflower meadows have declined drastically over the last century and thankfully there are many local and national schemes working to promote wildflower plantations on public area's now. Choosing to plant your own wildflower patch is an eco-friendly option, which once established requires far less effort than traditional lawns, as well as providing a stunning floral display for your own pleasure as well as the benefit of local wildlife! Native wildflowers can easily be added to an existing grass patch (think daisy, clover, buttercup, wild violet, chamomile) or sowed onto bare soil. It's wise to consider the flowers that will best suit the soil and conditions, many of the prettiest wildflowers actually thrive in very poor soil, poppies for example. You can could even choose a colour theme!
# 4. Herb Garden
As well as visual appeal, a herb garden can enrich your culinary options and your health. Did you know that crushing a sprig of rosemary and inhaling the scent can actually improve your memory? The sweet scent of lavender can reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. In fact all of the common herbs have medicinal benefits, as well as adding beautiful fresh flavours to your food. Most herbs stay green and fresh year round and produce pretty flowers in Spring and Summer.
# 5. Wood Chips/Mulch
Of course, finding the right lawn alternative depends on what you are using the space for, if it's a base for a children's play area then many of the above will not be ideal but could easily be included in the layout. Mulch and woodchips can provide an affordable soft area for play equipment, and can come in varying colours to compliment your space.
# 6. Sand
Sand is another option for children, providing a soft landing as well as an added play factor! It's cheap and can be used in a specific area, allowing more visually appealing landscape surroundings.
# 7. Eco-Lawn
If you really want all the benefits of a lawn but without the hassle, just get a better lawn! There are many different seed varieties available with low growing, drought resistant grasses requiring far less effort whilst still providing a lush green area for your children to play on. You can even custom design your own lawn by adding other plants such as clover, daisy or yarrow.
# 8. Gravel/Stone/Chipping
Although this will do little for wildlife, it does offer a varied and affordable low maintenance solution, to which easy care plants can be added as desired and some of the other suggestions can be incorporated into the design quite easily.
# 9. Paving and/or Decking
As above, this option, although not a great service to nature, at least doesn't add any potentially harmful chemicals to the mix. Potted plants and garden furniture or ornaments can be introduced to suit many different schemes.
# 10. Features
Finally, try something different. A rock garden, a water feature, or a garden building to provide shade or shelter for the changeable British weather! A summer house, pergola or arbour, create a peaceful seating area with pretty climbing plants. Get creative and use it as opportunity to show off your own unique style with ornaments, unusual plants or interesting furniture pieces. Use mirrors to enhance the space or create unusual perceptions.If you want somewhere for the children to play, build them a fort, a climbing frame or a play house.
Carpets are great... for the interior! But before you find yourself stuck with the task of hoovering your lawn, first consider the many alternatives. Have some fun with it. Be bold, be creative, be minimalist or eclectic or playful or understated. Be_ You_**. **_Keep it real._****
Many thanks to our guest blogger Liza Stirling! If you would like to read more about what Liza has to say, or would like her to write for you! Check out her blog here https://fleetingopinionation.blogspot.com