The Benefits of Artificial Grass August 14 2017

My first encounter with a garden with artificial grass came last summer. It was a hot day, and I remember soft blades brushing against my exposed calves in such a pleasant way that I soon found myself drifting away from the general chat about nannies, nappies and organic food.

Our own garden, back then, was an overgrown paved mess; all tangled weeds and dead snails, no place for a toddler. It was sad to see our two-year-old, Ezra, staring through the glass back door, not allowed out. By the following spring, we resolved, we would change it. Another baby was due and we wanted both children to enjoy playing outside.

We looked into real grass for about an hour. It was that half-hearted. This was partly because my parents had a real lawn at the house where I grew up, which was meant to be green but was often brown. The fact that neither my wife, Rosamund, nor I want to mow was also a factor. Who does? From moths to mould, stuff growing in a property is bad, and we thought of those pesky blades of grass in a similar fashion.

When a gardener told us we didn’t have enough direct sunlight to keep a real lawn healthy and that it would go mossy, I could have kissed him. I entered “Artificial grass London” into Google with lightning speed and, after a week of work, our tiny back garden was transformed.

We used a company called Green Man Landscaping after getting three quotes. The estimates were largely similar, but the guy at Green Man cooed as he ran his hand over fake grass and, if you are selling something, it doesn’t hurt to lech over it like a petrolhead does a fancy alloy. We choose Sensation. It was soft to the touch, and when Ezra sat bare-bottomed on a sample and announced it was nice, the deal was done. After all, our laziness aside, the main reason for this outlay has been Ezra and his baby sister, Eden. We’re incredibly fortunate to have any garden at all in London, and even though I can lie in ours and reach both flower beds with one stretch, it is something we own that is outside. In my former homes in the capital, the only daylight came on the walk to the bins, so we wanted our children to enjoy it as much as possible, while doing little ourselves. Hence the plastic.

My dad calls it a carpet, and, well, I did vacuum it the other day, after a fox scraped soil over the pristine plastic. The neighbours probably laughed, but I live in east London for the entertainment. I never factored in dealing with nature, and have barely any interest in it, other than watching Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth back in 2006.

After a week of the new garden, a cat left a poo on the lawn. Professional advice is to bag it and bin it, which I did. But you can’t pick the blades the residue is stuck to, and I didn’t want it to linger. So, water in mug — we are too useless to have ever owned a hosepipe — I sponged it with Fairy Liquid. You could eat off it now.

The fake grass has been in place for over a month and hasn’t grown an inch. It is still as green as Centre Court on day one. The weather was awful a few weeks ago; torrential rain woke us up at night, but the garden remained weirdly dry, the underlay and sand soaking up the water and leaving the “grass” on top unaffected.

One Facebook forum accused people like us of ruining places where urban wildlife could thrive, but I don’t think 24 sq metres of Walthamstow are to blame given, say, the paving over of the green belt. Besides, we can put Eden down on it and she isn’t slobbered over by worms, so we’re happy.

My parents remain sceptical. Apparently, in the 1980s, people thought that artificial grass was poisonous. But, then, I had an aunt who was terrified of microwaves, so attitudes change. They also thought it was tacky, obviously, and I admit the vacuuming was a bit The Only Way Is Essex, but at least we don’t have to buy a mower we don’t have the room to store. My mum has been over to see how sitting on the grass would feel and she didn’t have a medical reaction. My dad hasn’t been for an inspection yet, but maybe he’s too busy tending to his proper lawn.

My parents tried everything with that rogue stretch of green when I lived with them and treated it like people do a difficult friend. There was sometimes joy but mostly unpredictability, and things often went wrong. I admire them for plugging away, but my wife and I are less patient. Game of Thrones won’t watch itself if we’re at the garden centre, yet again, trying to find resilient seed.

We like the convenience because we are, after all, part of the Steve Jobs generation, living in a world of designed edges and efficiency that does the work for us so we can have fun. I now see artificial grass as the iPhone of horticulture — so practical and pretty that only lofty traditionalists would opt for anything else.

Our quotes came from Green Man (07741 284795), Easigrass (easigrass.com) and AGI (artificialgrass-installers.co.uk) and would have been cheaper had we not needed bricks removed ahead of installation: artificial turf can be laid pretty much anywhere, but cost depends on the preparation needed.

The labour came to £1,360, while the bill for “materials and Sensation grass”, for 24 sq metres, was £590. Had we opted for Perfection, a slightly bushier style, it would have been £264 more. The cheaper the option, the harder it is on on the skin; some include brown blades to create the illusion of, I guess, human failure.

You can buy outdoor vacuums to clean it, but if you have no outside storage you can just use your house one instead. Avoid damage by using a brush to clear pebbles and snail shells.