When the news broke that sales of artificial grass are soaring, it struck me that a fake lawn might have been a better option for my small patch...
Last week I spotted a speckled wood butterfly sunning itself on one of my plant pots. It was fresh and new looking, like it was drying its wings after emerging from a chrysalis. I was proud to think it might have come from a patch of turf I'd let grow for the sole purpose of attracting the speckled wood, which breeds in long grass.
When the news broke that sales of artificial grass are soaring, it struck me that a fake lawn might have been a better option for my small patch (roughly 4m²). I nearly broke my back lifting slabs, shifting sand, importing topsoil and finally laying turf after my failure at growing a lawn from seed. I could have just bought fake grass and laid it over the slabs, it would have been much easier. No-one would have noticed, except the butterflies, of course, and the blackbirds and the robin and the frogs.
I can see the benefits of having an artificial lawn, a lawn that stays green and lush under trees and in between goal posts, that you don't have to get up to mow, that badgers and birds won't dig up looking for grubs, that dogs won't ruin with their scorch marks. And worm casts? What worm casts? Lawn life as we know it replaced by a carpet of convenient, sterile 'turf' - like paving slabs in disguise.
But what is a garden without life? There are already too many public spaces filled with hanging baskets 'planted' with fake flowers. I stand at train stations and lament the sight of bees and hoverflies wasting energy working out that their search for food is in vain. How long will it be before fake grass is used to cover our parks and verges?
Of course, manufacturers are quick to point out that there are environmental benefits of artificial grass too - no petrol or electricity guzzling lawn mowing is required, and nor do they need watering. Not so, says a San Diego resident I recently met. All her neighbours have fake lawns, they stand in their yards on a Saturday morning 'watering' them with their hoses. Artificial grass gets dusty apparently.