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Fake it with synthetic grass

By Michael McMahon

Synthetic grass has come a long way since the garden-challenged designs of the 1960s and is now popping up on the rooftops of the CBD and the backyards of suburbia.

No longer the bright green “carpet” of the past, today’s artificial grass can be a lush thick lawn that looks just like the real thing to the naked eye and even feels similar under bare feet or the four paws of the family pet.

Warwick Parnell is sales director at Pro-tech Corp, Sydney-based synthetic grass specialists, and says there are many reasons people choose grass that is always greener.

“People are very busy today with work, children, and getting to and from daycare,” Warwick says.

“In addition properties, are smaller than they used to be, at least with less space devoted to lawns,” he says.

Warwick lists other reasons as wanting a soft surface in an outdoor space where the natural alternative just won’t grow; a high traffic area that gets way too much wear and tear; or a difficult space that’s elevated and hard to get to with a mower.

One sure way to kill living grass is the family dog, but synthetic grass is now so sophisticated that no matter how destructive the dog, the fake stuff will win out.

“Dogs can’t destroy synthetic grass,” says Warwick.

“We’ve installed grass in animal shelters where there are multiple dogs on a surface and there’s no chance they could keep natural grass alive in that scenario. There is a very sophisticated drainage system, so any liquid can be flushed right out and the grass can be hosed down,” he says.

Despite faux turf’s past patchy reputation, synthetic grass has gained such a following it can even add value to the family home.

“Real estate agents say anything that reduces maintenance helps add to the value of a property, and synthetic grass is something that does just that,” he says.

But you get what you pay for, with price fluctuating with the pile height and the amount of yarn used, with the higher the stitch count, the better – much like the thread count associated with cotton sheets.

In the urban jungle, the use of artificial turf for lawns has taken root on surfaces as varied as rooftops and courtyards.

Landscape design specialist Secret Gardens of Sydney has installed artificial turf 27 storeys above the CBD on penthouse terraces where quality is paramount. Owner Max Cantwell says: “Interest is increasing each year as the products have improved. Consumers are realising it is a good option in areas where lawn cannot be sustained, or for those who are time-poor and don’t want to maintain a lawn.”

Gone, too, are the days of rough tennis court surfaces. “Nowadays suppliers are developing artificial lawns that look more realistic and are specifically for decorative purposes.” And although it can be pricier to install than the real stuff, Matt says the ongoing costs lessen in the long term.

“It is certainly more expensive than normal lawn to install, but done well it is maintenance-free,” Matt says.

“So, apart from freeing up time, it’s only a matter of time before it pays for itself, making it a better investment than real lawn.”

Supply and installation costs for artificial turf range from $75 per square metre to $100 per square metre for metropolitan backyards, with site clearing and removal costs extra.

If a large expanse is not to your liking or you want to turf only a small area, it is possible to mix the real and synthetic together.

“Artificial turf is used a lot around high-wear areas like play equipment down the back of a garden. But if used cleverly in conjunction with real lawn closer to the house, it can look like the real thing.

“You have to remember though that it is still a synthetic material and it can get a little warm in full sun. It’s for the gardener who has little time, or for areas where real lawn simply won’t survive. But for the purist, there will never be a substitute for the real thing.”

Why take the artificial path
It’s UV resistant
There are pet-friendly options available
High traffic resistant
No more yellow patches
Forget the mower and the sedge trimmer

Fake it to make it
Keep down costs and do it yourself. Bunnings Warehouse sells articial turf for between $29.90 per square metre and $79 per square metre and have a 10-step instruction process for laying.
Prepare the surface: Remove existing grass and tree roots and rake the patch clear.
Clean up the edging: Sweep away sthe existing ground to about 20mm below the finished height.
Compact the soil: The subsoil should be dampened lightly with water before being compacted.
Add a road base: Spread a layer of road base or crusher dust and then compact the area.
Lay the turf: Fill any dips with fine sand, then roll out the turf, allowing overhang to the ends.
Cut to size: Trim the turf roughly around any edges using a utility knife with a new blade.
Lay the second roll: Lay out and trim to size then fold back the edge and apply an even coat of adhesive.
Hide the seams: Wait for the adhesive to become slightly stringy, then bring the two sheets together.
Anchor the turf: Use 150mm irrigation pins around the perimeter of the turf, and space them throughout the area.
Cast and sweep the sand: Cast a slayer of dry, white, washed sand over the turf with a shovel.

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