Artificial grass vs the real thing – which type are you rooting for?

Our story on what is best – artificial grass or the real thing – kickstarted a hot debate. Exceptional readers replied from the heart – and here’s what you said.

We received hundreds of impassioned replies to our feature on whether artificial grass is right for your garden.

They ranged from people who detest it and think it’s adding to the plastic waste destined for landfill, to those who love it and value the spare time they have since fitting the fake stuff.

It’s clearly a subject you feel strongly about. Here’s a selection of your replies on the very divisive subject of real and artificial grass (not to mention how your neighbours get on your nerves…)

Artificial grass with a picket fenceCredit: Shutterstock / Christine Bird

Against artificial grass

“This disgusting product just panders to the bone idle who can’t be bothered to mow a lawn”

It should be legally outlawed
I feel so strongly about artificial grass I think it should be outlawed by the Government. If anyone chooses to remove natural grass and replace it with concrete covered by the foul artificial type, I think they should face an increase in council tax, and have to compensate for the environmental damage it causes, too. This disgusting product just panders to the bone idle who can’t be bothered to mow a lawn – and don’t give two hoots about wildlife.
Tim George

What about the dear little birds?
I hate artificial grass with a passion! It’s plastic and ghastly. I dislike the texture and everything about it. I like a natural lawn that’s full of soft moss and wild flowers. I recently watched a female blackbird pulling up moss from my lawn to line her nest. If I’d used chemicals to get rid of moss, or replaced our lawn with artificial grass, what would have happened to that dear little bird? It doesn’t bear thinking about.
Hazel Bulpitt

It never looks real at any time of year
I dislike artificial grass intensely. It never looks real at any time of the year; it will not rot away; and it is not good for wildlife. I don’t have any real grass in my garden as I can’t cope with the weekly mowing required, so I have an area that is gravelled instead.
Pam Mayhew

Too lazy to look after their lawns
I am totally opposed to artificial grass. It is of no benefit to wildlife, and on a sunny day it can get very hot and cause great discomfort to pets who tread on it. It is only used by people who are too lazy to look after their lawns and have no interest in the damage to wildlife it causes.
Geoff Painter

“If people can’t cope with cutting the grass, they might consider other surfaces, like gravel”

It adds to the risk of flooding
Artificial grass is awful and ugly. Being synthetic, it does not support any wildlife, such as worms, ants and other invertebrates, or the birds that feed on them. It also forms a barrier so that rain cannot soak into the ground and adds to the risk of flooding. 

If people can’t cope with cutting the grass, they might consider other surfaces, like gravel, which are attractive and allow water drainage if properly installed.

Low maintenance claims are industry driven
I was astounded Saga would even consider the “pros and cons” of artificial grass. As a a biochemist I am well aware of the long-term health and environmental hazards of plastics. As a gardener I can only despair when claims are made about it being low maintenance by an industry that is expanding its product portfolio with chemicals and machinery to clean and maintain plastic lawns. Lawns are not an essential part of any garden and alternative solutions requiring less maintenance than even a plastic lawn can be found with little effort.
Sue Cresswell

“Surely plastics are causing enough problems in the oceans and on the land as it is?”

Plastics lawn that hasn’t been labour-saving
My friend had a plastic lawn laid professionally, with an underlining to suppress weeds from growing through. But wind-blown dust, soil, seeds and leaves have built up in the “pile” of the plastic lawn, and created an environment where weeds and fungus-type plants grow. She has to treat the lawn to kill them off, and also has to sweep it, as leaves get trapped in the plastic grass but don’t break down organically as they would on a natural grass lawn. So it hasn’t proved to be totally labour-saving after all.

The loss of habitat for insects and worms that help feed the birds – many species of which are in sharp decline – is the biggest consideration for me. Surely plastics are causing enough problems in the oceans and on land as it is? 

Also, plastic grass doesn’t have the smell of real grass or the cooling effect of sitting on it on a hot summer’s day. It can’t offer the fun of looking for daisies in the lawn, or pitching a tent on it for the children to camp out in.

If people don’t want the maintenance work of a lawn, they could consider planting a wildflower grass meadow, which would provide a beneficial environment for insects, butterflies and birds. That would be a real win-win.
Lesley Lang

Blackbird pulling an earthworm from a lawnCredit: Shutterstock / Sue Robinson

Pro artificial grass

“I can even make lines on it, like a real lawn!”

Our “not grass” copes well
We had artificial grass laid in our garden and not long afterwards, an envelope was posted to us containing a newspaper article. It was against the artificial type, saying it was bad for the environment and Mother Nature. I can only say our “not grass” copes well with heavy rain, weeds still grow in it, and wildlife (especially foxes) are happy to lie on it. I enjoy friendly banter with my immediate neighbour who struggles to improve his patchy grass, while I spend 15 minutes once a month tidying up the area with an electric brush sweeper. I can even make lines on it, like a real lawn! I love a real grass lawn and I will keep our real lawn in the back garden while I can cope with its maintenance – but I’m so glad I opted for the artificial variety alongside our front driveway.
Christopher Dale

Looks good all year round
We’ve had artificial grass lawns for about eight years now. The average life span is roughly six to seven years. We absolutely love it. It looks good all year round, and I don’t have to nag the other half to get the mower out. It’s lovely for our smaller grandchildren to play on, and if it’s wet, it drains really quickly. We think it’s the best thing ever.
Val Marsden

Free of mowing and other challenges
We purchased a new-build home and had to choose what to do with the back garden. We hired a garden designer, who crafted us a splendid outline, which gave us the option of real or artificial grass. We went for the artificial type as it didn’t cover a big area and it would be free of mowing and other challenges. We wouldn’t change it for the world.
Robert Walden-Hall

“You just lay it and leave it. It has saved me a load of work”

My artificial grass has weeds growing in it
I built a new house six years ago, and I have artificial grass at the front and real grass at the back. The only problem I have found with our artificial grass is that it has weeds growing up through it, possibly from birds dropping seeds on it. I wish I had put artificial grass at the back, too, because then I wouldn’t have problems with moss and rough grass growing through it. Nor would I have to cut it each week in summer, and feed it in spring and autumn.

While real grass is better for the grandchildren to play on, I think the artificial grass is brilliant, especially as I get older and am not so fit for cutting it. My artificial grass looks nice all year round. I just wish there was a type that had the stripes in it so it looked newly mown all the time! You have to put a lot of effort into real grass every year to keep it looking good but artificial grass needs no maintenance – you just lay it and leave it. It has saved me a load of work. I wouldn’t be without it.
Donald McLean

A man is mowing his lawn with a lawnmowerCredit: Shutterstock / Roman Zaiets

Sitting on the fence

I’m not being lazy, I have no choice
I am disabled and I need to use two crutches, so using a mower is a no-no for me. I have fake grass in parts of my large garden, and it looks great and lush-looking all year round – whereas my old real grass lawn went patchy and brown in very dry spells. I would like to have real grass, but it is just not a practical solution for me due to my issues. So I am a bit “on the fence”; I believe that in the right home and with people who can care it, real grass is great. But for those who are unable to maintain it properly, then fake is the way to go. Sorry to all the people who feel I am being lazy – but I really have no choice.
Sarah Williams

A good option, but it can seem sterile
If you want your garden to be an extension of your living room, then artificial grass may be a good option – though it may make for a sterile space, as it doesn’t attract birds and insects. I prefer the real thing as I like to watch the wildlife in my garden.
Anthony Daniells

“It can create a softer visual and always looks good. The downside has to be the environmental impact”

Good if not abused or overused
Artificial grass is better than no grass, especially for a tiny garden – it can create a softer visual and always looks good. It can also be very useful for certain home-owners with limited time or energy to look after the real stuff. But the downside has to be the environmental impact, a subject we could argue about for years to come. So, I feel it does have a place in our gardens providing it is not abused and overused.
Mel Carey

At nearly 80, how long can I look after my real lawn?
Artificial grass has its place if you have little time or energy for gardening. If properly laid it can still look good and because of its colour it can still lend a feel-good factor. My next-door neighbour had his lawn laid with false grass and all he did to keep it neat was to keep it brushed. My lawn is real grass and requires regular cutting, That’s not a problem yet, but as I will be 80 next year and live on my own, I wonder how long I can enjoy keeping it neat and tidy. I did employ someone to come and cut my lawn one year but I wasn’t impressed and didn’t ask him again. Think we all have our own way of going on when we are doing a job and some of us are hard to please.
Gwen Warren

It depends on what your needs are
I have both artificial grass and real grass, and I think there are advantages and disadvantages to each. I have the artificial type laid around my pond, as it saves having to worry about real grass cuttings getting into the water and any other stuff that could hurt the fish. So I think it depends on the circumstances and what you require it for.

“Our neighbour has the noisiest, loudest hover mower going over the same bit of grass for an hour”

The obsessive mower next door
Real grass is fine, unless you live near a complete nutcase – like we do! In the garden next to us, this chap cuts his lawn at least three times a week. It’s a postage stamp-size patch but he manages to keep the noisiest, loudest hover-mower going over the same bit of grass multiple times for an hour. I’ve considered asking him if he wants me to get his mower mended but I doubt it would make any difference. We shut ourselves in while he gets on with it. It can be entertaining to watch him, particularly when he uses scissors to trim the edges. He’s clearly an obsessive, but I guess it takes all types!
Barrie Taylor

Mowing is therapeutic – unless you’re too old to do it
I prefer the real thing – grass that is – any day. But I concede that some people might find the artificial grass easier if they’ve got a very large lawn area, and if they are too old to mow. I’m no spring chicken but I enjoy mowing and find it very therapeutic, having just mowed my small lawns this afternoon.
Maureen Kishtaini

Lou Dearden

Written by Lou Dearden


Before her departure in October 2023, Anna-Louise (mostly known as Lou) was Editor in Chief of Saga Exceptional’s newsletters.

A journalist and editor since the ‘90s (when lunches were considerably longer – and louder) she’s written for The Guardian, Total Film, Glamour, Sky and Vogue. She’s also collaborated with huge brands like ASOS, Barclays, House of Fraser and Tesco.

Having cut her teeth in the food and drink industry, she’s been lucky enough to visit vineyards and Michelin star restaurants – as well as much less salubrious, but no less fun destinations. And as editor of a film magazine for six years, she’s interviewed stars like Michael Palin, Sandra Bullock, Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn. She once had a boozy lunch at the Dorchester with Robocop and fell asleep on the train from London, waking up in Nottingham (not her destination).

A Mental Health First Aider, Lou is passionate about wellbeing and happiness, and is constantly seeking out experiences that inspire awe (even the every day, little ones). She has two children, who she managed to get to 18, so is now looking forward to travelling out of the insanely expensive school holidays.

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