A healthy green lawn can be difficult to achieve and maintain, especially in areas with water restrictions or poor soil. Artificial grass is a great option for homeowners who still want the look of a lawn but without the hassle and maintenance. You can lay your own patch of artificial grass just like you’d put in sod, but without using any water.
By Timothy Dahl
There are professional artificial grass installers who will do a complete landscape job on your lawn, but if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty this is a DIY project that anyone can handle. Gardening retailers often have a variety of artificial grass from R270 per metre. It’s always best to go in store and touch and feel the grass, as well as compare the different colour shades, so you know exactly what you are getting. The grasses can range from lush green to more realistic shades with light brown grass “threads” in-between, so it’s best to see it and decide which you prefer.
Remove your old lawn
If you are removing a healthy lawn, rent a sod cutter, so you can relocate your lawn to someone else who can use it. If your lawn is in poor condition and beyond saving, you’ll still need to remove the clumps of grass and level the area.
You’ll need a good shovel, wheelbarrow, and gloves for this job. Plus some large organic waste bins to dump your old lawn into. If you’ve got a sprinkler system installed, you can decide if you want to pull it up or just leave it. It’s probably best to just pull the exposed sprinkler heads to help even out the ground, and if you or a new homeowner ever wants to install grass again, you can just re-attach the heads.
Install the artificial grass
There are a few steps involved before laying your artificial turf. Some of these are optional, but it’s always best to check with your artificial lawn manufacturer. It’s not difficult to pull up the lawn and try again if you mess something up, but it’s always best to do the job right the first time.
If weeds are a concern you can lay a weed control landscape fabric, which will prevent weeds from growing up and through your lawn creating bumps and discoloring the lawn. If you are having problems with getting the ground level, you can put down a layer of sand or crushed stone, just make sure you use a roller or tamper to smooth out the surface.
Once you’ve got a level surface, you can install an underlayment which will provide a permeable cushioning for your artificial lawn. Some lawns don’t require this, as the grass is already attached to a solid and soft base.
Your artificial lawn will be packaged as a roll, similar to how new sod is sometimes transported. At the time of purchase you’ll buy exactly the amount you need based on the size of your lawn, and then you just unroll it and position it in place.
To cover large areas, you’ll install the lawn in multiple strips. Make sure the orientation of the grass is facing the same direction and place the lawn strips directly next to each other. After the strips are nailed down and the lawn is brushed a bit, you should no longer notice any difference between separate pieces.
To install the lawn, you’ll need a bunch of large galvanized nails. In the US these are available as lawn spikes, which will secure your lawn in place. Use a large hammer or mallet to drive these spikes through the layer of lawn and into the ground. The spike head should be flush with the ground so there are no exposed metal edges.
To assist in securing the lawn even more, you can use a spreader to add a layer of silica sand to the grass. This can help add a bit of weight to the lawn and keep it from moving. But if you are concerned about tracking dirt or sand inside your house, skip this step.
Most pets take to the artificial turf just as they would to grass and have no problem soiling it. But instead of the grass burning from dog urine, it will remain green. The smell of pet urine can build up, so just rinse your lawn with water to clean it. If the smell persists, spray an artificial grass odor eliminator.
One drawback to artificial grass is that it can retain heat and be hot to the touch in the summer. So if you have small children, it’s best to have them keep their shoes on before running out on it, or spray it down with water to cool first.
Water conservation is an important issue—even beyond drought afflicted areas. An artificial lawn is an easy solution to maintaining a green landscape, while meeting water restriction codes and and saving some money each month on your water bill.
This article was originally written for and published by Popular Mechanics USA and has been adapted for South Africa.