Waterwise artificial lawns

If you want to save water but love a lawn, consider this clever and convenient arti cial option.

With most of South Africa in the grip of a severe drought, sprawling lawns have become a headache for many households – you need a lot of water and patience to keep your grass green.

If you’re set on the lush look of a rolling green lawn, and the soft springiness it provides underfoot, consider installing artificial grass. No longer just for golf courses and soccer pitches, and with an increasing variety of realistic looking artificial grass on the market, more and more residential homeowners are making the change. We checked in with two homeowners and a few experts to give you the best advice... 

Case study #1 

In this garden in Val De Vie in Paarl, artificial grass was installed as soon as the house was built in November last year. It wasn’t the first time the homeowners had opted for artificial lawn and once again they approached Herve Truniger of Easigrass to assist.

“In their previous home, artificial grass was used to replace a section of lawn that was always muddy in winter and patchy in summer because it was in the shade. The children loved to play on the artificial lawn and from a maintenance point of view it was a real pleasure,” Herve explains.

In their new home, the family wanted to create a waterwise garden while maintaining the aesthetic of rolling green lawns. “Now the garden still looks lush and green despite them not being able to water it.”

With two children under the age of four as well as two dogs and cats, the artificial lawn is a winner. Because it has been laid on a hard compacted bed of crusher dust, it provides a stable surface on which the kids can play, happily and safely. 

Did you know?

• Artificial grass can be installed in a variety of shades of green with some brands offering different blade lengths, ranging from 8mm to 50mm. Other brands, such as the Easi-Kensington range from Easigrass, also have a shorter dead grass infill between the greener grass blades to make it look even more realistic. 

• The base of the grass has drainage holes so the lawn doesn’t become waterlogged in the event of heavy rains. This makes it an excellent choice for patios, decks, balconies and rooftop gardens where the water would run off according to the slope of the surface area.

• In terms of safety and hygiene, soft artificial grass works well in play areas, as the grass doesn’t stain or get muddy. “The grass carpet itself is anti- allergenic, so it’s perfectly safe for children and pets,” explains Ayden Shrives, product manager for artificial turf (Duraturf) at Belgotex Floors.

• Quality artificial grass is non- abrasive. While the uneven surface of most conventional lawns can pose a safety hazard for kids, the surface area on artificial grass is compacted and stable underfoot, says project manager at Perfect Grass, Nikita Young.

• Good-quality artificial grass won’t fade in the harsh South African sun, nor will the colour wash out. Check the warranty with your supplier and make sure the grass is coated against harmful UV rays. 


“Artificial grass has many advantages,” says Herve Truniger of Easigrass Cape Town. “Not least of which is playing with your kids or entertaining guests in the garden instead of mowing and weeding.”

Any leaves can be raked up as normal and a build-up of dirt or dust can easily be hosed off. Some flattening may occur in high-traffic areas or from heavy items on the grass, but this can easily be fixed by brushing the grass against the direction on of the pile to restore the blades to an upright position, explains Ayden Shrives of Duraturf.

However, some care must be taken. “Fire and related activities such as braaiing can melt the carpet and sharp instruments can also damage the surface,” says Ayden. 

Case study #2 

This garden now looks lush and green – Labrador pup Riley can’t dig up the grass and cleaning her poop is much easier. 

Luck was on their side when Simon and Paula Riley of Cape Town bought their home five years ago: the previous owner was a landscaper, so the garden was in good condition overall with most of the design work already in place.

But the natural lawn, a mixture of kikuyu and buffalo grass, was something they struggled with during winter, especially since the trees in the garden create a lot of shade. With water restrictions being imposed, the lawn would soon have turned brown and possibly died, so the Rileys decided to install artificial grass just before Christmas 2016.

“We were expecting lots of family and visitors over the holidays and wanted the garden, which is a key entertainment area, to look its best,” says Simon.

Uncertain of the outcome, the couple decided to do the work in two stages, starting with the back garden. “That section of the garden is very private, so it wouldn’t have been a total disaster if the installation of the artificial grass didn’t work out well,” explains Simon. 

While they got quotes from several companies, the couple say that the professionalism of Perfect Grass and the personal attention they received from them sealed the deal.

Other than clearing the old grass, there wasn’t too much work to be done. Stepping stones that lead from the front gate to the front door were already in place, so the Rileys simply had the artificial lawn laid around them. “We chose a longer version of the grass with a mixture of colours and shades that would look more natural,” says Simon.

With less garden upkeep to worry about, the Rileys are free to spend more time enjoying their outdoor space. “We love our almost maintenance- free garden – there’s no need to stress about watering, cutting or fertilising. The lawnmower is gathering dust in the garage; we just use a garden vacuum to clear the leaves,” Simon explains. 

As an alternative... 

A less permanent but cheaper solution for brown lawns is to spray-paint the grass. The paint is made from organic ground pigments and contains a UV protectant that helps guard against harsh sunlight. “It also contains a revolutionary breathable membrane which allows the grass to continue to photosynthesise,” explains Adele Kleinhans, co-founder of Lawncoat, a local lawn paint company. The paint is mixed with water according to the shade of green required. “It works out to just more than R3 per square metre. And it is 100% ecofriendly – dogs and bunnies can even eat it.”

Depending on temperature and sunlight, it can take up to three hours for the sprayed area to dry, after which the paint will not stain feet. “You can walk over it and water it, and it won’t wash off when it rains,” says landscaper JC Moolman.

• Synthetic grass can mostly be installed in a day. The ground is prepared with a grit sand base as well as a weed barrier to prevent seeds from penetrating. Once the grass is laid, it is covered with a silica sand infill to ensure stability. To keep it from lifting on the edges, it can be glued to a cement border. If there’s a solid base, the entire area is glued to the base.

• The cost of installing artificial grass is influenced by various factors – the cost of the grass itself makes up only about 10% of the bill. Removing a layer of the existing earth where the lawn will be laid, carting away any waste, preparing a grit sand base, fitting a weed barrier and adding a silica infill makes this kind of installation a pricey investment, although you will save on the maintenance associated with a real lawn in the long run. It’s best to get a quote for your needs, as it might di er hugely from home to home.

• It cannot be installed over existing grass, as the grass underneath will die, creating an uneven surface.

• Warranties vary from five to eight years, but the grass can last for up to 15 years in domestic installations. 

• Pet poop can be scooped up as usual, and the area can be washed with water for hygienic purposes.

• Artificial grass can be considered ecofriendly as it requires no pesticides which pollute the earth’s water supply. In some cases, plastic bottles are recycled to manufacture artificial grass. 

• Synthetic grass can become hot in direct sunlight, much like a wooden deck or concrete. In summer, a sprinkling of water will keep the sand infill cool and lower the temperature of the grass.

Tip Save an offcut of the grass you install so that if it gets damaged, you can replace it easily. 

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April 2023

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