In the part of North West London, where we work, the last few winters have been mild and wet, with few frost and no snow. This has contributed to a big increase in the number of people deciding to give up on their lawn altogether, and change to an artificial one. There is a complex interplay of reasons for this.
Lawns in and around Hampstead, Highgate, St Johns Wood and the suburb are mostly small and almost always overhung by trees. Overhanging trees are bad news for lawns for two reasons. Firstly, they cause shade, often deep shade, which is the worst thing for lawn grasses. Secondly the tiny aphids which live under leaves of these trees excrete a sweet, sticky sugar solution called honeydew, which rains down on the grass below chemically poisoning it to compound the effect of the shade.
A further problem is that these lawns are mostly small and much used and walked on etc, which is also very bad for lawn grass. If you have ever visited historic buildings in England which have famously beautiful lawns, for example The Colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, there are always signs on those lawns, saying “Keep of the grass” or “Don’t walk on the grass”. That is because foot-traffic kills lawn grasses.
So you see lawn grasses in Hampstead are under attack from many directions. If you add in factors such as the poor quality of turf supplied by growers in recent years, and the use of poisons such as warm-killers, by unscrupulous green contractors, until such chemicals, where belatedly and mercifully banned, you find what a modern London lawn is a pretty disappointing example of the classic green-sward. Because of all these factors, many lawns become a horrible mud patch every winter, and especially so in a long mild and wet winter. It is at the end of such a winter that people usually succumb to the temptation to give up finally on the lawn and replace it with an artificial one.
The modern artificial turves are really very good and realistic looking and feeling and most people seem pleased with the result. The birds, though, are probably disappointed.