Not everyone can have a south-facing garden. I know, it's an (ahem) tough pill to swallow, especially for those who have spent so many years cooped up in a flat with nary the hint of green space adjoined to their living area.
My garden faces east and that means that grass doesn't grow very well on it, particularly being in the middle of a terrace in a residential area.
So when my wife and I thought about getting rid of the horrible blood red aggregate which covered our garden up until recently, we debated long and hard. Do we stick with a lighter coloured shale? Try real grass and see what happened?
The answer came in a different form, after visiting a friend's house in south London. With two young children, they plumped to have artificial grass installed and after I stopped laughing about never having astroturf in my back yard, I actually took a closer look. It was fantastic.
Not only does the better quality stuff look realistic, but it's porous and there's almost zero maintenance. What's more, you don't have to worry about the needle of the compass - it'll look the same regardless of which direction you happen to buy. Then there's children and animals to consider.
We did A LOT of research. Samples arrived by the bucketload. Some were too bristly, too thin, looked too cheap. Others were too darn green. Finally, we plumped for easigrass, who had impressed critics at the Chelsea Flower Show and are currently turfing the John Lewis pop-up Open House shop in Islington, London.
Their Mayfair Traditional looked real, was bouncy and was accompanied by their patented shock pad technology, which meant it felt good under your feet (believe me, several hours were spent barefoot in the kitchen standing on a tiny square of fabric balanced on some foam).
A garden survey ensued, measurements were taken and two weeks later, the installation took just a little over three hours. We were incredibly chuffed with the results.
Luckily, so were the neighbours. Artificial turf is rising in popularity, especially in cities. Our easigrass surveyor told us they were doing eight or nine gardens a week. It may not be quite as ecological as real grass (bugs can't burrow up underneath), but we plan to put tons of plants and flowers around in order to encourage the bees. Plus, the fact there's a weed membrane means days of backbreaking labour are over.
And as we watch our intrepid neighbour kneeling outside clipping her small patch of real grass with secateurs because it's not big enough to whiz around a mower, we know we've made the right choice.
The only downside is it's almost winter, otherwise there'd be a picnic blanket on it already.
The Pros and Cons of artificial turf
Easy to manage
Great for kids and pets
Safer - easigrass says their underlay protects critical falls (from climbing frames etc.) from up to 1.3 metres
Will never feel exactly the same as grass
More expensive than real turf