Plastic netting in turf – A nightmare for wildlife and gardeners

By | 12/10/2020
Netting showing through worn turf

Plastic netting embedded in turf is becoming a real nuisance for gardeners and the environment

Over the past few years I have noticed a worrying increase in the use of plastic netting in new lawns.

Sometimes, when trying to scarify a lawn, aerate or fix holes, plastic turf is found to be embedded through the grass sward. It makes repairing the lawn extremely difficult. It is tough, becomes caught up in machinery and whole areas of grass pulled out unnecessarily. But what is this plastic netting and how does it get in the grass?

Why is plastic netting embedded in turf?

This plastic netting is laid by the turf growers when the seed for turf is sown. The grass then grows through the net, holding it all together. The growers are then able to lift the netted turf much earlier, as the net replaces a binding root system, ensuring it stays together for transport. The netting saves the turf growers months in grass growing time.

Turf growers claim that turf netting is laid in place for the benefit of the customer and the environment. Claiminga smaller carbon footprint per roll due to reduced use of fuel in farm vehicles” and “far less water used to get your lawn established“. These “benefits” seem marginal, if they exist at all. Seeding your lawn far outweighs any of these supposed savings.

In the horticultural industries, time is money. Waiting for plants to grow is expensive, taking up valuable space. Anything that can reduce this time will reduce cost and increase profit. Simply put, the growers can sow more crops on the land in the same time frame. Plastic netting reduces the time the turf crop needs to spend in the field, making it cheaper and increasing profit for the grower.

Plastic netting is in your turf to make it cheaper. That is all.

Plastic netting in worn turf
Plastic netting showing through some worn turf

But what’s the harm in netted turf?

The plastic used in turf net is termed “degradable“. Note this is NOT the same as biodegradable. Degradable means that the material is susceptible to chemical breakdown. This means it breaks down into smaller pieces of plastic, then microplastic, over years. This is polluting the natural environment. It can be ingested by animals or make its way into water courses and then the sea, increasing plastic pollution worldwide.

Plastic netting can also harm wildlife. Would you knowingly bury a fishing net in your garden? When laying netted turf, that is exactly what you are doing. Birds and mammals can become entangled. Burrowing animals could become ensnared and trapped. It is awful to think about.

A starling caught plastic turf netting
A poor starling with plastic turf netting wrapped around its head.
Photo by Frank on the Gardeners World Forum

Netted turf also makes repairing your lawn or doing any adjustments to your garden much more difficult. It becomes wrapped in lawn care machinery and pulls up swathes of surrounding grass. Have you got a shady area in which the turf is thinning and you want to plant some other plants? Finding netted turf wrapped around hard soil makes a simple job a nightmare. There is just no need for it.

Raking netted turf
Raking netted turf

Plastic mesh in your turf also creates problems when disposing of the grass. When making changes to gardens and creating new beds, the experienced gardener lifts the turf and stacks it. This decomposes into a lovely loam over months for use around in the garden. Waste is zero. With netting embedded in the turf it cannot be composted or disposed of as green waste. It has to be sent to landfill or burned. This is a terrible, unnecessary waste.

Not an informed choice

The problem is, customers just don’t know if new turf has plastic netting embedded into it. It may arrive on the back of a lorry or you may load it into your car at the garden centre. There is no packaging or notices contained with it. If purchased through a third party you may not even know where it has come from.

You may have just purchased a new house with a lovely-looking grassed lawn. How do you know that this lawn has environmentally damaging netting running through it? Did you have a choice? Probably not.

You may only find out netted turf is in your lawn when trying to work on your garden, maybe years later.

A bundle of plastic turf netting
Plastic turf netting which was pulled out of a lawn during repair work. Many customers are unaware they even have plastic netting in their lawns!

The industry needs to make sure they are notifying customers that their rolls of grass comes with plastic netting embedded in it. Or there needs to be legislation banning it.

Manufacturers want to increase use of netted turf as it makes turf farming easier and more profitable. Do we really want to be burying plastic in our lawns?

What can you do to prevent plastic netting being buried in your lawn?

If you are planning a new lawn or making some adjustments to your garden. Don’t buy turf. Until you are able to make an informed choice about whether your turf contains plastic, just don’t buy it.

Seeding a lawn gives you a better lawn, is much cheaper and is overall much better for the environment. It takes a little longer to establish into a lawn, but you will know exactly what is in your garden with no hidden plastic.

For a better lawn, plant seed not turf

If you have to turf your new lawn, ask questions of your turf supplier. Do they net their turf? Can they supply turf without plastic netting? If not, why not? Pressure your gardener or landscaper into only putting down plastic mesh-free turf.

Asking questions and taking you business elsewhere will send a message that this hidden environmental crime is not welcome in our gardens.

Hopefully, with public pressure and exposure of this issue the problem of netted turf will be a thing of the past.

Kris Lord
The Lawn Man

Twitter: @KrisTheLawnMan
Instagram: @the.lawn.man

A new, green lawn
A beautiful lawn grown from seed, not turf. No plastic netting, safe for wildlife and a low carbon footprint.

21 thoughts on “Plastic netting in turf – A nightmare for wildlife and gardeners

  1. Linda Wheeler

    I have had my home with sod and mesh for 7 years and call some sod growers in my area and they all said they did not use it and didn’t know who did. We had to remove the sod down to the net for a above ground pool. We have been trying to grow a new lawn over the rest of our back and front yard with our success. I finally found your web site and I can now tell the rest of my family, it’s true, we need to remove it all before reseeding and having a nice yard, to go with our 7 year old dream house! We were the last house of 9 built and the only one who chose sod. I found full pieces of plywood buried under this mess to fool the inspector and us that the yard would grow good, but told not to walk in it for a year, further hiding the plastic mess of a messed up yard! It’s a lot and a half to look at working with. I am 70 years old and I have been working in this yard for at least 5 years now and I am sick to think of all my time waisted up until now. Thank you for all your information and I will continue using my pitch fork to remove the remainder of the front and back yards. At least now I can tell every one why our yard look so bad with more weeds then grass!
    Thank you from Oregon!

    Reply
    1. Kris Lord Post author

      Thanks for your message. Sad to see it is so prevalent in the USA too!
      Good luck with your garden Linda. I’m sure it will be great in the end.
      Kris

      Reply
  2. Bernie

    I am another with this crazy non biodegradable plastic ‘ fishing’ net. I cannot believe that any company could legitimately manufacture such and environmentally disastrous product.

    This is a classic case of a class action suit being made against the manufacturers and supplier of the junk. And the world wide banning of the product too.

    Good Luck all with the hand removal I feel the same pain .

    Bernie

    Reply
  3. David Kuhns

    Several years ago the former owners of my six acres in Northwest Georgia agreed to let the local sodfarmer use their property.
    That property is now mine. Unbeknownst to me, when he was laying down the sod he also laid down the plastic netting. They decided not to harvest sod, but instead to plant corn And Winter wheat. Now I am the owner of the property. They are no longer planting corn or winter wheat on the property, and I am trying to grow squash okra and sunflowers. I was also thinking of letting a few cows graze on the property, but it looks like I won’t be able to because this netting is llaid ver the acreage. Is there any way to get out the netting? Other than pulling it up by hand?

    Reply
    1. Kris Lord Post author

      That sounds tricky.
      I would suggest hiring in a turf cutting machine or even contract a turf cutter for the day to completely take the top layer off.
      Kris

      Reply
  4. Becky Sharbrough

    Hi Kris

    What’s the best way to dig this stuff up? I assume it would get caught in and destroy a roto tiller. just dig by hand?

    Thanks

    Becky

    Reply
    1. Kris Lord Post author

      I would pull up by hand or with a turf cutter to lift it out without any rotating blades to get it caught up.

      Reply
  5. Chris L.

    New home owner in Canada. Taking the lawn after a long and heavy winter caused thatching and the take is being caught on this mesh under my lawn. They just used machines to unroll the grass onto dry, untilled soil in the whole community, and I’m sure nobody was informed a later of plastic would be under their lawns.

    Is it possible to pull up the sod after a year, remove the mesh, and lay it back down?

    Reply
    1. Kris Lord Post author

      Hi Chris,
      I’m not sure what kind of netting turf growers use in Canada, but if it is anything like to UK turf it will not be possible to separate the netting from the grass as it is literally grow from seed into the netting intentionally.
      It would be best to roll up the whole lot and reseed the lawn.
      I would certainly consider complaining to the turf layers for their use of the netting. Pressure from consumers will bring about change and more knowledge of this largely unknown practice.
      Thanks for reading.
      Kris

      Reply
  6. Rio

    Would digging up the netting, removing it and digging up the lawn to reseed grass be doable/a good idea?

    Reply
    1. Kris Lord Post author

      Yes. That would be the way to fi it. Dig it up and throw it away and certainly complain to your supplier (and leave a review).
      Kris

      Reply
  7. Gill Brown

    Hi, I just wanted to comment on this issue. We bought turf from our local garden centre about a year and a half ago and the lawn seemed fine last year. This year after a wet winter the grass has completely died and isn’t showing any sign of regrowing, on closer examination I see that the plastic mesh is lifting. When we bought the turf we weren’t told about the mesh and I wouldn’t have bought it if we had known. We have free range bantams and I had wondered if they had killed the grass but it seems unlikely that did so much damage to the whole area. It would be good to know what you think?

    Reply
    1. Kris Lord Post author

      Hi Gill, If the turf is still lifting after 18 months being down then it probably didn’t put any roots down and establish. This can happen if the turf is laid on compacted soil. It could also be leatherjackets which cause the sudden death of the grass, but this is less likely if the chickens are allow to graze over it.
      I recommend lifting and removing the netting and reseeding the lawn. It will do much better that way.
      Thanks for reading.
      Kris

      Reply
  8. Patrick Hanna

    Add me to that list of unknowing plastic-in-sod buyers. Raking is a nightmare. My dog thinks I put her in prison because her nails have gotten hooked (and she’s a big one). A real lesson learned here. Hope others learn from our experiences. ☹️

    Reply
  9. Theresa Hughes

    Agree Netted grass is a disaster. i did not discover that a part of my lawn that I had turfed had mesh through it til a year later when I was extending a flower bed. i HATE it. I sent a belated message to the gardener but they have since gone out of business. Moles can’t come through it, birds get tangled in it. and it’s just plastic through my garden :(.
    Furious that anyone can be so short sighted as to even think of creating that product. I’m now trying a long process of stripping it out. Not happy.

    Reply
  10. Sophie

    I too have found this problem. It’s completely awful. Is there a company that offers turf without plastic mesh? I would like to see but it’s not working and I need a green instant hit? Have young kids who trample on seed….
    Sophie

    Reply
    1. Kris Lord Post author

      Hi Sophie,
      You will have to contact turf suppliers directly to find out if they net their turf.
      Just netting off or covering a seeding area will stop kids playing on it. You can do one bit at a time rather than the whole lot at once.
      Thanks for reading.
      Kris

      Reply
  11. Jules

    You can add me to the list of people who have discovered this awful mesh. What is worse is that the turf was not lawn turf but wildflower meadow turf where you would instinctively presume that the turf would be totally natural. used. Will be taking it up and go to be burnt by my local authority.

    Reply
    1. Kris Lord Post author

      That is sad that it is in wildflower meadow turf too. Thanks for letting me know.

      Reply
  12. Phoebe

    Hello. I’m afraid I am someone who has discovered meshing in our lawn, having recently purchased a home. As you say, it’s a total pain. I wanted to reseed an area but am concerned it just won’t take, the ground is compacted and generally I don’t know what to do. What do you recommend is the best course of action, from an ecological and (ideally) aesthetic point of view?

    Reply
    1. Kris Lord Post author

      Hi Phoebe,
      It does depend on what you are after long term. If it is not a very large area and I would dig the whole lot out and start again by reseeding a new lawn. If it is a large area you may just have to live with it.
      If it is a development of new build properties, have a chat with your developer. Making a fuss about it can sometimes get good results!
      Good luck.
      Kris Lord
      The Lawn Man

      Reply

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