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.

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

  1. Kelly S

    Just spent two days with my husband removing this from our recently seeded yard (new construction) attempting to over haul the terrible job our builder did establishing our new yard. We were told they’d lay our yard in June, but with unseasonal warm weather a crew showed up randomly in February and put this stuff down. They didn’t rock hound or do any prep work. They laid seed, then rolled layers of this mesh down with hay. They stuck 7 inch metal pins in every couple of feet to hold it down. It was impossible to pull weeds or remove rocks from under the netting. We were also terrified of shooting one of the large metal pins out with the mower or stepping on one. Also afraid of catching the netting in our mower blades. Glad I came across this article to justify the removal of the netting. Our neighbors were give us some crazy looks, as most of them left theirs in place. Better for our yard and better for the animals! Thanks for getting is education out there!

    Reply
  2. Robin Newton

    We moved into our home 2 years ago, really disappointed to find that the lawn is laid on a plastic mesh, we recently watched a squirrel trying to bury its nuts for the winter only to be bamboozled by the mesh!
    I suspect the only thing we can do is to rip the whole lawn out and start again.

    Reply
  3. Demetrice Moncrease

    OMGoodness!! I have this ALL over my lawn of my house that I bought. Didn’t know what it was, which is how I found this article. We got bought a tiller and it just kept getting stuck in the machine. It is a pain and ALOT of extra work. It’s almost as if it’s two layers of mesh.. spots where we knew we removed the mesh we’d dig further down and there’s more mesh…argh

    Reply
    1. Kris Lord Post author

      So sorry for you, it is awful stuff. It is hard work to clear, but your garden will be much better off without it.
      Good luck.

      Reply
  4. Olivier

    The stupid mesh is in my garden as well and is a real plight. This thing should be outlawed.

    Reply
  5. Lindsey Mottershead

    Omg I’ve just brought my tortoise in from her grass / rocky enclosure and she had been digging and was wrapped up in the mesh from the turf it was strangling her as it was wrapped around her back leg and also her neck .. it’s cut the side of her eye .. after one hr of patiently cutting the mesh away I got her free of it … not easy as she kept putting her head back in her shell … my husband has just raked up the turf and we’ll be seeding it now … how dangerous is this for wild life and small animals !!!!! Totally disgusted bought it from B&Q and will be going in tomorrow to speak to them !

    Reply
    1. Kris Lord Post author

      That is so bad and thank you for sharing. Hope the poor tortoise recovers.
      Please do complain to the suppliers. the more there is push-back from consumers, the more likely we’ll get some change.
      It is awful.

      Reply
  6. Ray

    huh… I had always assumed that stuff was in there to prevent gophers from tearing up my yard. My old lawn is shot and I started digging around and immediately ran into it. I was thinking of renting a tiller, but now I will just do it by hand. Fortunately that patch of lawn in not very large. Thanks for the informative article!

    Reply
  7. Bridget

    Recently moved into a relatively new build house (3 yrs old)

    Absolutely devastated to see that this stuff is in our garden, never even knew it existed!!! Absolutely disgusted with any turfing supplier who comes anywhere near it. As you say, only reason it is used is for costs purposes. Another man made item slowly wearing away at nature…..

    Reply
  8. Jennifer

    Just moved onto a newer home with recent resodding. And this menace is interfering with all my garden plans. Guess my hope that daikon radishes (in my raised beds) will bust through it is in vain. Have planted bulbs with a bulb planter and guess if they are ever to spread I will have to dig up the turf around the small holes through the mesh to give new sprouted bulbs a chance to make it through the turf.

    Reply
  9. Old woman

    We just started renting a home. Prior to moving in the owner said he was putting in a new lawn and asked me to continue watering it. It was covered with hay and netting. I watered it as the owner requested, but saw many weeds that I assume was mixed in with the seed or hay. He told me to stay off the grass until it was established, so I was unable to pull any of the weeds until then. He initially told me he would be doing the grass cutting the first few times. But then decided I should do it. I asked him if he was going to remove the netting …no answer. I told him it would get caught in the mower. He had his friend do a high cut on the grass and told me I must do a low cut. He NEVER removed the netting.

    Winter is about to set in and I was wondering if I should wait until spring. Do you think it may be easier to pull up the netting when the grass has died back from the winter? I do not think it should be my responsibility to remove the netting. I am in an older lady with a little arthritis in my hands. This was not part of the deal when we agreed to rent. The owner just doesn’t seem to care. I am thinking about moving again. Grateful for your article.

    Reply
  10. Ava

    I had a new lawn laid 6 years ago. Two years later I was raking leaves and the rake got caught in plastic netting which had risen up from the lawn. Until then, I had no idea that there was plastic netting embedded in the turf . Every time I raked my lawn more plastic netting got caught. The only thing to do was pull the netting up which meant pulling out a whole strip of lawn. For the next three years I kept finding more plastic netting even though I thought I had pulled it all out. I frequently found worms caught up in it.

    When it was all eventually removed, I tried grass seed to create a new lawn but the pigeons ate the seed so 2 months ago I hired a turf layer from a well-known find a builder/tradesman website, I told him what had happened and absolutely stressed that the new turf must not have any plastic netting in it.

    When he laid the turf he showed me the back of it and I could not see any plastic, just earth. He reassured me that it was pure turf with no plastic netting and he laid it. However, just two months later some of the grass had died and when i went to sprinkle grass seed I discovered that this turf also had plastic netting sticking out of the turf and embedded through it. My three years of pulling up all the old turf has been completely wasted as I now have the same problem again.

    I have now decided to pull one section up at a time and spread lawn seed with a cover made from wire (no sharp edges) covering the segment to keep the pigeons off. After the grass in that section has grown I will do the next section and so on until I have a plastic-free lawn.

    My message to everyone is not to take their word for it if a turf layer says there is no plastic netting in a turf, don’t believe it just because you can’t see any and he sounds like he’s being honest or like he believes it himself. Take a couple of rolls of turf and cut into them, rip into them, do a thorough examination of the inside area of the turf, pulling it apart. It’s better that you have one broken up piece that you can’t use, than end up with the same problem I’ve got yet again.

    Your article on this subject was really interesting Kris. I had no idea that the use of plastic netting was so widespread. At this time, when there is so much talk about reducing plastic and the harm it is doing to other species and to our planet, I can not understand why the use of plastic netting in turf is not being addressed.

    Reply
    1. Kris Lord Post author

      Thank you for this Ava, it just goes to show how hidden the plastic netting menace can be.

      Reply
      1. Ava

        Thanks Kris. I’m in the process of pulling the new plastic netting up but stopped for the winter. Then, just two weeks ago, I saw a bird outside that was struggling to take off from my garden and I thought it had broken it’s wing. When I went outside to take to a wildlife hospital I discovered that it’s wings were fine but it’s foot and toes had got caught up in the plastic netting in the turf that was still there, it was all entwined tightly round the leg and individual toes of the bird! I cut a piece of turf off and carried it and the bird into the bathroom where I wrapped the bird lightly in an old t-shirt fabric to keep the wings closed and managed to carefully cut away all of the plastic netting to release the bird, but it took some time as the bird was so badly caught up in it. I then released the bird in the garden and it flew away onto the shed roof and away. But it made me think, how many more birds have been harmed by this. I really think the government should be banning plastic netting in turf,

        I’m going to try to grow a lawn from seed this spring but I wondered also if you knew of any turf companies that do not grow their turf with plastic mesh in it. When I did a google search of plastic-free turf, all it came up with was artifiicial turf! It’s so frustrating that that ‘natural’ turf is now full of plastic when it causes so much damage to nature and the environment.

        Reply
        1. Kris Lord Post author

          This is so sad to hear about. Thank you for sharing it.
          Something really needs to be done about it.

          Reply
  11. Susan

    I am experiencing the nightmare of this netting that was used in seeding a large area. The stuff is extremely dangerous to our snakes. I was able to cut the mesh off of one before it strangled to death. Sadly, three others weren’t as fortunate. My husband and I have been frantically pulling up as much as we can. I love wildlife and am just sick over this.

    Reply
    1. Kris Lord Post author

      That is really sad for the snakes. Thanks for letting me know as the more stories we can put together the more pressure we can put on to bad the horrible stuff.
      Kris

      Reply
  12. Felisha

    Hi! I just wanted to say thank you for calling attention to this. I was so happy to see someone bring this up and write about it. I feel it’s important.

    Reply
  13. Alyssa

    I just moved into a house in Washington State 2 weeks ago. Today while taking my thatching rake through the lawn in the backyard, I noticed it getting caught on something, while also hearing snapping sounds. Netting! A lot of brown colored netting sitting just under the surface. I’m trying to repair a section of lawn hurt by the previous owner’s large trampoline and now there’s netting stuck to the grass and dirt. It’s a real pain. I had planned to over-seed and add some peat moss this afternoon in hopes of getting new grass and now I have this beast to battle.

    Reply
  14. Sam Berry

    Hello I recently purchased a home that is 30 years old and has gone through multiple yard/garden remodels but no in recent years. Around the front and side of the house on both sides is ugly red mulch on top of rock on top of clay soil. Also an old flower bed in the middle of the front yard has left a rather large bare patch. I am rocks all throughout my front yard and has bare patches and dead grass all over. My question is would I be better off starting over and tilling everything up to remove rock, lots of time and effort. Or should I try and salavage what I have. Any feedback is appreciated thank you!

    Reply
    1. Kris Lord Post author

      In a new garden, improving the soil is always the best way for the future health of all of your plants.
      Soil is the key to a great garden.

      Reply
  15. Korynne Bolt

    I bought a house with a huge chemically treated lawn and was hoping to turn a lot of it into native plant beds and make it more ecologically beneficial, but in the process I have discovered netting and I am dismayed to suppose it’s under the entire yard (almost 1/3 acre). I keep digging up chunks of it, or torn parts that are still attached and I can’t get the rest out from under the dirt. We have heavy compacted clay soil. It seems like it’s been there a long time and I can’t imagine digging it all up (at least 6 inches down by now). Will this hurt my new plants? Can I still achieve my vision of a natural wildlife-friendly yard?

    Reply
    1. Kris Lord Post author

      Hi Korynne,
      The netting won’t hurt your new plants. The roots will just mingle amongst it and find their own way.
      It would be a good idea to remove it though as they will become entangled and make weeding, moving or digging them up difficult in the future.
      Thanks for your message.
      Regards
      Kris

      Reply
  16. 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
  17. 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
    1. Patti

      I have the netting in my yard too. I keep getting my feet caught in it and tripping. I’m 71 and don’t want to keep “faceplanting.” I’m pulling it up little by little and letting my small lawn in the the middle of the woods return to a natural state.

      Reply
  18. 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
  19. 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
  20. 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
  21. 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
    2. Donna Barnhouse

      I just bought a brand new house brand new lawn and green grass. I have begun to find the plastic netting in all areas of my lawn. It is so disgusting and nearly impossible to pull out. If I see a patch of dying grass and begin to pull on the yellowing grass I find the plastic netting underneath. I helped a friend a few years ago lay beautiful green sod to her lawn and there was no netting under the sod. It was easy to lay and is still lush and green after a few years. I am so angry the landscapers on my new home have decided to lay sod with netting. My lawn is turning brown where the netting is. There are many bare areas, missing grass and yest when I check those area out there is plastic netting, Angry is what I am. I am 75 and able to do a lot of physical work but this is outrageous. It should be outlawed. Now I am wetting down and pulling that crappy plastic out and will replace the sod with soil amendment to fix those spots..Angry angry angry! My realitor had no idea either.

      Reply
  22. 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
  23. 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
  24. 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
  25. 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
  26. 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
  27. 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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