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.

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

  1. 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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