Net call: time to order some protective netting for the vegetables

Tiffany Daneff / 11 June 2015

Gardening editor Tiffany Daneff finds that the old adage 'buy cheap, buy twice' is certainly true of protective garden netting.

It’s not often that I think about maths and all the misery that it caused me at school, but most of this afternoon I have spent with a measuring tape in one hand and a pencil between my teeth wishing that I could remember more of what we had been taught. The reason?  I am measuring up the veg beds for some butterfly netting.

Last year I bought cheap plastic netting from a local out of town DIY superstore. You know the kind of place – where even the screws cost three times the price that the old ironmongers would have asked. The netting was cheapish, fifteen quid perhaps, for a roll. Not bad I thought. How wrong you can be.

Cheap netting is not worth buying because:

1.    It’s so flimsy that it snags all the time when you try to lay it over your supports
2.    It’s bright green.
3.    It’s so fine that I hadn’t even realised that I had laid out a double thickness
4.    Cutting and laying is much tricksier even than handling a recalcitrant duvet cover
5.    It rips easily
6.    After a season it is unusable and certainly not reusable.

I’d say they were more than enough reasons never to use it again. And what can you do with old plastic netting except throw it away. You can’t recycle the stuff.

So this year, after the misery exacted upon my brassicas by the caterpillars of the Cabbage White butterfly I am erecting some soft mesh butterfly netting which I’m ordering from Harrod Horticultural. This looks the business.  It’s a woven mesh which is light, but strong, and it’s black which will look much better.

I have actually spent two months dithering over this purchase. Why? Because each time I go onto their website I baulk at the thought of having to measure how much I need. It’s partly an Imperial versus Metric problem. I learned the former and have always loathed the latter on grounds of  tradition, history and principle. It’s partly number dyslexia. (Does such a thing exist?)

So exactly how much of this wretched netting do I need? This is the point at which I go back to the maths class. Surely there must be some kind of equation involving length, width and height, but no I can’t remember it. This means resorting to the slow method of trailing measuring tape along the ground and up the hazel supports and then along and down again, then adding a couple of inches each end for pegging down.  I do this for each bed and write it all down in feet and in cms, just for good luck. And then I do it again, because I need to get this right.

Then it’s back to the computer where I am determined to see the beastly job to its conclusion. The upside is that offer measurements in metres and feet, the downside is each of their standard widths is about six inches too short so I have to order more than I really need.  However – and this is a very big plus – they will cut to fit. 

As anyone who has tried wrestling with a large amount of netting will know, the stuff is devilish. You need at least two people and a lot of space. We’re not quite at Ikea assemblage horrific, but it’s not pretty. So, to be able to order exactly what’s needed for each bed is a big plus.

The downside, of course, is that my measurements had better be correct. And of that I am not the slightest jot confident.  Still, I put the order through and now I must wait.

I recall the occasion when I ordered curtains for the bedroom – long, long curtains for a very high ceiling room. When they arrived they looked as though they had been made for a canal boat. Luckily, it was the upholsterer who had confused her cms and her inches.

My fingers are tightly crossed.  

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