Despite their weedy, stingy reputation, nettles are actually a really useful addition to your garden. Yes, they can be a pain to get rid of (and certainly painful if you get stung!), but they’re also jam-packed with nutrients like iron, potassium, magnesium and calcium.
You can add nettles to your compost heap to boost vitality or make potent fertilisers that your plants will love. The minerals in the nettles will encourage super-strong, healthy growth, making plants less susceptible to disease and definitely less attractive to pests. Hooray!
Here’s how to do it…..
You can collect nettles at any time, but they’re especially potent just before they ‘flower’ when the nutrients are at their peak. Fresh young leaves and stems, which are called ‘tops’, are best. Try to avoid the older, woody bits at the bottom.
Nettle ‘tea’ The quick method…
Collect around 100g of nettle tops (about half a carrier bag full) and put them in a big pan on the hob – we make ours on the gas cooker at the allotment. Cover with 1 ltr of rainwater and bring to the boil, then take off the heat and leave to ‘stew’ for 10 minutes. Sieve out the nettles and dilute 1:10 with rainwater.
At this point it’s great to give the liquid a good stir with a stick – our children love to make a big whirlpool where you can see the bottom of the bucket, first one way and then the other, preferably with as much splashing as possible! Decant into a sprayer/mister bottle and spray directly onto the leaves of your plants.
You can watch us making nettle tea towards the end of this little video here.
Cold water extract The slightly longer method…
This is a great way to deter aphids and is slightly more potent than nettle ‘tea’. Collect around 100g of nettle tops (about half a carrier bag full), soak them in a covered bucket with 1 ltr of rainwater for 1-2 days. Sieve out the nettles and dilute 1:10 with rainwater. As with the tea, stir and decant into a sprayer/mister bottle before spraying directly onto the leaves of your plants.
Potent liquid fertilisers The patient method…
There are a couple of methods that make a super-rich fertiliser for your garden which plants find really easy to ‘digest’! It’s especially good for container plants and heavy feeders like tomatoes, providing nutrients that are probably lacking in the soil. Also stimulates root growth, gets the sap moving and helps to prevent ‘yellow-leaf syndrome’! It’s good stuff….
Collect a bucketful of nettle tops – squish in as much as you can, you can weigh the nettles down with a rock if you like. Cover with rainwater, put a lid on the bucket and leave it to soak in the sun for around 10 days, by which point it may be rather smelly! Strain and dilute 1:10 with rainwater before stirring and spraying or watering your plants.
Another method of extracting a more concentrated fertiliser is to fill a bucket with nettle leaves, add NO water, cover and leave somewhere out of the way for 2 months. Warning: it will really stink, so don’t leave it outside your backdoor! The leaves will decompose and turn into a dark, black liquid. This bucket of loveliness needs to be diluted with rainwater 1:50 before stirring and spraying onto plants or watering the soil. I’m just not that patient….
Right, well we’re off to collect some more nettles. The only question is…..nettle fertiliser for the plants or nettle soup for us?