Nettle Garden Fertilizer: Information On Making And Using Nettles As Fertilizer
Weeds are really just plants that have evolved to self-propagate rapidly. To most people they are a nuisance but to some, who recognize they are just plants, a boon. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is one such weed with a variety of beneficial uses from a food source to a medicinal treatment to nettle garden fertilizer.
The nutrients in stinging nettle fertilizer are those same nutrients the plant contains which are beneficial to the human body such as many minerals, flavinoids, essential amino acids, proteins and vitamins. A nettle leaf plant food will have:
These nutrients, along with Vitamins A, B1, B5, C, D, E, and K, combine together to create a tonic and immune builder for both the garden and the body.
How to Make Stinging Nettle Manure (Fertilizer)
Nettle garden fertilizer is also referred to as stinging nettle manure, both because of its use as a food source for plants and also possibly in reference to its smell as it brews. There is a quick method for making nettle fertilizer and a long range method. Either method requires nettles, obviously which can either be picked in the spring or purchased at a health food store. Be sure to wear protective clothing and gloves if picking your own nettles and avoid picking near a road or other area where they may have been sprayed with chemicals.
Quick method: For the quick method, steep 1 ounce (28 g.) of nettles in 1 cup (240 ml.) of boiling water for 20 minutes to an hour, then strain the leaves and stems out and toss in the compost bin. Dilute the fertilizer 1:10 and it’s ready for use. This quick method will give a subtler result than the following method.
Long range method: You can also make nettle garden fertilizer by filling a large jar or bucket with the leaves and stems, bruising the foliage first. Weight down the nettles with a brick, paving stone, or whatever you have laying around and then cover with water. Only fill three-quarters of the bucket with water to allow room for the foam that will be created during the brewing process.
Use non-chlorinated water, possibly from a rain barrel, and set the bucket in a semi-sunny area, preferably away from the house since the process will likely be a tad smelly. Leave the mix for one to three weeks to ferment, stirring every couple of days until it stops bubbling.
Using Nettles as Fertilizer
Finally, strain out the nettles and dilute the concoction at one part fertilizer to 10 parts water for watering plants or 1:20 for direct foliar application. It can be added to the compost bin to stimulate decomposition as well.
When using nettles as fertilizer, remember that some plants, like tomatoes and roses, do not enjoy the high iron levels in nettle fertilizer. This fertilizer works best on leafy plants and heavy feeders. Start with low concentrations and move on from there. Use some caution when using nettles as fertilizer since the mixture will undoubtedly still contain prickles, which can be quite painful.
This free, albeit somewhat stinky food is easy to make and can continue to be topped off through the year by adding more leaves and water. At the end of the growing season, simply add the nettle dregs to the compost bin and put the whole process to bed until spring nettle picking time.
Growing Nettle: How to Plant, Care For and Harvest This Useful HerbBethany Hayes
Bethany is a suburban homesteader who grows over 30 types of vegetables in her garden every year to provide the vegetables needed to feed her family of six for the entire year. She practices organic gardening without the use of any pesticide and chemical.
Stinging nettle has two sides: On one hand, it stings you, leaving your skin hurting and numb. The other is a nutritional powerhouse with tons of uses. That’s why, if it doesn’t appear on your property naturally, you might want to try growing nettle.
Most people never consider growing nettle because it often appears exactly where you don’t want it. Plus there’s that whole stinging thing. But nettle attracts tons of beneficial insects, is tasty in the kitchen, and has several proven medicinal uses.
You really should give this wonder herb a chance, so here’s how to get started:
How to Make Nettle Plant Fertilizer
If you have a lot of stinging nettles in your garden or in your neighborhood, then you. are. in luck! There are a lot of different things you can do with stinging nettles. You can eat them, use them for self-care, and… you can use them to make ‘plant fertilizer’. Read on to find out how to make nettle plant fertilizer.
Like dandelions, nettles used to be an annoying weed that invaded our garden. But lately I have found so many uses for them. Once I started to dive into this ‘foraging world’, I saw numerous possibilities.
My most recent go at foraging and making something fun with my harvest were these dandelion cookies.
With the stinging nettles, however, I knew straight away that the first thing I wanted to make was this plant fertilizer because it is apparently really simple to make, and who doesn’t want a bit of ‘free’ help to improve their crops?
The benefits of using stinging nettles as fertilizer
Apparently, stinging nettle belongs to a special group of plants called ‘dynamic accumulators’. ‘Dynamic accumulators’ take up nutrients and minerals from the soil, and then store them in highly bio-available forms and concentrations in their leaves. This makes them ideal to add to botanical teas, homemade fertilizers, mulch, or even to your garden compost pile.
There have been scientific studies that show that fresh stinging nettle leaves are loaded with high concentrations of vitamins as well as large amounts of minerals. The leaves are also high in nitrogen, chlorophyll, and plant polyphenols.
If those terms confuse you a bit, don’t worry they confuse me. The main thing we can take away from this is that those elements all support plant health and stimulate growth. And that’s what we want!
What do you need
- Stinging nettles
- Thick (pruning) gloves that won’t allow you to get stung
- Trimming shears or scissors
- Water, preferably without chlorine. Rainwater is ideal. If you only have tap water, then just let the water sit in a bucket in the sun for 24 hours. That should allow the chlorine to dissolve.
- Bucket with lid
- Stir stick
- A mesh strainer, cheesecloth, or anything that could help you to strain the plant fertilizer
How to make the fertilizer?
Before you start, I have to give you a heads-up. This plant fertilizer stinks. Bad. So when you make it, make sure to set it up somewhere outside or in a shed where you wouldn’t mind the smell.
1. Collect your nettles. You can decide how much of course, but I decided to fill two buckets. With the trimming shears remove the three or four top pairs of leaves of each nettle plant, since they contain the most vitamins and minerals. Make sure that you avoid picking them near a road or other area where they may have been sprayed with chemicals.
2. Put the nettle in the bucket with lid in which you wish to store the plant fertilizer during the fermentation process. I decided to use an old rain barrel which I had lying around. After filling it, I discovered that it was leaking on one side, hence the barrel lying on its side! Chop the nettles into smaller pieces with your shears. Finer pieces will result in better fermentation and nutrient release.
3. Add sufficient water to cover the nettle in the bucket. You should be able to stir it easily and it must not be too thick.
4. Place the lid on top of the bucket but don’t seal it.
5. Stir the brewing plant fertilizer once a day if possible. Bubbles should appear when you stir it. This is a good sign it means that it’s fermenting! The bubbles didn’t appear with me until after four days.
6. After one to three weeks the fermentation process should be complete. You’ll know that the mixture is ready when bubbles cease, as it were, after stirring.
7. Strain the nettle solids from the mixture. I strained it using a mesh strainer into this unused drink dispenser. I used this drink dispenser since I didn’t have any buckets with lids around and I wanted to avoid buying something new.
If you do have a bucket with a lid – or anything similar – go for that. The ‘leftover solids’ are ideal for your compost pile! The stinging nettle plant fertilizer will keep for around six months.
8. When you plan to use the plant fertilizer for your garden, you will have to dilute it with water. It is recommended that you use one part fertilizer to 10 parts water for watering plants, and 1:20 for direct foliar application (with a spray bottle).
Direct foliar application means that the fertilizer is applied directly to the plant’s leaves as opposed to putting it in the soil. Why would you do that? A plant takes nutrients through the leaf much quicker than it does through the root and stem. Foliar application can be beneficial when a plant is suffering from certain nutrient deficiencies.
However, it’s not meant to be a substitution for healthy soil. Another good benefit of this technique is that the smell of the plant fertilizer works as a strong insect repellent.
Only apply this plant fertilizer about once every month.
9. Last but not least, it’s important to remember that not all plants will benefit from this particular plant fertilizer. I will admit, I have researched online which plants will benefit from this plant fertilizer and it was a bit confusing. Different things were being said.
The following statement on this website seems to sum it up well it works best on leafy plants and heavy feeders. Heavy feeders are for example: sunflowers, aubergine, peppers, tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, cantaloupes, pumpkins, gourds, winter squash, courgette and all types of melons.
Another website added to it: This fertilizer works best on plants that have a high demand for nourishment such as fruit trees and bushes, roses, annuals and perennial flowering plants. It works for tomatoes, leeks, brassicas, cucumbers and courgettes. However, it is not meant for beans, peas, onions, potatoes and root vegetables.
The third and last website I am going to refer to added: Your ornamental and crop plants will profit from this, without the necessity of using chemical additives… Only for the usage with salads, peas, cabbage or vegetables the usage of stinging nettle manure is not suited.
Guess what… I added it to my lettuce before I found that last bit of information! Oops! Let’s hope they don’t die. It has become clear to me that the use of this plant fertilizer will be a bit of a learning curve. I will make sure to keep you up to date if I learn anything new!
Do share in the comments if you have any clear sources on which plants can handle this plant fertilizer. Also, are you going to give this plant fertilizer a go? Or have you already made it before?
Stinging Nettle ‘Tea’
Stinging nettles are a haven for ladybirds and make a handy organic vegetable fertilizer. They are lower in potassium than comfrey but much easier to come by and contain an average N2:P0:K5 but with high trace elements. Young stinging nettle leaves are cut in the spring (wearing a thick pair of gloves!) and made the same way as comfrey tea. A quick method is to add 1kg of nettles to 20 litres of water. Use the liquid undiluted when it starts to smell, usually a couple of weeks.
Alternatively, organic gardening guru Joy Larkcom recommends wrapping some nettles up in a sheet of muslin or old net curtain, then tying and hanging them in your water-butt. Change the bag often as the leaves break down so that the feed doesn’t become too strong.
Have you used homemade fertilizers in your garden? How did you find them?
What Is Stinging Nettle?
Nettle, Urtica dioica, is an herbaceous perennial in the Urticaceae family that is often found growing wild in the understory of riparian zones, on the edges of meadows, in open forests, or in disturbed soils near pasture.
It has toothed opposite leaves along the stems, which are almost heart shaped, and very small flowers. It can grow from two to four feet tall at maturity. It spreads by vigorous creeping rhizomes, and often forms dense clusters.
Nettle plants are dioecious, which means they only produce either male or female flowers, not both. Perhaps this is why they were given the Latin name dioica, which means “two houses.”
Males have a stringier, compact cluster of flowers that tend to point outward. Females can be identified by dense, heavy flower clusters that may look like they are pulling the plant down.
Males and females grow adjacent to each other, and the flowers are usually wind pollinated.
Perhaps the most infamous identifying feature is the tiny stinging hairs, which can be found under the leaves and along the stems.
These are actually tiny hollow tubes known as trichomes.
You may have had the misfortune of experiencing the unpleasant sensation of accidentally brushing up against a plant, or pulling one up without gloves.
The action of disturbing the hairs breaks off the fragile silica tips, and the hair acts like a needle, injecting you with chemicals.
What causes that burning sensation?
Upon contact, the tiny needles pierce the skin and release chemicals including acetylcholine, formic acid, histamine, and serotonin, which trigger inflammation and pain that can unfortunately last for up to several hours.
Native in many places around the world, this herb can be found in north Africa, North America, Asia, and Europe. In some parts of the US, stinging nettle is considered an invasive weed due to its ability to self-seed and spread through its root mass.
It has been grown, foraged, and harvested for thousands of years. Documented accounts of its use date as far back as 1200 BC, and its uses are widespread.
Nettle fabric was used by Europeans and Native Americans for linens and sailcloth as early as the 16th and 17th century. Today, it is still commonly used as a textile similar to hemp or flax. Fibers can be dried, pounded, and twisted into rope or cloth. The finished product can range from fine and soft to thick and rough.
In Germany it was used during the first half of the 20th century, often combined with cotton to make undergarments, stockings, and fabrics.
This valuable plant also has long been part of culinary and medicinal practices. In the US, there is a history of Native American use in food, medicine, clothing, and ceremonies.
Zero maintenance abundance
All this food, fertilizer, and what-ever other uses you might want to put nettle to—there are many, some detailed in the book and articles I've listed below—is available for very little effort on your part.
Just find the right spot, establish your nettle patch, and enjoy. Depending on your climate, you may have nettles available year-round (remember not to eat/drink the leaves while its flowering/seeding) or every spring. The only real work involved in maintaining a nettle patch is harvesting from it.
Nettle Leaf Plant Food
Nettle leaves can be used to make an easy to use, if somewhat smelly, plant food. Best of all it's free!
To make your nettle fertiliser you will need only four things:
- Nettles! - obviously.
- A watertight container - a large bucket is adequate.
- Water, and
- A wait, sorry a weight. Not essential but makes the process easier as I will explain.
First take your nettles. These are best as young stems but can be taken at any time. Quicker results are obtained if the nettle stems and leaves are bruised.
Then crush them. This can be done by scrunching the stems in gloved hands or by placing the stems on a freshly mown lawn and using your mower to chop and collect the nettles at the same time. The addition of a few grass clippings that results from using this method does not affect the quality of the finished product.
Immerse in water Stuff the crushed stems into your bucket. Place your weight on top of the stems. You may have to use a little ingenuity here - I have used a broken paving slab in the past. A brick and a piece of wire mesh cut to suit the cointainer serves equally well. Fill the container with water sufficient to cover the nettles and.
Leave to brew. This is where the original wait comes in. You may also consider placing the bucket away from the areas in the garden that you use most as the soup tends to get rather smelly.
Dilute to taste. After around three or four weeks the liquid should be ready for use. The mixture should be diluted until it is tea coloured - usually around 1 part liquid to 10 parts water. Water liberally around or on the plants and see the benefits.
Repeat until winter. Continue to top up your container with more leaves and water through the year. As autumn sets in put the remainder of the feed and the sludge in your compost heap. Give your container a rinse and store for next year!