One of the most annoying weeds in the garden is the common stinging nettle. Anyone who has ever been unlucky enough to be stung by one of these knows how itchy and annoying the resulting area of skin becomes, plus it doesn’t take more than a slight brush against a nettle to cause a sting, even through many items of thinner clothing. Usually we look around for the nearest dock leaf in order to rub the affected area and hopefully reduce the soreness, meanwhile cursing the offending weed for all we are worth. The stings are caused by brushing against the fine hairs that are under the leaves and on the stems of the nettles themselves. In fact if you grasp a nettle firmly with the hairs following their natural direction you don’t actually get stung at all, it is only when brushed against the direction they grow in that you will be stung.
One of my worst memories from my young childhood was when my older sister had her friend round to play for the afternoon. Both of them being five years older than me I was, of course the smallest, so I happily accepted the friend’s offer of a ride on her shoulders through the small area of woodland on our property. We headed towards an overgrown quarry that was also located on our land, but unfortunately for me, the friend tripped over a tree root, I catapulted off her shoulders and face first into a huge patch of stinging nettles. I howled and they panicked, rushed me back to the house making me promise not to tell Mum, in return for which they would read me a story. Having smuggled me up to the bedroom they kept their end of the bargain, and I kept mine by never telling tales on them, but after this I never had a great fondness for nettles, that is until a few years back when I discovered they can make excellent free plant food.
What You Will Need.
A large bucket and a lid or cover for it.
A Heavy Stone or similar.
How to Make the Nettle Plant Food.
Start in Spring (ideally before the nettles have flowered).
Firstly crush or bruise your nettles by whatever means necessary to avoid being stung by them. This could be by stamping on them on a hard surface, chopping at them with a strimmer, running over them with a lawnmower fitted with a grassbox, crushing them in your hands whilst wearing thick gardening gloves or simply by placing them in the bucket and using the handle of a broom, a flat ended sawn off branch or similar to act as a pestle in much the same way as you would grind herbs in a pestle and mortar. Make sure there are plenty of nettles packed tightly into the bucket.
Place your heavy stone on top of the nettles.
Add sufficient water to cover over the contents of the bucket and place the lid on top.
Leave in a corner of the garden away from the house (to avoid the resulting odour and the flies this attracts) for about four weeks, or until the liquid part of the mixture is the colour of tea.
When you wish to use the plant food simply drain off what you need and dilute with fresh water at a rate of 1 part nettle plant food to approximately 8-10 parts water.
Up until Winter continue to top up your bucket with fresh nettles and water, or alternatively keep two buckets brewing, and when you are ready to use one, drain the useful liquid off into another container and throw the nettles on to your compost heap. You can then set this empty bucket up again, and meanwhile, use up the liquid you drained off. When the liquid is gone then use the mixture from your second bucket, set up that bucket again, and so on, alternating between batches.
Nettle plant food is high in nitrogen,as well as sulphur, magnesium, iron etc. This makes it ideal for plants such as lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes, flowers, lawns, houseplants etc