Nettles


I can’t say what it is about weeds that l have always loved? Perhaps it is quite simply because they are misunderstood like some animal species. Whatever your opinion or view is on weeds, they are everywhere, and they are here to stay.

Twenty-five years ago, l used to forage for weeds to feed the enormous number of rabbits l had in my commercial breeding operation. Knowing about them made everything easier because it meant that l wouldn’t accidentally kill an animal by feeding the wrong weed.

Most weeds are harmless, not all. Of course, some are and can be deadly. The fact is that people don’t like weeds because they don’t belong where they usually appear or are out of place. Many a time, gardeners especially don’t want them because weeds tend to grow quicker and easier than many ornamental flowers.

Weeds have a way of surviving. They are ONLY considered weeds on the domestic level because, let’s be honest, when we are out walking in the countryside, how many people are bothered by the presence of weeds then?

There are advantages and disadvantages to having weeds in your gardens and yards. They do have a lot of benefits that many people tend to ignore, and this series will highlight that.
The Beauty of Weeds

Companion Plantings
Shelter
Encouraging wildlife
Fertilising and enriching the soils
Providing and active Mulch/Soil protection
Attracting pollinators and good insects
Repelling pests
Food source for animals and humans
Serves as decoy crops
Great for wildlifing the garden
Soil conditioning

Nettles

Urtica dioica

The world is a nettle; disturb it, it stings. Grasp it firmly, it stings not.

Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton



Nettles, which are weeds, have many uses and don’t just serve gardeners and composters but can be used medically, herbally, and be eaten so, in addition, they have culinary uses and let’s not forget the likes of Nettle wine, which is said to have a bit of sting to it.

That aside, let’s look at the nettle with regards to composting/fertilising use and some interesting facts for the wildlifers too.

When l used to keep animals commercially, l used to cultivate a specific part of my vegetable gardening solely for nettle growth. They were cut and hung inside the barns and allowed to dry out completely and were then shredded down and added to the seed mixes for the rodents and herbivores alike as well as used for bedding.

Cold steeping the nettles in open-air vat bins combined with rabbit poop pellets made a seriously healthy fertiliser for the gardens. 

Over the years, l have grown or left uncut patches of nettles in the garden for wildlifing purposes, composting, or making nettle tea.

Nettles like mint are a highly invasive plant and need very little encouragement to grow!! There are considerable benefits to nettles. They make significant foliage areas for butterflies and contain an abundance of food sources for caterpillars, so having a nettle presence means some insects will head for those rather than perhaps one of your more prized plants. 

Nettles make a great fodder or decoy plant. A pot or two carefully sited in the garden appeals to both aphids and ladybirds alike. Aphids use them for shelter, and ladybirds eat the aphids!

You can use nettles to enrich your soil, should you wish to grow them directly in your beds – remember at the end of each season to dig them and their ROOTS up, as they don’t need any encouragement to stay. 

Once dug up and fetched out, chop them up [clip them] and add them to your compost heap as they are great activators as well as accelerators for the whole decomposition process. Make sure to chop them up, dig them into your pile, and not just leave them in one massive clump because they are like grass and can become incredibly slimy with a remarkably offensive smell! 

Also, a word of warning – if you run a hot compost heap, you needn’t worry. However, if you don’t and you place the nettles into your compost, de-seed/root them; otherwise, they will seed or grow in your heap!

Now, if you don’t wish to add them to your compost stack, then l would further suggest cold steeping them for around a month or so and turning them into nitrogen-rich nettle fertiliser. They are superb for the more bushy vegetables and plants. The best ratio for a balanced tea is one part tea to ten parts water.

Chop the nettles up, or pending the size of the container you are using, stuff them in, cover with water and a brick or two and a lid of sorts, and leave for roughly a month and let them soak. Like with ‘weed teas’, don’t site the containers too close to the house as the smell is somewhat vibrant, to put it mildly. Each time you remove the cover, you will smell what l mean!  

Although adding a herb or two to the mix like thyme, sage, mint, or Rosemary will make the scent more tolerable.

If you are feeling adventurous, try picking some younger leaves found near the top of the early season plants and frying or boiling them to make them quite tasty. Think spinach.

Whilst on the subject of consumption, your worm farms will also benefit from having nettles added into their feeding schedules. Nettles like coffee adds nitrogen.

The following link –  Ten Point Guide on Nettles  – is well worth a read also

Hope you enjoyed N for Nettles and l’ll see you again soon.

The Autistic Composter


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Published by The Autistic Composter

Howdy Folks, Earthly Comforts is a broad niche wildlife journaling scrapbook focusing on the countryside, wildlife biodiversity and environmental conservation, flora and fauna volunteering projects, gardening, composting and vermiculture, also known as ‘worm farming and photography too.

11 thoughts on “Nettles

      1. Usually everyone gets rid of weeds – they want well manicured and nice looking lawns …

        Some have HOA’s (Home Owners Association) who will freak out over everything and want controlled

        I do not have HOA thank god ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

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