Grow Guide: Stimulate Your Garden with Stinging Nettle


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Written by Allie Beckett
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Stinging Nettle is often seen as a stand-offish plant because, well, it stings like hell. Lovingly called devil leaf, stinging nettle has an exceptional variety of benefits for you and your garden.

In the past few decades, nettle has been viewed as a nuisance, commonly overlooked as an irritating weed — but this herbaceous flowering plant has had an intricate, medicinal relationship with humankind for centuries. Along with comfrey, nettle is a plant you’re sure to come across in garden that has embraced the philosophy of permaculture. 

In this Grow Guide, I’m going to go through all the amazing attributes of this infamous ‘weed’ and walk you through how to make a potent fertilizer using foraged nettle. While living in Seattle, I came across stinging nettle many times but just recently learned about all of its benefits from Dragonfly Earth Medicine; we now use it often on our farm to feed our cannabis and veggies. Utilizing foraged plants for fertilizer is yet another step towards sustainability and a closed-loop garden. 

Often foraged and rarely cultivated with intent, if you’re lucky to have nettle near you take advantage of this fortunate act of fate! Farmers already enlightened to all the benefits of this ‘weed’ have begun to plant nettle patches to use as natural fertilizer for their main crop. The perennial nettle plant loves lots of sunlight and plenty of water; it grows best near creeks, rivers, or bodies of water.

As you’ll see, Nettle has a multitude of valuable nutrients for your garden that can be harnessed through fermentation.

Harvesting stinging nettle (gloves are crucial!) Photo courtesy of Gardener's World.

Harvesting stinging nettle (gloves are crucial!) Photo courtesy of Gardener’s World.

Nettle contains a plethora of macro and micro nutrients that flowering plants crave. Nettle is rich in nitrogen and potassium, two major plant nutrients for boosting large flower growth. Aside from those two crucial nutrients, however, nettle also has high amounts of iron, magnesium, calcium, sulfur, copper and chlorophyll.

While nettle produces an irritating stinging sensation in its raw state, this unique plant is surprisingly edible.

Steaming freshly harvesting stinging nettle.

Steaming freshly harvesting stinging nettle.

Once steamed or placed in a pot of boiling water, nettle loses its stinging power to become a wonderfully nutritious superfood, rich in vitamins and minerals. Nettle is exceptionally rich in essential amino acids, flavonoids, iron, potassium, zinc, magnesium, calcium as well as a wide variety of vitamins (A, B1, B5, C, D, E and K).

Nettle is a bio-activator making it an excellent addition to your compost pile.

Adding stinging nettle to compost. Photo courtesy of Gardener's World.

Adding stinging nettle to compost. Photo courtesy of Gardener’s World.

Bio-activators, such as stinging nettle and comfrey, enhance the quality of your compost pile by quickening the decomposition process and adding even more valuable nutrients to the final product.

Nettle has an excess of medicinal qualities and has been used to treat a wide variety of health conditions.

Beautiful patch of Stinging Nettle. Photo courtesy of The Herbal Academy.

Beautiful patch of Stinging Nettle. Photo courtesy of The Herbal Academy.

Nettle has incredible detoxifying properties — working wonders on rejuvenating cells, boosting energy, cleansing blood, and improving circulation. Nettle has proven to be an amazing supplement for hair, skin, and bones as well as an amazing allergen reducer and immune system booster. This diverse plant contains all the vitamins and minerals needed for human health and growth — energizing and replenishing the whole body. If this often overlooked plant is this great for our bodies, imagine how great it will be for your plants!

Nettle has shown to increase the production of volatile oils (terpenes) in neighboring plants.

Stinging Nettle beginning to seed.

Stinging Nettle beginning to seed.

If you notice a volunteer nettle plant in your cannabis garden, you may want to leave it. Nettle is often used as a companion plant to intensify the flavor of fruits and vegetables (or ganja!).

Nettle attracts beneficial insects to your garden.

Stinging Nettle attracts aphids which is a favorite food of ladybugs. Photo courtesy of Critical Cactus

Stinging Nettle attracts aphids which is a favorite food of ladybugs. Photo courtesy of Critical Cactus

The nutritious leaves and nectar-rich flowers of the nettle plant attract aphid-munching ladybugs, which are a gardener’s best friend. If your cannabis plants are prone to aphid infestations, try putting a nettle plant or two in the area. Nettle’s flowers are also essential to the survival of butterflies by providing food for caterpillars while also acting as a trap crop (keeping the caterpillars away from your more precious crops).

Nettle is an ancient resource that was used by our ancestors in a variety of ways.

Stinging Nettle is identified easily by it's signature serrated leaves. Photo courtesy of The Herbal Academy.

Stinging Nettle is identified easily by it’s signature serrated leaves. Photo courtesy of The Herbal Academy.

From fabric to medicine, nettle can fulfill many needs for plants, animals, and humans. The fibers of nettle are similar to hemp and can be used to create string, rope, and textiles. Nettle has a long history in human culture — early humans even carried nettle with them to keep evil spirits away.

Nettle accumulates an impressive amount of minerals and vitamins from the earth, making it a great supplement for heavy-feeders like tomatoes, brassicas, fruit trees, and especially cannabis!

First, gather nettle leaves — avoid the seeds and roots.

*Be sure to use gloves so you don’t sting yourself (if you have arthritis, these stings have proven to be beneficial for reducing chronic joint inflammation caused by arthritis).

stinging-nettle-fertilizerNext, rough up the leaves slightly with your hands or some scissors before placing them in the barrel. Breaking the leaves up a bit bruises the leaf and quickens the fermentation process.

Place the leaves in a barrel or container of your choice, filling the container to the halfway point. The container can be as small as a 5-gallon bucket or as large as a 55-gallon water catchment barrel. Weigh down your leaves with a brick or large rock and fill your container with fresh water.

Then, set the container in a slightly sunny location and let the mixture ferment for 1-3 weeks. At TKO, we stir it every couple of days.

Next, strain the leaves and gather your potent nettle fertilizer.

Pro-tip: place your nettles in a tea bag or burlap sack before placing in the water so you can eliminate the straining step. (Your compost pile will love this excess plant material since nettle is a bio-activator and will help speed up the decomposition of your compost.)

Dilute to 1:10 for watering applications and dilute to 1:20 for foliar applications with fresh water before using. (fun fact — this undiluted solution is an incredible herbicide, just spray directly on any actively growing weeds and within two weeks the plot will be cleared.)

Keep in mind that nettle contains high levels of iron which some plants do not respond best to, so experiment with your ratios until you find the golden one.



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