It’s a high risk strategy, I know. My arms are still tingling as I write, so bare arms aren’t recommended. But if you have a patch of young nettles nearby, you can make a brilliant liquid plant food for free.
Rich in nitrogen (needed for leafy growth), it’s a good spring boost for plants in general, and particularly good for:
- leafy plants and vegetables, such as brassicas
- container plants, which need regular feeding
- vegetable plots where intensive cropping and hungry crops have depleted the soil of nutrients
- anything that is looking a bit sad and yellow but should really be green and happy.
Also, given the huge amounts of rain we’ve had over the last few months and its associated nutrient leaching, plants and garden soils may be in need of a bit of TLC.
Apart from trying hard to avoid being stung, nettle fertiliser couldn’t be easier to make.
Step 1 Collect the leaves and stems of young nettles, place in a bucket or trug:
Step 2 Cover with water. Some people suggest weighing down the nettles with a brick but this is a refinement I don’t bother with.
Step 3 Leave outside for 2 to 3 weeks. Probably best not to leave it right by your back door as it gets VERY smelly. It’s fine if rain tops the water level up from time to time. (If you have small children you may want to consider covering the container on safety grounds.)
Step 4 Allow a child to stir vigorously with a large stick whilst the fertiliser is maturing. This bruises the leaves and helps the process along. Most “recipes’ for nettle fertiliser suggest bruising the fresh leaves before immersing in water. But I know from bitter experience that’s a stinging disaster waiting to happen.
Step 5 Pour off the liquid into another bucket and put the discarded nettles on the compost heap. The fertiliser will be strong (as evidenced by the smell!) so it’ll need to be diluted – the rough guide is 1 part fertiliser to 10 parts water. Use the diluted fertiliser to water plants in need of a boost.
A bit later in the season we’ll switch to comfrey fertiliser. Made in exactly the same way, this has higher levels of potassium which is good for flower and fruit development.