A couple of weeks ago we were watching Monty Don one Sunday morning on BBC 2’s Gardeners World. He was talking through his “Jobs for the weekend” and was highlighting the benefits of stinging nettles being fantastic plant fertilizer and just how easy it was to make and would cost absolutely nothing!
Did he say FREE natural fertilizer?
Well that was it a man on a mission, free fertilizer! I was determined to give it go as there are always thousands of stinging nettles nearby. Plus there are no unpleasant chemicals or additives to worry about, plain and simple nitrogen rich fertilizer (also contains magnesium, sulphur and iron). Though I do feel a bit of plumb, as I know my wife Sherrie already knew of it, but bless her she kept silent and let me carry on, but to me it was FREE! The perfect scrimpers prize, the only cost was a little of my time.
Is the fertilizer suitable for all plants and vegetables?
My research suggests that nettle tea can be a good all round fertilizer in moderation, but too much nitrogen can lead to an abundance of healthy dark green leaves. However, for healthier fruit, flower production and a higher yield, the plants will need a balance of phosphorus and potash. So don’t over feed your plants only with your nettle tea!
Tip: Nitrogen rich plants, such as beans, peas & onions won’t respond quite as well to the tea.
Schoolboy error, must cover your steeping nettles
Monty’s explanation was a little brief on storing, so I thought it was a case of fill a bucket with stinging nettles, fill with water and leave. Oooops! Yes it did work, but we got plenty of flies, floating bloated maggots an all sorts yuck!! Next time, I will simply cover it to reduce the floating wriggling debris; though I know it will still smell pretty bad.
Didn’t Monty add Comfrey into the fertilizer?
Yes indeed he did, but our comfrey plant was not big enough and it is being used for the compost bin at present, so we went for 100% pure wild stinging nettle brew! We were keen to try our own flavour of tea. All this talking about tea is getting me thirsty lol.
Venture out and source plenty of nettles (sustainably)
Well it was a doddle, off we went for a walk with two carrier bags, two pruning shears and 2 pairs of thick gloves (don’t forget any of these lol) off on the hunt for nettles. You never have to look far before finding hoards of them, but when you come to harvesting the nettles you must make sure you leave the roots intact. We found out that it’s illegal to just pull them up, as it is defined as stealing, but if you are to chop them down (or *cough* heavily prune) they can still grow back next year. Who would have thought for a weed you could get a hefty fine or a stint in her majesty’s finest prison.
Let’s get making some smelly nettle fertilizer…..for FREEEEEE
- Stuff all your nettles into large bucket, making sure to break the stems and crunch the leaves as you go. Push them down and crush them with your boot.
- Fill the bucket with water, so the nettles are covered. Many gardeners recommend using rainwater over tap water, plus it’s free!
- Put your bucket away from your house/communal areas, as it will really stink! (Make sure you cover it).
- We left ours steeping for 4 weeks, but I have read online that with a lid it can be ready in as little as two weeks. We plan on trying this next time, so I will report back once we know.
- Many gardeners recommend stirring occasionally.
- Once ready, strain your tea by remove all the floating plant debris and put it in your compost bin (great compost activator)
- Dilute the nettle tea, one part to ten (1:10) when you next water your plants. It works a charm, especially for nitrogen hungry plants!
Has anyone else tried Monty’s method or a variation of?
Our nettle tea worked wonders, especially for our Quinoa which was showing signs of nitrogen deficiency, within days it looked noticeably better. With the added comfrey added into the mix I am sure the tea will be even more effective.
Let us know how you get on brewing some nettle tea and please share any tips/tricks, as we are always keen to learn.