Sustainable fertilizer: Nettle tea

Among other new things I’m trying out this year, I’m making a liquid fertilizer out of stinging nettles (Urtica dioica).

Urtica dioica grows easily from seed and spreads easily by rhizomes, so I grow mine in a container. potted stinging nettles urtica dioica and spiderOften used in traditional and herbal/alternative medicines to treat a wide variety of conditions in the urinary and gastrointestinal tracts, the skin, joints, and allergic conditions, stinging nettles contain significant amounts of trace elements like iron, manganese, and calcium. The plant also contains the major nutrients potassium and nitrogen. Nitrogen, of course, promotes new green growth, and potassium (symbol K, the third number in a fertilizer analysis such as 4-3-3) is often described as a multivitamin for a plant, promoting resiliency and overall good health.

stinging nettle urtica dioicaGardening literature from the UK suggests that nettle tea is an outstanding natural fertilizer. To make it:

  1. Gather stems and leaves of stinging nettles. (Use gloves. They really do hurt.)nettle stem showing spines
  2. Crush the leaves and stems with your gloved hands or chop them with a knife, and place in a large bucket. Weight them down with a clean clay pot or saucer.harvested nettleschopped nettles
  3. Cover the crushed nettles with water. nettles submerged in container of water
  4. Leave them to soak for 3-4 weeks. Word has it that the brew gets a bit smelly, so keep a lid on the bucket and perhaps locate it away from pathways or entranceways.
  5. Once the liquid has steeped, dilute it at approximately 1 part tea to 10 parts water. Apply to any plants, but especially those that seem to be struggling a bit.


Nettles can interfere with certain prescription drugs, including blood thinners and blood pressure and diabetes medications. Don’t take them without consulting a doctor about potential interactions with your current diet and medications.



5 thoughts on “Sustainable fertilizer: Nettle tea

  1. I make this and combine it with comfrey which is also a wonderful plant tonic. And it is true that it smells absolutely disgusting. But never mind the plants love it.

    • I have heard good things about using comfrey in the same way. But the species seems to be nearly invasive? I read a good deal about the ‘Bocking 14’ strain being sterile and therefore a good choice for the garden, but for some reason it’s not available in the US (at least, not that I have been able to find). Do you know if ‘Axminster Gold’ behaves itself in the garden? It’s beautiful and accessible.

      • I have Bocking 14 which does not set seed. I have it in a corner of the garden where it doesn’ t matter too much but still I do have to work at keeping it under control ,all comfey is quite invasive. But it is a fantastic organic fertiliser. Its roots go so deep that it can harvest nutririents deep in the soil and it is a fantastic source of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.

  2. Pingback: Dear Friend and Gardener: June 27, 2014 | MissingHenryMitchell

  3. Pingback: Comfrey: A plant’s smelly, magical wonder food. | MissingHenryMitchell

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