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. Often 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.
Gardening literature from the UK suggests that nettle tea is an outstanding natural fertilizer. To make it:
- Gather stems and leaves of stinging nettles. (Use gloves. They really do hurt.)
- 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.
- Cover the crushed nettles with water.
- 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.
- 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.