Last Updated on 20/07/2023 by Barney
Learning how to get rid of stinging nettles is easy. Take the right precautions to protect your hands and you’ll have garden free of these weeds in no time.
Despite having incredible wildlife value stinging nettles bring to creatures such as ladybirds butterflies and birds they are more often than not an unwelcome weed in the garden.
There are 2 types of these buggers with their stinging hairs. Perennial stinging nettles & annual stinging nettles. To kill nettles the treatment for both is roughly the same. The good news is they are no way near as difficult to kill as brambles are in the garden.
How to get rid of stinging nettles organically
Killing stinging nettles organically is my favourite method as it does not require chemicals. Just some regular gardening tools and a bit of care to avoid painful stings from those tiny hairs on the leaves.
Tackle nettles in mid Spring although it can be done anytime of the year. This is when both annual & perennial nettles are in growth mode making it easy to identify the area necessary for removing the root system.
Wear gloves! Nothing will upset your day more than getting stung.
Cut the nettles down with hedge shears or garden strimmer leaving a few cms of the upright stems visible . Using hedge shears instead of secateurs will keep your hands away from the hurty bits.
Using a garden fork gently loosen up the soil exposing the shallow, creeping roots and remove these by hand.
All of the stinging foliage and chopped nettle stems can be chopped up and added to home compost heaps. However, do not add nettle roots as these can regrow if the compost heap does not get hot enough.
Instead of adding them to your compost heap I highly recommend using the cuttings and nettle roots to make stinging nettle tea. Your very own ‘free’ high nitrogen liquid fertiliser.
Non-Organic – Chemical Control of Stinging Nettles
Sometimes if a patch of nettles is just too large to tackle by hand then a weedkiller might be the only solution.
Only a systemic weedkiller containing glyphosate will be successful in kill nettles permanently.
Systemic weedkillers work by being absorbed into the root system preventing regrowth.
Spray the nettles in the growing season when there is active growth and wait for foliage to die back. Once this has occurred rake it up as dispose in your garden waste recycling. Do not add to your compost heap as it will contain glysophate residue.
If further regrowth appears further applications may be necessary.
No need to dig out the roots as these will decompose in the soil naturally.
Preventing further outbreaks of stinging nettles.
Once controlled stinging nettles rarely cause a further nuisance but further outbreaks can be avoided by applying a thick layer of organic mulch.
If the ground is going to be left bare for a period of time then consider covering the newly cultivated soil with a weed membrane. Bare, turned over soil that isn’t planted or mulched seems to be a magnet for stinging nettles (and a host of other weeds).
Regular hoeing will kill stinging nettle seedlings and stop them from setting seed.
What’s the difference between annual nettles & perennial nettles?
Although very similar in appearance and flower colour annual nettles grow between 2 – 3ft in height where perennial nettles will grow to 1.2-1.5m in height.
Annual nettles grow from the previous years seed where perennial versions will reappear from the creeping stems to form large clumps.
Will mowing kill nettles?
Yes. continued mowing will get rid of stinging nettles as these tend to be annual nettles. As long as they are mowed before setting seed there will be no ongoing problems.
What are the wildlife benefits of stinging nettles?
Obviously there are right and wrong places to allow stinging nettles to grow. In between your prized perennials probably isn’t one however stinging nettles are incredibly valuable for wildlife.
Food for seed eating birds in Autumn
Several butterfly species including the Red Admiral use them to feed off and to lay their larvae
Stinging nettles attract colonising aphids which ladybirds love to gorge themselves on
It’s a Wrap from Me
I’m hoping that’s all needed to know on how to get rid of stinging nettles. Both organic or non-organic methods can be used to eliminate them.
Gardeners wishing to use the organic method can also benefit from free plant food by making feed on home brewed stinging nettle tea which is high in potassium. Perfect for home grown vegetable crops.