Last Updated on 14/09/2023 by Barney
Make your own free organic fertiliser by utilising one of natures free gifts. Stinging nettles!
We all hate getting stung by stinging nettles. Maybe though , with a little care when handling you’ll learn to love these buggers when you understand how to make your own eco-friendly stinging nettle tea organic fertiliser.
Stinging nettles (urtica dioica) make a wonderous, all round liquid fertiliser to use in the garden. Rich in nutrients and essential elements fermented stinging nettle tea is like liquid gold to use around the garden.
In this article I’ll cover all you need to know to make nettle fertiliser. From cutting the beasties to the end product, I’ve got you covered.
The Nettle Magic: Unveiling the Hidden Potential of This Powerhouse Plant Food
Make your own liquid nettle fertiliser or add them directly to the compost heap to reap the following benefits:
Pop out for a walk and you’ll find stinging nettles growing in abundance. Edges of woods & parks, waste ground, river and canal banks are all good places. These can be harvested for your own free organic liquid fertiliser. It doesn’t stop there. With this beauty, you can make foliar sprays and also add them direct to the compost heap.
There are no chemicals, plastic or shipping miles when making your own stinging nettle tea. With prices rocketing at the moment you’ll not only be saving money but also helping the environment
The Nutritional Bonanza: Why Nettles are Garden Gold
Think of stinging nettle fertiliser tea as an all round power house for your plants and vegetables.
Rich in Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphorus and more. Nettle fertiliser is not only a great source of minerals and vitamins essential for healthy plants but when used as a liquid fertiliser it is also beneficial for a healthy soil.
With a high Nitrogen content nettle tea is ideal for using on above ground leafy greens and plants
- Herbs : Parsley, Coriander & Mint
Nettle tea is also great when starting off big leafy crops such as cucumbers, courgettes and tomatoes.
#1. Gathering Your Green Goodness: Harvesting Nettles with Care
Ideally harvest stinging nettle leaves when they are young. Fresh nettle leaves have a higher concentration of nutrients are are quicker to break down in your nettle fertiliser.
Once you’ve identified a nettle patch all you need to keep yourself safe from the stinging hairs is a long sleeved top, long trousers, gardening gloves a pair of scissors and a bag for your booty. Top tip : use rubber kitchen gloves as they offer a better protection from getting stung on the wrists.
Simply grab a bunch with one hand and cut with the other. Cut to ground level and throw in a bag. It’s as simple as that.
If you’ve missed the boat for a fresh, late Spring cutting its OK. Older, taller nettles still make a great stinging nettle tea but will take longer to break down.
#2. Brewing Nettle Tea: The Elixir for Plant Prosperity
Avoiding being stung when harvesting nettles is really the hardest bit of making nettle tea. The rest is plain sailing from here on.
Gather these few items to complete your journey
- Bucket or container (5-gallon size or larger)
- Stirring stick
- Measuring jug
- Fine mesh or cheesecloth (only necessary if using as a spray)
- Optional: Compost or organic matter (to enhance nutrient content)
- Harvest Nettle Leaves: Wear protective gloves to avoid stings getting stung. Young leaves are preferred, but you can also use older leaves.
- Prepare the Container: Choose a bucket or container large enough to hold your bounty and water. I use a larger 80 litre black bin to make a huge batch. This will ultimately will depend on how much you need to water.My Tip: Choose a container, bucket, bin etc that has a lid. Stinging nettle fertilizer absolutely stinks. Having a lid will also stop all your goodness evaporating!
- Add Nettle Leaves: Fill the container with nettle leaves, loosely packed. You can chop the leaves into smaller pieces if desired, as this can help release the nutrients more easily.
- Add Water: Pour water into the container, completely covering the nettle leaves. Use non-chlorinated water if possible such as from water butt if you have one, as chlorine can hinder the beneficial microbial activity.If you do not have a water butt water that has been left outside for 24 hours for the chlorine to evaporate is great.
- Stir the Mixture: Use a stirring stick or spoon to agitate , ensuring they are well mixed. Stirring helps release the nutrients from the leaves into the water.
- Cover and Let Steep: Cover the container with a lid or cloth to prevent debris from entering, while still allowing air circulation. Let the mixture steep for 2 weeks. After this time it would of finished fermenting. The fermented tea is now ready to be applied to plants & vegetables.Beneficial microorganisms will break down the green goodness and release their nutrients into the water.
- Strain the Mixture: Only Necessary if being used in a garden sprayer as a foliar feed. If using as a soil and root drench it is not necessary.
- Dilute and Apply: Dilute the brewed nettle tea before applying it to plants. A general recommendation is to mix 1 part brewed nettle tea with 10 parts water. For example, if you have 1 litre of nettle tea, mix it with 10 liters of water. This dilution helps prevent any potential harm to plants and ensures even distribution of nutrients.My Tip : Wear those rubber kitchen gloves. Nettle fertiliser stinks to high heaven and can take a good couple of days to remove the smell from your hands.
- Apply to Plants: Use the diluted nettle tea to water your plants, ensuring that the soil is thoroughly moistened. You can apply nettle tea to both indoor and outdoor plants, vegetables, flowers, and shrubs.
- Store the Remaining Tea: If you have leftover nettle tea, you can store it in a covered container or bottle in a cool, dark place. It’s best to use the tea within a few weeks for maximum nutrient potency.
If, like me you have many plants and vegetables to fertilise consider running a couple of containers. That way you won’t run out and can always be brewing one whilst using the other.
#3. How to apply Stinging Nettle Fertilizer: Nurturing Your Garden with Nettle Love
Once the stinging nettle tea has been through the fermentation process, usually 1-2 weeks it will be ready for use.
When using stinging nettle as a soil drench or foliar spray the dilution rate is 10-1. So, what-ever your using as a measure just ensure that one part fertiliser is added to 10 parts water.
Be careful not to exceed this amount as you could damage the plants if the brew is particularly strong in nutrients.
When using as a foliar spray put the liquid fertiliser before through a fine mesh strainer. Missing out this step will clog up the spray head with particles.
TOP TIP: Wear gloves when handling the brewed nettle tea. The pungent aroma can take a couple of days to wash away from your hands
Benefits when used as a Soil drench :
- Nutrient Enrichment: Nettle tea, when used as a soil drench, enriches the soil with essential nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium, calcium, and trace elements, providing a natural and organic source of plant nutrition.
- Soil Microbial Activity: The application of nettle tea as a soil drench promotes the growth and activity of beneficial soil microorganisms. These microorganisms aid in nutrient cycling, decomposition of organic matter, and overall soil health.
- Improved Nutrient Availability: Nettle tea enhances the availability of nutrients in the soil, making them more accessible to plant roots. This can lead to improved nutrient uptake and utilisation by plants, resulting in healthier, happier growth.
- Soil Structure and Fertility: Regular use of nettle tea as a soil drench can improve soil structure by increasing organic matter content and enhancing soil aggregation. This, in turn, promotes better water drainage, aeration, and nutrient retention, creating a fertile environment for plant roots.
- Disease Suppression: The beneficial compounds present in nettle tea can help suppress certain soil-borne diseases. When used as a soil drench, nettle tea contributes to disease management by inhibiting the growth and spread of harmful pathogens.
- Plant Stress Tolerance: Nettle tea as a soil drench can enhance plant stress tolerance, enabling plants to withstand adverse conditions such as drought, heat, or nutrient deficiencies. It strengthens the plant’s root system and improves overall resilience.
Benefits when used as a foliar Spray
- Nutrient Boost: Nettle tea provides a quick and direct nutrient boost to plants when applied as a spray directly to the foliage, supplying essential nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium, calcium, and trace elements.
- Disease Resistance: The natural compounds present in nettle tea have antifungal and antibacterial properties, helping to strengthen the plant’s natural defenses against diseases and reduce the risk of infection or spread. This is handy when plants & veggies suffer from powdery mildew
- Enhanced Photosynthesis: Foliar application of nettle tea stimulates photosynthesis, improving the plant’s ability to convert light into energy, leading to enhanced growth and productivity.
- Pest Deterrence: The distinct odor of nettle tea (and it does stink) can repel certain pests like aphids and caterpillars when used as a spray, acting as a natural deterrent and reducing pest damage.
- Improved Nutrient Uptake: Foliar spraying with nettle tea enhances the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients from the soil, providing a direct supply of nutrients that bypasses potential soil nutrient deficiencies or uptake limitations.
#4. Frequency of Using Nettle Fertiliser
The frequency of applying nettle fertilizer can vary depending on several factors, including the growth stage of your plants, the nutrient requirements of the specific crops, and the concentration of the nettle fertilizer being used. Here are some general guidelines to consider:
- Early Growth Stage: During the early growth stage of plants, when they are establishing roots and foliage, it’s beneficial to apply nettle fertilizer more frequently. This can be done every 1-2 weeks to provide a steady supply of nutrients and support vigorous growth.
- Mid to Late Growth Stage: As plants mature and enter the mid to late growth stage, their nutrient requirements may decrease. You can reduce the frequency of nettle fertilizer application to every 2-4 weeks, ensuring a consistent supply of nutrients without overfeeding.
- Heavy-Feeding Crops: Some crops, such as tomatoes or leafy greens, are known as heavy feeders and have higher nutrient demands. For these crops, you may want to apply nettle fertilizer more frequently, such as every 1-2 weeks throughout the growing season, to meet their nutrient requirements.
- Dilution and Observation: When applying nettle fertilizer, it’s important to dilute it properly to avoid overfertilization, which can lead to nutrient imbalances or plant stress. Additionally, monitor your plants’ response to the fertilizer. If you notice signs of nutrient deficiency or excess (such as yellowing leaves or stunted growth), adjust the frequency of application accordingly.
Comfrey, Dandelions, Chickweed, Plantain and Yarrow can all be added to the stinging nettle tea. This has the added benefit of bringing other beneficial nutrients to your brewed nettle tea.
High in nutrients and moisture adding them directly to the compost bin has many benefits. Rich in nitrogen and microbes they aid in the decomposition process and work towards getting a good balance of green & brown material required.
In the early stages of growth feeding with nettle fertiliser will provide ample nitrogen needed for big leafy growth. However, once the flowers set move onto a feed that is high in potassium.
Its A Wrap from Me
So there we have it. Making your own nettle tea fertiliser is easy, great for plants and vegetables and above all, it is free! Perhaps we need to think tice before wanting to get rid of stinging nettles.
All you need are gloves, a pair of scissors, water and a large container or bin. Oh, and of course a supply of nettles.
Have you tried it ? I’d love to hear about your results. Leave me a comment below.