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Heal your Garden with Nettle

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is a perennial plant that is incredibly nutritious for both plants and humans. Most people are not really happy when they realise nettle is about to take over their favourite flower and vegetables beds. Because of its creeping roots, to get rid of nettle is a challenging garden job.

But I suggest you turn this mean, stinging weed to your garden’s best friend. You can use it to help your compost or as a natural fertilizer for your plants.

Chopped nettles act as a natural activator and speed up the decomposition process in compost heaps.

The nutrients in nettle fertilizer (nettle manure) are those same nutrients the plant contains which are beneficial to the human body such as many minerals, flavonoids, essential amino acids, proteins and vitamins. A nettle leaf plant food will have: chlorophyll, N, Fe, K, Cu, Zn, Mg, Ca. These nutrients, along with Vitamins A, B1, B5, C, D, E, and K, combine together to create a tonic and immune builder for the garden.

There is a quick method and a long range method for making nettle fertilizer. Either method requires nettles, obviously which can either be picked freshly or dried.

Quick method: For the quick method, steep a handful of nettles in a bowl of boiling water for 20 minutes, then strain the leaves and stems out and toss in the compost heap. Dilute the fertilizer 1:10 and it’s ready for use. Spray this nettle tea on your plants. It helps them to grow strongly, which means they become less attractive to pests. This quick method will give a subtler, non-smelly result than the following method.

Long range method: Fill a bucket with the leaves and stems. Weight down the nettles with a brick or stone, and then cover with water. Only fill three-quarters of the bucket with water to allow room for the foam that will be created during the brewing process. If you can, use rain water, and set the bucket in a semi-sunny area, preferably away from the house since the process will likely be smelly. Leave the mix for one to three weeks to ferment, stirring every couple of days until it stops bubbling.

Finally, strain out the nettles and dilute the concoction at one part fertilizer to 10 parts water for watering plants or 1:20 for direct foliar application. It can be added to the compost bin to stimulate decomposition as well. 

When using nettles as fertilizer, remember that this fertilizer works best on leafy plants and heavy feeders. Start with low concentrations and move on from there.

This nettle manure plant food is easy to make and your plants will be happy about it if you use it wisely.

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Nettle Colour at Your Fingertips

2nd May 2021 Mother’s Day

It’s Mother’s Day on this Sunday, 2nd May. You still have time to create something nice for your Mom with your own two hands. Let’s handcrafting with nettle!

Did you know that nettle is one of the most beautiful natural colouring plants? It is widely used for centuries as nettle leaves make a lovely green dye thanks to its chlorophyll content. Today, some creative minded people rediscovered this use of nettle and became professional botanical dyers

Here is an example of dying fabric with nettle. First, try it with a small piece of cotton or linen fabric (or a white handkerchief) to explore how it works, later you might use it bravely dying your favourite clothes as well.

Use separate equipment from your usual kitchen equipment.

1. Place nettles in a large aluminium pot and fill it with just enough water to cover the nettles.

2. Place the dye pot on the stove and heat very gently. As the leaves soften, push them down below the water level. Stop heating once the water reaches simmering point.

3. Check your colour regularly, if you want a deeper colour heat the dye again. Monitor the colour over the next day and observe the colour change of the liquid. It goes from yellow to green to dark grey-green.

4. Strain out the leaves when you are happy with the colour of your dye.

5. Pour the dye back into your aluminium dye pot and heat gently for a few minutes. Now the leaves aren’t in the dye, you might choose to use a slightly higher heat. Over the next few hours observe the dye further darken in colour.

6. Add in some extra water to raise the level so there’s more space for your fabric to move about.

7. When you’re happy with the dye colour, add in your fabric then heat gently and stir with a spoon to help it dye evenly. Simmer the fabric and ensure it’s submerged under the dye at all times.

8. Allow to soak for as long as you like, and reheat a couple of times if you feel it needs it. Stir the fabric whenever you pass, just to move things about so it dyes evenly.

9. After a day or so, take the fabric out, squeeze out the excess dye and allow it to hang to dry. Wait a few days before rinsing out the excess dye.

Then, if you want, iron your grey-green fabric for fixing this gentle colour you’ve worked so hard.

Happy Mother’s Day!