This page was originally published on www.nugget.demon.co.uk
24th March 1998 - Well well, it's just like March today, but the unusually
mild spell since Christmas has brought on a nice showing of young nettle tops.
So it may be a good time to describe the process of making nettle manure for the
benefit of any who doesn't know.
Any waterproof container will do from a teacup to a small pond. We do ours in
one of those 45 gallon plastic drums with the top cut off. Fill the container
with nettles, young tops are preferable because they biodegrade more quickly and
they leave less fibre residue etc in the bottom of the tub.
When I saw an outcrop of nettle tops appearing recently, I put the collector
box onto the petrol mower, set the cutting height about halfway and skimmed over
them, leaving enough height on the plants for regrowth. That gave me five
barrowloads of bruised nettle tops, which filled about half the volume of my
tub. The tub was already about a quarter full with rain which had collected
overwinter plus some comfrey I had put in earlier, so in went the nettle tops
and I pressed them down into the water. Later on I'll put more tops in, then the
space will be made up with more rainwater. Tap water can be used if you don't
have rainwater available.
It takes about three weeks for the nettles to break down, then the liquid is
ready to use. (Comfrey takes longer, but is a worthy addition.) While they are
fermenting, the mush will rise, so some weight will need to be put on to hold
them down. I use a wire grid with a couple of bricks on it. The process of
adding nettles and water can be repeated all through the season. The tub will
need a clean out at the back end of the year, putting all the mushy residue onto
the garden of course.
I'll give you fair warning that the liquid smells a bit 'farmyardy'. It seems
to penetrate clothing etc. but any odour will have completely gone within 15-20
minutes of using the stuff, so don't be afraid of it. It can be applied as a
liquid feed or a foliar feed. If you want to use it in a spray, strain it
through muslin or similar first or the tiny fibres will block the spray jets. We
don't put ours directly onto plants, but between the rows, on the principle of
feeding the soil rather than the plants, but that's optional. I dilute ours
half-and-half with more rainwater if the liquid seems very dark. We find it
particularly good for tomatoes, roots and legumes, but almost anything that
grows will benefit from a drink of it. Roses love it.
Another benefit from using nettle manure is that it is a first class insect
repellant. If we have an infested plant, then we will put it directly on and the
pests will go away in a hurry. Nettles are a deep rooted plant, they go right
down and bring up trace elements which are so essential to plant health, and
which are often lacking in regularly cropped ground. Nettle manure is completely
organic and totally free of cost. It beats me why anybody wants to go out paying
for poisonous chemical fertilisers when this can be had at no cost and no risk.
I don't know what NPK nettle manure contains, maybe somebody can tell us. What I do know is the beneficial effect it has on our gardening and on the
flowers and food crops we grow. Colours, blooms, plant growth, flavours and
textures all seem to perk up with its use.