Friday 3 May 2019

National Gardening Week: Turning stinging nettles into your friend

stinging nettle

For National Gardening Week, a green-fingered Emmaus companion is giving tips on turning your foe into a friend and why there is no need to fear stinging nettles.

Emmaus companion, Michael, is back after his last article on letting wildlife help your veg garden.

Michael came to Emmaus in 2015 and is one of 39 companions now being supported by Emmaus Hertfordshire following homelessness and social exclusion. Before Emmaus, Michael was a self-employed gardener with daily clients before the recession hit and he lost most of his work.

Michael ended up homeless, sleeping in the woods, under bridges and in a disused factory for six weeks before finding Emmaus. You can read more about Michael's experience here. But now, over to Michael...

"A lot of people think stinging nettles are a terrible weed, but believe it or not there is a lot of uses for them…

Nettle Tea

I drink nettle tea all the time and it is a great source of nutrients!

Instead of dowsing nettles with weed-killer, you can pluck, wearing gloves, and boil them to make a tea that is packed with health-boosting benefits. Nettle tea has been said to help stimulate the lymph system to boost immunity, relieve arthritis symptoms, and support the kidneys amongst many more benefits.

Stinging nettles as food

Did you know that stinging nettles is an excellent source of iron, vitamins, minerals and protein? Best of all, it’s free!

Any recipe that you would put greens in such as spinach or kale works perfectly for stinging nettles. Again, using gloves, pluck the nettles, boil or steam them to get rid of the sting, and add to your meal.

Liquid fertilizer

Stinging nettles and the amount of nitrogen, iron, magnesium and sulphur that comes with them, can be made into a solution to supplement certain plants in the garden.

Plucking the nettles and removing the roots before adding to a bucket. Clip the nettles finely in the bucket and leave in a sunny place to let rainwater in. While letting the rainwater reach above the nettles, stir every few days and after about two weeks it is ready to use. With the bucket contents, add water in a proportion of 1:10 and pour the solution directly at the base of the plants where the roots will have quick use of it.

Add to compost heap

Turn the nuisance of the stinging nettle into something beneficial by adding them to your compost heap as an activator to speed up the decomposition process.  Gather the nettles with gloves and cut them off at the root while sharp gardening shears to avoid them growing in your compost heap. Then cut the nettles into 6 inch pieces and add the them to your compost heap at the ratio of 30 parts brown material to 1 part green. Brown material includes leaves, pine needles, and sawdust. Green material includes grass clippings, garden scraps, and kitchen scraps.

Turn the pile once a week and watch how fast it decomposes with the nettles in there!

National Gardening Week is the country’s biggest celebration of gardening taking place from Monday 29 April - Sunday 5 May 2019. The week is calling on gardeners to share their love of home-grown produce with this year's RHS theme – Edible Britain.

Emmaus Hertfordshire provides a home for as long as someone needs and the opportunity to gain new skills in its social enterprise. Residents of Emmaus are also giving the opportunity to pursue personal hobbies and interests, similar to Michael's volunteering role at the Wildlife Garden. 

To find out more about Emmaus Hertfordshire, please visit here.