By Jennifer Poindexter
Have you ever spoken to someone who grows stinging nettle on purpose You may have looked at them like they had three heads, initially.
However, many people grow this herb because it has a variety of uses and benefits. Stinging nettle herb (also known as urtica dioica) is used as a home remedy to lower blood pressure, balance blood sugar levels, help fight allergies, and even serve as a natural anti-inflammatory.
You can gain these benefits by drinking nettle in an herbal tea or even cooking with it. If you’re looking for an herb to grow that will benefit your health and culinary skills, stinging nettle could be what you need.
Here’s how you can grow stinging nettle:
Growing Conditions for Stinging Nettle
Nettle can be found growing wild in many places. It’s considered a weed or invasive species by some. This lets you know it doesn’t have many specific requirements for proper growing conditions.
If you can create a bed where it will receive full or partial sunlight, you’re starting on the right foot. This bed should have nutrient-rich soil that is well-draining. Nettle thrives where it has plenty of nitrogen in the soil.
Keep in mind, nettle does prefer moisture. Consider this when deciding upon bed placement. In nature, you’ll find it growing beside natural water sources or in low-lying areas.
When growing nettle in your garden, try to place it in an area where water will naturally run toward it without leaving the plant soggy. Once you’ve determined the proper garden location for nettle, you’re ready to plant it and start the growing process.
How to Plant Stinging Nettle
Nettle can be planted using five different scenarios. The earliest way to start nettle, in a grow season, is by starting seeds indoors. The seedlings can be transplanted in early spring and should be started approximately six weeks prior to transplant.
When starting the nettle seeds, begin by placing nutrient-rich soil in a grow tray. Plant two seeds in each cell of the grow tray to ensure each pod will have a plant incase one of the seeds fails to germinate.
Don’t cover the plants heavily with soil because they need light to germinate, and you should see proof of germination within 14 days. Care for the seeds until it’s time to move outdoors. Be sure to harden off the seedlings prior to transplanting them in their outdoor bed.
When planting the seedlings, ensure you place them eight inches apart. This will give them ample room to grow as they reach maturity.
The next method to planting and raising nettle is to direct sow the seeds into a gardening space. Pick an adequate grow space with proper sunlight, soil, drainage, and moisture.
Once the spot has been determined, till the ground to where it’s ready to receive the seeds. Nettle seeds are tiny. For this reason, using the casting method to plant them is most efficient. If you’re unfamiliar with this method, it means to place the seeds in your hand and gently toss them into the garden area.
Nettle seeds need light to germinate, so you should use a small amount of soil to cover them. Wait approximately 14 days for proof of germination. When the seeds have sprouted, thin them out. You should leave roughly one inch of space between each plant.
The third planting method for nettle is to plant in a container. Choose a container with proper drainage holes and fill it with quality dirt.
Place the seeds in the dirt and lightly cover with soil. Wait 14 days for germination and once the seeds have sprouted, thin them to where there’s one inch of space between the plants.
Raising nettle in a container is a good idea because it can become invasive. By growing it in a container you eliminate this threat.
The fourth way to plant nettle is to wait until the fall when older plants are going dormant. You can divide more established plants and transplant them to a garden bed or container.
Our final way to plant nettle is to forage for it. The herb is found naturally in wooded areas. You can dig the plant up, using caution not to damage the root system, and transplant it into an inground garden space or container.
If the plant was going to seed in the wild, collect the seeds, dry them, and use them to start seeds indoors for the next grow season. You could also transplant them into an outdoor grow space or start the seeds in a container.
There are numerous ways you can plant nettle to begin producing it around your home. Pick the method which works best for you and try your hand at raising this interesting herb.
Caring for Stinging Nettle
Planting nettle is only half the battle. It’s important to understand how to care for the herb once it begins to prosper.
After the nettle has been planted, be sure to mulch around the plants. Not only does this help keep weeds down, but it also keeps the ground moist around the nettle.
As discussed earlier, nettle loves moisture. If you can’t grow it in a location that’s near water, you can mulch to create a similar effect. The mulch will also serve as a compost and will add nutrients back into the soil over time.
Be sure to water the nettle regularly to supply it with approximately an inch of water per week.
Nettle will also need help with its height because it can become top-heavy and unstable. If your herb is beginning to look this way, remove the top 1/3 of the plant.
This should straighten the plant back up, and you can throw this portion of it on the ground. It will compost and put nutrients back into the plant.
While you’re trimming on the herb, consider removing any flowers which may be growing. This is similar to deadheading a plant and will encourage it to produce an even heavier harvest the following year.
The last tip on caring for stinging nettle is to help it survive the colder months of the year. Nettle is a perennial plant.
Whether you grow it in the ground or in a container, it’s a good idea to trim the herb back towards the end of the grow season and cover it with mulch. This will serve as insulation.
By taking care of your nettle, it should thrive and return for years to come.
Garden Pests and Diseases for Stinging Nettle
Are you ready for good news? When you grow nettle there are no pests or diseases you should look for. This herb is usually planted as a way to protect other crops in or around the garden.
Nettle is also known for attracting beneficial insects. If you have a disease or pest problem in your grow space, nettle could be the solution.
How to Harvest Stinging Nettle
Harvesting nettle can prove a bit tricky. The most important tip of harvesting stinging nettle is to be sure you’re covered to avoid being stung by the plant.
You should wear gloves to protect your hands, but it’s important to cover your arms, legs, and feet too.
It takes nettle approximately three months to be ready for harvest. When the stems of the stinging nettle are full and healthy, it’s an appropriate time to harvest the leaves. If the stems look older and woody, you shouldn’t harvest from the plant. As the stems dry out, the leaves become tough.
You should remove the top 1/3 of the plant when harvesting. It’s important to work from the top of the plant to the bottom.
Stinging nettle is called stinging nettle because it has needles which can poke your skin and cause a stinging sensation.
The stingers (or needles) point down. By working from top to bottom, you’re working with the stingers instead of against them.
Cut the leaves away from the stem using scissors and place your harvest in a basket. This will help avoid rubbing the harvest against an uncovered portion of your body.
Once the stinging nettle has made its way indoors, cook or dry the leaves. This will remove the stingers, and the leaves will be safe for consumption from this point forward.
I can’t stress enough the importance of avoiding consumption of raw stinging nettle as well as avoiding its contact with your skin. This could cause severe and dangerous reactions.
Stinging nettle may seem like a risky herb to grow, but you can’t overlook its benefits. Realize, you must use great care when raising and preparing it for use.
If you’re a gardener who enjoys raising non-traditional herbs in your garden, stinging nettle could still be your herb of choice.