In this article we will show how to prepare a handmade nettle mix (Urtica dioica and Urtica urens). Unfortunately our organic vegetable garden may attract also harmful insects and animal parasites. If we do not keep them under control, they might also cause damage to our crop and even destroy it, therefore major challenge for organic agriculture is to fight pests without using chemical pesticides or agrochemicals in general.
In some nations of the world, only professional users can utilise chemical plant protection products. That means that people would need a special licence released by the regional agrochemicals services. This law is very important because it aims not only to protect public health but it also helps small scale farmers to avoid the improper use of toxic products which are dangerous for health.
Let’s get back to our nettle mixture. There are natural remedies in organic agriculture, confirmed by practice, which allow even beginners in farming to protect the crop from threats from pests. One of such remedies is Mulching.
We have previously talked about this technique widely used in organic agriculture. The first step for an efficient organic defence against parasites is controlling the development of weeds, which are the main carrier. Just mulching is not though enough, prevention is needed. Our nettle mixture can help a lot.
The nettle mixture is a mash, widely used in organic agriculture and you can make it using common stinging nettle leaves. But we see the quality and use of the nettle mash.
Quality and Use of the nettle mash
Nettle and its derived products are rich in formic acid and salicylic acid, these products are very effective to prevent the spread of several species of animal and vegetable parasites.The main uses of the nettle mash are:
- as a repellent against animal parasites in plants, mostly aphids and mites.
- as a high quality organic fertiliser, since it is rich in nitrogen and trace elements.
- as a stimulant for the plants natural defence against certain fungal diseases which are very dangerous for our vegetables, like oidium and downy mildew.
In order to prepare the nettle mash we need to use the whole plant except for its roots. It is preferable to pick it up at the beginning of Spring because the plant would be richer in nutritive elements. You can also use the dry plant, picked up in a favourable period and let it dry in a cool dry area.
As you know nettle has a strong stinging effect that can be avoided if the plant is handled in an appropriate way. It is recommended to use scissors and gloves. If the nettle is harvested with bare hands, pick it up from the bottom to the top. Indeed it is the upper part of the leaves which has that annoying irritating effect caused by the histamine – a chemical that the plant secretes from its stinging hairs. During the Middle Ages the stinging action was used to treat gout and rheumatism since nettle is apparently good for blood circulation as well.
To make the following filtering procedure easier, the harvested nettle can be placed in hessian bags.
To obtain a good nettle mix we recommend to use 1Kg of green plant or 200 gr of dry plant in 10 Lt of cold water (preferably rainwater).
Immerse the hessian bag containing the nettle in a container with the amount of water required. We suggest to use terracotta, wooden, or plastic containers rather than metal containers.To help air turnover, the container should be able to breath and not be closed airtight. The nettle mash needs to be mixed at least once a day. It is possible to prepare different kinds of mixture according to the time of the preparation.
Here are three suggestions: 24 hours, 7 days and 15 days mix.
The mix (according to the soaking time) needs to be filtered (we suggest to use hessian bags) and preserved in an airtight container. You can keep it up to one year if stored in a cool place.
Another tip. The nettle mix has a strong smell, so it is best to keep it somewhere out of the way where the smell won’t bother you. As the proverb says: “the smellier, the better”.
Depending on the soaking time, there are different ways to use the mix on vegetable gardens.
- Non diluted 24 hour Nettle mix, with no added water. Can be used as parasiticide on small breeding grounds of insects to fight aphids at the beginning of the infestation.
- 7 day Nettle mix, diluted with water 1:20. In this case we dilute one litre of the mix with 20 litres of water. The obtained solution helps to prevent parasite attacks and fungal diseases. Distribute evenly on the field as preventive measure before the infestation as it works as a repellent.
- 15 day Nettle mix diluted with water 1:50. This dilution allows to use the mix as organic fertiliser to apply directly on the field during the initial phases of the plants growth
Distribution on the vegetable garden
To distribute the nettle mix on the plant surface evenly and correctly, we suggest to use a common backpack sprayer with vaporiser – an essential tool in every good farmer shed (you can find a decent and affordable model here).
Here are some general considerations when talking about the nettle mix. In nature, from a organic farming viewpoint, there are good and bad plants. It is important to know wich are the plants that grow and develop on our garden well in order to understand how to act correctly. Nettle may be considered an annoying weed by many people, but it is a great ally in a vegetable garden. So don’t destroy it, if anything, eat it. It is indeed delicious and ideal with risotto and has cleansing properties. Obviously it does not sting anymore once it is boiled.
Now that we are at the end of our post, it is worth to mention that there are several nettle mix available on the market in case you cannot make your own one at home. They are good and affordable and have the same purpose. You can also find ready to use products available at reasonable prices at this link.