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Fertilize with nettle water

After three weeks in the barrel, it's finally time to start using the nettle water in my vegetable garden. I'll do it on a day when rain is in the air.

Nässelvatten i en tunna. Nettle water in a barrel.


Nettle water is scary. It smells like skunk. For days. Remember to choose the right time to use it very carefully. Try to aim for a few cloudy days, preferably with rain. And it’s best if it has rained before the fertilized water gets into the soil, since moist soil will absorb the water better. The water will stay on the surface and trickle away in the beds outside on hot days. It's a lot easier if you're covering your vegetables, since it's almost always humid under the row cover.

I filled this barrel with water and nettles about three weeks ago and I've stirred the mixture with a big stick from time to time since. The fluid smells really disgusting now. Among the worst things that can happen is getting some of the water on your face. But at this point, I actually feel somewhat immune to the horrible stench. I've had a few too many close encounters with the nettle water to get horribly shocked by the stench.


Växtdelar lyfts upp ur nässelvattnet. Plant parts in my nettle water.


When I want to use the water, I start by removing the old plant parts and put them in a separate barrel. Since I like to make good use of most things, I also fill this barrel with water and let it rest for a while. Then I water using the fluid and put nettle parts around plants that need a little extra support. Like zucchini or pumpkin.


Nässelvatten hälls över i en vattenkanna. Nettle water in a watering can.

Dilute your nettle water

The nettle water that remains in the large barrel is a witch’s brew that resembles a kind of algae soup. It’s soggy and greenish brown. Very concentrated. I have about 37 liters (10 gallons) in this barrel. I'll dilute it to about 1/10, which will give me close to 400 liters (a bit more than 100 gallons)  of nettle water. I pour a reasonable dose into watering cans and add water. It's a lot easier to pour the water from another watering can instead of using the water hose. This is because there will be a lot of foam when the water hose splashes into the nettle water and it’s difficult to fill the entire can.


An important life saving reminder on Childrens safety in the garden


I use cans without sprinklers when I water with nettle water. There are lots of old plant parts in the can and they might jam the sprinklers. It's a quick and easy job to water without sprinkler.


Timing is everything

Nettle water smells really bad and isn’t very appetizing for anyone moving around in the garden the day it has been used, and maybe even a few days after that. That’s why I choose to water on days of bad weather, when no one wants to be out in the garden. I am careful not to fertilize the vegetables I know we will use in the coming days, such as carrots, lettuce, beetroots or others. But I do water everything else. Not on the vegetables. It’s the soil that needs to be fertilized and I therefore water in between the plants.


More simple ways to fertilize


I usually do two rounds of nettle water during the summer. With this year's new cultivation area, I might need three rounds. It's possible to use nettle water both outside and in greenhouses and polytunnels. The only thing that might stop you is the stench. As far as the tunnels are concerned, I like to water there too, but only in beds and pots where I'm not harvesting right now.


Rotselleri och lök växer i djupbädden. Nettle water, fertilizing the root celery and onions in my bed.


The nettle water is a nice addition to the nutrition the soil gets through mulching. Completely free and very nutritious. Simply a great way to fertilize a kitchen garden at home. The turnip in the long deep bed have been given a dose and I'll do that again at the end of summer. It grows a lot during the fall and might need an extra boost. Good luck using nettle water in your gardens!
/Sara Bäckmo

17. September 2021