If you have ever tried to grow something, whether it is in a small kitchen garden, a flowerbed or lettuce in a box on the balcony, you know that the quality of the soil is very important if the plants are to thrive. If the soil you are using is of poor quality or don’t have much nutrition in it, the plants will not find the food they need to grow. And you will end up with small and poor looking plants.
Some people turn to fertilizers to improve the nutritional content of the soil. I think it is better to follow the principles in permaculture and add nutrients in a natural way. There are many ways to this, and it’s not difficult at all.
A very simple way to add nutrients to the soil is by using plants. One of the best plants for this is the stingy nettle. Often people think this plant is a weed that needs to be eradicated. However, this is actually one of our most versatile plants. It has been used in medicine, as food and even to produce textiles and more.
You can cut down the stingy nettle and just lay it on the ground around the plants you want to give more nutrients. The plant will decompose and give all the minerals back to the soil. Of course, this process takes some time. Another, faster way, is to make a tea out of the stingy nettle and water your plants with that.
Making this tea is very simple. You need a bucket with a lid, nettles and some fresh water. Fill the bucket up loosely with nettle leaves, add water, stir it around with a stick and put the lid on. Stir the mixture once a day for 10-14 days. After a few days it starts to smell very bad, this is supposed to happen! This is why a lid is very useful.
When the leaves have dissolved, the tea is ready. How long this takes may vary depending on how much leaves you used and how warm it is. Stems will not dissolve, but that’s ok. Now you can use this nettle tea to water your plants. This will add all those nutrients that was in the stingy nettle back into the soil, and your plants will grow better.
I often use this tea for the plants I grow on my balcony. If the tea is very strong I dilute it with more water first.
If you don’t have nettles growing in your garden, you can easily find them along trails and on abandoned property spaces. They seem to pop up everywhere humans have been … and left.
Learn more about how to use the stingy nettle in the kitchen or learn to forage for plants in the wild.