This Morning: Josie Gibson falls into stinging nettle bush
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Stinging nettles grow in many areas around the UK, particularly abandoned and neglected areas of a garden. These form clumps of upright stems with leaves covered in tiny hairs which cause painful stings when they come into contact with the skin. Express.co.uk has compiled a guide for gardening tips to maintain a nettle-free garden.
Stinging nettles are a valuable food source for many insects in Britain.
The plant has several important herbal uses but they are also a common weed which can become widespread over time.
Nettles can engulf borders and rough ground in a very short space of time, competing with garden plants and posing a risk from their stinging hairs.
Perennial and the annual nettles are considered to be weeds, even if you have space to leave some.
Nettles have important uses – they act as a food source and habitat for some creatures including butterflies.
Seed-eating birds, including bullfinches, serins and siskinds, benefit from nettles which have been left to go to seed.
These plants are also useful for gardeners wishing to create their own high nitrogen liquid fertiliser.
Nettles can grow up to 1.2 metres tall.
How to get rid of stinging nettles
Perennial stinging nettles are most troublesome when they grow in loose, newly cultivated soil where phosphate levels are high.
The creeping surface stems can extend for some considerable distance.
These plants root at the nodes and produce aerial shoots.
The annual nettles do not have long-lasting roots and produce a very large number of seeds from an early age.
The plant relishes fertile soil rich in organic matter.
These nettles are a serious weed in vegetable gardens.
Nettles can be very tolerant of extreme climates and germinate readily from seeds which means they are difficult to remove.
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The best way to remove stinging nettles without chemicals is to cut them down in the early summer before they begin to flower.
To avoid stings you should make sure to wear gloves, long sleeves and trousers.
Use a garden fork to dig up the roots of the plants and hoe the beds where they are located regularly to kill stinging nettle seedlings.
In addition, ensure to mow your lawn regularly to kill nettles.
Chopped nettle stems and leaves can be added to compost heaps and will help to speed up the decomposition process.
You can also kill nettles with weedkiller by spraying it with systemic weedkiller containing glyphosate.
Glyphosate is a non-selective systemic weedkiller which will kill any plant it touches and so protect nearby plants with plastic sheeting before spraying.
Spray the nettles in the early summer before they flower and again in September if needed.
The following spring you should dig up any surviving nettles by the roots.
Tips to remove nettles
- You should apply a thick layer of organic mulch to beds naturally.
- Salt can kill nettles but should be avoided as it can kill everything else planted in the soil.
- Do not add nettle roots to home compost heaps, as they may re-root and start to grow.
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