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Is controlled growing of stinging nettle possible?

 
Posts: 4
Location: Douglasville, Georgia, United States
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urban chicken
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I have just been given a stinging nettle pulled from the ground. I want to grow this plant, but I need to make sure it is well-contained because I am in an urban setting. Any advice for creating a contained patch of this plant? Thanks.
 
pollinator
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Sure it is. There are a number of methods to control spread.

I know quite a few people who would surround the patch with a barrier to control the spread of the root zones, like you would with something like mint, which also has a propensity to spread beyond one's control.

I think that planting a ring of comfrey around your nettle patch might act at least as well as a physical cloth root barrier, but either would do.

And you could also walk around your defined patch every day, or every week, or even every month, and just pick the outliers, blanch them in the kitchen, and then use them like spinach.

-CK
 
Mary Elizabeth
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Chris Kott wrote:
I know quite a few people who would surround the patch with a barrier to control the spread of the root zones...

-CK



Thanks so much. Would planting it inside a tire work? I have no experience with this plant and don't know how far down the roots go to spread.
 
Chris Kott
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Don't use tires, they're toxic. There's no point in growing your own food if its going to be worse for you than what you could get in the grocery store.

You know that new tire smell? Or that tire store smell? Or that smell you get when you switch to summer tires and your winters spend a day in a warm car? That is the smell of the rubber degrading in the environment. It continues to do that in the open air, which you'll know if you'd ever encountered an old children's play structure that uses used tires as building materials, or the newer ones that use that shredded tire "mulch," the only real difference being that more surface area means faster degradation.

So in summary, yes, you can contain nettle. No, tires should not be used, especially in conjunction with food production.

-CK
 
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I had a very difficult time training my nettles to behave and stay where I'd planted them.  In the end, I pulled them all out (very carefully) and composted them.  They self-seed so if you wish to keep them from spreading from year to year, you'll need to be vigilant about pulling out volunteer plants every year.  It took me about 3 years to completely rid garden of nettles.  You've been warned.

So thinking about location, if I were to plant them again I would:

1.  Put them in a location where NOTHING else is around them.  I'd build a 3 foot by 3 foot bed (or perhaps 2 x 2) and make sure that there was about 3 feet of clearance all around it.  I planted my nettles under and near an orange tree.  Dumb on my part.  You want to be able to access them but you don't want them in a place where you'll brush up against them accidently.

2.  Plant them in a raised bed to try to discourage the spread of roots.  Nettles quickly develop a very large mass of roots.  If you have mulch on top of your soil, they'll send roots up and through the mulch very aggressively.  So containing them in a raised bed would discourage the roots from spreading any further than the border of your bed.

3.  Keep the ground outside your raised nettle bed bare.  Perhaps even put down black plastic.  

4.  Cut them back before they go to seed.

In the end, I wasn't crazy about the taste of nettles.  I only really used them to make pesto.  They were too much of a pain (literally) for me to keep them in the garden.  There are other easily grown greens like chaya and moringa that offer more nutrition with less hassle.

But . . . best of luck.
 
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In western Oregon, where they freely grew wild but were encroaching into my personal space, I controlled my patches by mowing to the ground.  That was very effective... sometimes too effective.  I found that too many mowings in one year could wipe them out, deplete the rhizome.  I was allowing them to grow in part shade only.  I never had an issue with them spreading where I didn't want them, so I find that very interesting above, where Marco has a problem with them.  Maybe it's the different climate in CA?  Anyways, it's always fascinating how plants behave differently, in different environments.

We used to eat a ton of nettles.  We wildcrafted about 5 brown paper grocery full each spring, and then froze them for use all year.  They have a very specific taste though, a sort of acquired taste.  I'd throw them in saag, creamed spinach, soup, stir fries and on pizza.
 
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I have a raised bed of stinging nettle.  It pretty much completely takes over the bed it is in. The path between the beds is about 3 feet wide.  Most of the nettle pups sprout directly on the outside of the bed, and a tiny few pop out a foot from the bed.  I use a scythe to cut them back in the paths and also to harvest/manage them in the bed.  

I will add to the recommendation of planting these things away from where you will often be.  I seem to find an excuse to brush against these everyday.

Here is a pic of the bed, with a section cut back along one side.  


 
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Treat like mint, grow somewhere only where you have concrete or tarmac all around or well mown lawn, and NEVER let them seed! They are very invasive here any patch of grass or bare earth soon becomes a nettle patch with the occasional dock/burdock/creeping thistle. At least the roots are easy enough to pull up as they are shallow and do not break easily, so satisfying to pull up 6ft at a time!
 
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