After the first serious rains of the year, self-seeded nettles - Urtica dioica – are springing up all over the place in those beds where the chooks have been absent (chickens graze newly germinated nettles with relish, though will avoid them assiduously when they get bigger and nastier). ‘Springing up’ is probably a euphemism for ‘overtaking’ already established crops, so some painful weeding is needed to rescue those crops in those beds where the ‘chicken plough’ has been absent.
Nettles are extraordinarily rich in nitrogen, potassium, magnesium, trace minerals and iron. While nettle consumption by humans is common and beneficial, both as a steamed vegetable or as a tea, we use it as an organic fertilizer, mulch and a nutritional supplement in our homemade chook food (it is put through the food processor and then frozen).
‘Nettle tea’ is an occasionally useful diluted organic liquid fertilizer for seedlings struggling along in poor potting mixes or caught up in a bed where soils are poor. The fact that I have nettles at all – those lovers of rich dark moist earths – suggests that I’m finally getting on top of such ordinary ‘dirt beds’ anyway, and this probably explains the decline in its usage around here as my soil humus has built up.
Nevertheless, such a nettle surplus cannot be ignored in the gardening cycle. So it is out with the old plumbed-up garbage bin to which rainwater is added (chlorinated town water is pretty unfriendly to the necessary bacteria). Nettles are tossed in and pushed under. Over the coming weeks this mix will be stirred regularly by passers-by while fermentation takes place.
It’s not all good news though – the stench of nettle tea brewing is absolutely foul! So the bin is located somewhere in the middle of the property to avoid complaints from the neighbours and non-gardening folk up at the house.