Nettle tea and horse manure

Apart from my salmon-pink geranium cutting, I bought home in the car three sackfuls of other treats from Derbyshire where I was staying with my grandmother for the bank holiday weekend. The first of these was a sack of nettles*; the other two sacks of well rotted horse manure.

So, what will I be doing with these unusual travelling companions? There’s probably no need to explain much about horse manure. If you can find a source (mine is the obliging Emily), spread it around your garden as a brilliant provider of that holy triad of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, as well as introducing humus and earth worms to the soil. Make sure it is well rotted: fresh manure contains too much nitrogen and will burn your plants; it also smells strongly and attracts flies. You don’t want that. I took my loot from the oldest part of the manure heap and I’d guess it had been rotting for at least a year if not longer. It had no smell and was practically soil.

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The obliging Emily

I am interested in natural fertilisers for the garden as an alternative to a) buying the products of Monsanto and friends b) paying for something I can get for free. After all, what do plants do in the wild for nutrients? They drop their leaves down, and the worms eat them, and animals poo nearby, and it’s all balanced in a wonderful cycle that has no need for bottles of stuff from Homebase. Recently I’ve found out about making nettle ‘tea’, which is nettles soaked in a bucket of water for 3 or 4 weeks and then diluted and watered on the garden. It is rich in nitrogen, perfect for foliage, although does not provide so much potassium or phosphate and may not have enough of the latter two for fruit or flowers. For potassium, wood ash and compost are good, and compost containing fruit should also provide phosphorus. So a good varied diet will be as good for your garden as it is for you.

*Before you ask, yes I am sure we do have nettles in Edinburgh, somewhere, but not buckets-full right on our doorstep.

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