How to Kill Stinging Nettles -
Stinging nettles - Urtica dioica -usually populate uncultivated ground, but
often find their way into gardens - particularly around the edge of cultivated
areas, or at the base of walls.
Whilst they are nasty plants to handle and deal with,
they are relatively easy to kill - either by chemical or cultivation
It is as well to understand a little about
stinging nettles before deciding which way to go about killing it. Most will
be aware that they can give rather nasty stinging rash, and this will
develop into quite a severe problem with repeated exposure. Dock leaves
rubbed on the affected areas are said to alleviate the pain. Try it and see!
Far far better to avoid being stung in the first place.
Like icebergs, quite a bit of the plant is below the
surface of the soil by way of a quite dense mat of roots which spread and
then send up new shoots at quite a distance from the parent plant. This is
particularly so at the base of garden walls, where the root system can run
for several feet.
However, it is this dense mat of roots that make nettles
an easy way to control by hand or by the use of a garden fork.
Get will covered with stout gloves and long sleeved
jacket/shirt before you attempt this though. The chemical by which nettles sting
is in fact the same as those of an ant sting - Formic Acid. Dried nettles also
sting, so be careful when moving any nettles that you have either cut down or
treated with chemical weedkillers.
Simply hack off the nettle growth either with a bill hook or
go at it with a sharp spade. This gets the worse part of the stinging nettles
out of the way, so that the foliage and stems are not brushing against you
letting fly with its self defence stinging mechanism. Now you are able to tease
out the mat of roots - either with a garden fork or simply by tugging the root
system of the nettles out of the ground. Bear in mind that the stem parts that
are just under the soil surface also have the stinging hairs - so keep the
gloves on! You may have to re-visit the area in a few weeks to mop up the young
growths that are growing from broken roots that you left in the soil.
If the nettles are in an area that is not too densely
populated with garden plants, then it is possible to kill them chemically
with either Glyphosate or SBK (obtainable form most good garden shops).
Before attempting this, make sure that you fully read the instructions on
the container - and adhere to them word by word! It will probably take
several applications throughout the growing year to completely kill off the
I have found that SBK does a
better job than the retail strength Glyphosate. Make sure that you do not
'treat/spray' and garden plants, or allow drift from the sprays to reach the
plants. Both will kill or at least severely harm garden plants.
Allow around three weeks at least for the top growth to
die down after spraying. During this time the chemical will be working
through the plant's system and down into the roots.
If you have an area of waste ground where the nettles are, and
you do not want to plant any plants for at least a year. Then an application of
Sodium Chlorate will also do the job. Be aware that it will also kill off the
soil for a full growing season.
By David Hughes -