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Compost & Soil Health,  Garden

How to Make Stinging Nettle Fertilizer Tea to Feed Plants

Last Updated on August 10, 2023

It is almost spring, and that means the nettles are on their way! Do stinging nettles grow rampantly in your area? If so, you’re in luck. Because that means you have an abundance of free and fabulous fertilizer – right at your fingertips! Uh, gloved fingertips that is. Read along to learn about the benefits of stinging nettle, how to comfortably harvest it, and how to turn it into homemade fermented nettle fertilizer tea. The other plants in your garden will thrive in return!

What is Stinging Nettle? 

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica, also known as common nettle or nettle leaf) is an herbaceous perennial plant. It usually pops up each spring, and easily spreads after flowering and going to seed. Nettle is native to Europe but now grows in damp fertile soils virtually throughout the world.  If you’re foraging for wild nettles, look in shady and moist locations like along creeks.

Stinging nettle is often considered a “weed” due to its promiscuous growth habits. It also catches a bad wrap as a bully (admittedly justified) by causing a painful itching and burning sensation to those who come in contact with the sharp hairs that cover its leaves. An inflammatory nettle rash is uncomfortable, but temporary and not dangerous. Furthermore, after reading about the stellar benefits of stinging nettle, perhaps you’ll realize that nettle can be even more of an asset than a nuisance!

A birds eye view of a swath of stinging nettles, they are green with jagged edged leaves.

Health benefits of stinging nettle

Herbalists, naturopaths, and many organic gardeners recognize stinging nettle as a favorable plant to have around – given its numerous and well-researched healing properties. Compounds found in nettle make it excellent at fighting bacterial infections, reducing inflammation and arthritis, relieving pain, easing allergy symptoms, stabilizing blood sugar levels, and more. In fact, this natural nettle quercetin is the only “allergy pill” I take – and I am quite sensitive to environmental allergens!

How to prepare fresh stinging nettles

In order to reap the benefits of stinging nettle, they need to be “de-stung” first. (That is, if you want to consume them yourself). The best and easiest way to prepare fresh stinging nettle is to blanch them in water. The brief exposure to high heat neutralizes the stinging hairs. Rinse them afterwards, which doubles as washing them as well.

Now, you can enjoy the blanched and rinsed nettles fresh, juiced, added to soup, frozen, or dehydrated into tea or powder for later use. Nettles are delicious and earthy, like a cross between spinach and arugula. I suggest sautéing them in EVOO with salt, pepper, and even a little garlic or onion – much like you would kale or other leafy greens.

Okay, that is all fine and dandy… but isn’t this article about stinging nettle fertilizer? How does nettle benefit other plants?

Why Make Stinging Nettle Fertilizer Tea

As a vegetarian and avid organic gardener, I find it extremely rewarding to be able to create our own free and natural plant-based fertilizers. Plants feeding plants, if you will. For example, by making various botanical teas or fermented plant juice – which is what we are doing today. The process is even better when the plant ingredients come from our garden, or can be foraged for locally! We also like to routinely feed our seedlings, newly-planted trees and other plants with homemade aloe vera soil drench. Of course, composting at home is the ultimate way to create free organic fertilizer.

The stinging nettle growing in the chicken run is shown, there are two chickens on the far side of the nettle with their coop in the background.
Every spring, a ton of stinging nettle pops up in and around our chicken run! Thankfully, the girls mostly free range elsewhere but don’t seem bothered by it until we get a chance to harvest.

The benefits of stinging nettle fertilizer for plants

Stinging nettle belongs to a special group of plants referred to as “dynamic accumulators”, which also includes yarrow, borage, fava beans, comfrey, dandelion, miner’s lettuce, and chickweed. Those “dynamic accumulators” readily take up nutrients and minerals from the soil, and then store them in highly bioavailable forms and concentrations in their leaves. This makes nettles (and all other dynamic accumulators!) an excellent nutrient-rich addition to botanical teas, homemade fertilizers, mulch, or to a compost pile.

Scientific studies show that fresh stinging nettles leaves are loaded with high concentrations of vitamins A, C, D, E, F, K, P, and vitamin B-complexes, as well as large amounts of minerals including calcium, selenium, zinc, iron, magnesium and more. As a leafy green, stinging nettle is also high in nitrogen, chlorophyll, and plant polyphenols – all of which bolster plant health and stimulate growth. Plant polyphenols in particular are potent antioxidants, fight cancer, and boost the immune system. 

While plants may not get arthritis or cancer in the same way humans do, plants do have an immune system – and can get sick! Therefore, the same compounds that make nettle awesome for human health provide many of the same benefits to plants. For example, plants treated with stinging nettle fertilizer are less susceptible to certain diseases due to nettles’ anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Plants with a strong immune system are also less negatively impacted by pests or stress, such as drought, heat, or other unfavorable conditions.

A glass measuring beaker full of dilute stinging nettle fertilizer tea. It has been diluted to one part fertilizer to ten parts water for feeding plants through a soil drench. The tea is a light green color once it has been diluted. There are green and red cabbages growing in a raised bed in the background.


  • Stinging Nettle
  • Prick-proof gloves. Thick leather pruning gloves (or similar leather alternative) are especially protective against thorns and nettles.
  • Trimming shears or scissors 
  • Water, preferably un-chlorinated – such as collected rain water. To dechlorinate city tap water, either allow it to sit out in the sun in a bucket for 24 hours to allow the chlorine to dissipate, or use a carbon hose filter. 
  • Bucket with lid
  • Stir stick


I will go ahead and air the dirty laundry now: fermented stinging nettle tea fertilizer stinks. Big time! So much so, that it’s sometimes referred to as “nettle manure”. Or as I like to call it: Stinking Nettle Tea. Therefore, I strongly suggest you make your stinging nettle fertilizer outside somewhere and not in your garage or house. Please don’t let the funky aroma dissuade you from making nettle tea! But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Steps to Make Stinging Nettle Fertilizer Tea

  1. Collect nettle in a bucket. We typically loosely fill a 5-gallon bucket. To harvest stinging nettle, you can either pull it out by the roots (if you don’t want it to grow back this season) or use scissors/shears to trim it instead. Wear gloves to protect yourself!

  2. In the bucket, chop the nettle into smaller pieces. Finer pieces equals more surface area for fermentation and the release of nutrients. 

  3. Add enough water to cover the nettle in the bucket. It should be able to stir freely and not be overly thick. 

  4. Set the lid on top of the bucket, but don’t seal it. 

  5. Stir the brewing nettle tea once per day if possible. Bubbles should appear as you stir it.

  6. After one to two weeks, the nettle tea is finished brewing. A good signal that your fertilizer is ready is when it stops visibly bubbling after stirring. That means the nettle is no longer actively fermenting.

  7. Strain the nettle solids from the tea liquid. We do this by pouring the solution through a funnel lined with a reusable paint strainer (which we use to brew actively aerated compost tea) into another bucket. Compost the leftover strained solids.

  8. Store the finished concentrated stinging nettle tea in a bucket with a lid. Nettle tea fertilizer must be diluted before it is applied to the garden! Read instructions below.

  9. Use brewed nettle tea fertilizer within about 6 months.

A four part image collage showing how to prepare stinging nettle when one is going to make stinging nettle fertilizer. The first image shows two gloved hands as they cut sections of growing stinging nettle out with hand trimmers. The second image shows the stinging nettle inside of a bucket and a hedger is chopping the nettle up into smaller pieces to increase its surface area. The third image shows a bucket of water being poured over the top of the bucket of harvested stinging nettle. The fourth image shows a bucket full of harvested stinging nettle and water with a stir stick being used to mix it around.
Harvest, chop, steep, stir.
A four part image collage on how one strains stinging nettle fertilizer once it has finished fermenting. The first image shows a closeup of the bucket of stinging nettle after a couple days of fermenting. There are still a lot of bubbles and activity within the bucket. The second image shows the bucket of stinging nettle after the fermentation process has stopped, there are no bubbles and the activity has ceased. The third image shows a bucket of stinging nettle fertilizer next to an empty bucket, a hand is holding a paint strainer and a funnel. The fourth image shows the empty bucket with a lid that contains a hole in the top. The funnel is lined with the paint strainer and they are both sitting inside of the hole on the top of the lid, sitting over the empty bucket while the bucket of stinging nettle fertilizer is being poured through the strainer and funnel into the empty bucket.
Still bubbling? Keep brewing. Once it stops bubbling, it is time to strain (about 1-2 weeks after creating the tea).

How to Use Stinging Nettle Tea as Fertilizer 

Nettle tea is very potent, and therefore needs to be watered down before using it to feed other plants in your garden. To dilute it into a usable fertilizer, mix 1 part brewed nettle tea to 10 parts water. For example, one quart of nettle tea to 10 quarts of water. We find it easiest to dilute and mix a small portion of nettle fertilizer in a separate container as-needed (immediately before use), rather than diluting a huge batch and storing it all. 

Nettle tea soil drench

After diluting, simply water your plants of choice with it as a “soil drench”, much like you would with other liquid fertilizers. The recommended dose depends on the size of the plant or container. A smaller plant or pot will be happy with just a cup or two. To feed larger plants or an entire raised garden bed with nettle tea, try applying it with a watering can evenly across the soil. When in doubt, start with smaller feedings, see how the plants respond, and go from there.

Feel free to repeat nettle fertilizer tea applications once every month or two, but not more often than every 3 weeks. Because of the odor, I personally avoid using nettle tea to feed houseplants – though it can be done! I stick to using compost tea or dilute seaweed extract indoors.

A hand is holding a beaker of dilute stinging nettle fertilizer tea and watering two auto flowering cannabis plants that are growing in a 10 gallon fabric pot.

How to use stinging nettle tea foliar spray

In addition to feeding the soil and roots, you can also spray diluted nettle tea onto a plant’s leaves. When applied as a foliar spray, stinging nettle tea works as a strong insect repellent. The active compounds in stinging nettles are reported to deter aphids, mites, and thrips. Even more, plants readily absorb nutrients through the leaves, entering their vascular systems even more quickly than those taken up by their roots.

To make nettle foliar spray, be sure that your brewed nettle tea has been strained very well with a fine mesh strainer. Otherwise, leftover plant material will easily clog your sprayer. This time, dilute 1 part nettle tea to 20 parts water and add it to your sprayer of choice. It is best practice to apply any type of foliar sprays in the evening hours once the plant is out of direct sun. This reduces the risk of sunburn to wet leaves, and is the time when beneficial insects are least active. Spray the leaves until they’re thoroughly coated and dripping.

Due to the funky odor, we generally avoid spraying leafy greens like kale or lettuce with nettle tea. Or, directly on to fruit and veggies. However, nettle tea foliar spray is excellent for things like hemp (before flowering), ornamental plants, or tomatoes, peppers, eggplant or fruit trees – before their fruit appears.

Aaron is crouched down in the chicken run after harvesting a bucketful of stinging nettle. The plants have been reduced in size and numbers after the harvest though many should still continue to grow.
He cleaned up the run pretty well! He also chose to leave the roots in place, so the nettles will sprout again for another harvest this season. In case you’re wondering, those are our rainwater tanks on the right – perfect for making nettle tea and other compost brews! You can read more about rainwater collection basics here.

So simple, right?

In summary, plants that receive stinging nettle fertilizer tea will experience increased growth and resilience! Making your own nettle tea with homegrown or wild nettles is free, sustainable, and easy to do. I hope you enjoyed this article, and feel excited to go hunt down some nettles of your own! Please feel free to ask questions in the comments below, and spread the nettle love by sharing this article.

DeannaCat signature, keep on growing


  • Jump

    If the nettle that I used to make the liquid fertilizer was already flowering and had seeds on it would the seeds spread when I added the fertilizer to my garden ?

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Jump, yes the seeds can spread, however, when you strain out the plant material from the liquid, use a nut milk bag or something similar and it should keep most if not all of the seeds from ending up in your liquid fertilizer. We never had an issue with the seeds ending up where we didn’t want them when using the fertilizer by straining the material well. Hope that helps and good luck!

  • Mr Richard J Krakowski

    It might be worth mentioning that when harvesting nettles in the wild to avoid pulling out the roots to allow regrowth and also to bear in mind that certain insects, notably butterflies, use nettles for feeding in the larval stage.

  • Barbara Shrier

    Hello there, I have been told that stigning nettle green manure tea will prmotoe leaf hrowth but not help encouraging fruit growth i.e lots of foliage but not many tomatos – also, do you know what the azote content is? I have been using thids tea to fertilize my artichoke plants (which need azote). Again, lots of healthy foliage but not much action fruit-wise. Thank you to for any advice! I have been foraging stinging nettle in our forest for years now and hav come to ADORE the smell! Ha!

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Barbara, I am not sure the content of azote in stinging nettle but we have heard the same thing as far as you in regards to promoting leaf growth but not fruit growth. However, I don’t think using nettle as a fertilizer would really negate fruit production much at all. This scientific study on using nettle tea on green beans and their conclusion was using nettle fertilizer in combination with mineral or other organic amendments would likely increase yields. Not sure about your artichokes fruiting or not? I guess it depends on how large the plants are and if the growing conditions are optimal temperature wise. We do have an article on How to Grow Artichokes: A Complete Guide with Photos if you are interested. Hope that helps and good luck!

    • Heids

      Hello!! Thank you for posting this “recipe”, as it were. I have a question – I just came back from a 10 day trip to find that my roommates screwed the lid of our brewing nettle compost tea completely down. I think they stirred it every day, but I don’t know how many days they had the lid completely screwed on. I took it off and stirred it, but there was a film floating on top and I don’t see any bubbles. Do you think it’s still viable, or would screwing the lid completely on have stopped or altered the fermentation process in a way that renders it useless?

      • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

        Hi Heids, the main thing about not putting the lid on completely is the chance of it creating too much gas inside the bucket which can lead to it blowing off the top. If your roommates still removed the lid each day and stirred it your tea should be fine. Finding a layer at the top isn’t out of the norm and if you aren’t seeing any bubbles, the fermentation is now likely complete. If your ferment smells and there is no activity, it is ready to be strained and stored until you need to use it, at this point it is fine to keep the lid all the way on the concentrated fertilizer and only remove the lid when you need to add some of the tea to water. Hope that helps and good luck!

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