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9 messages
10/06/2012 at 22:38

Will a clump of nettles encourage wild life into my garden,as the garden is small i dont wont to leave them there if they are going no good.

11/06/2012 at 05:27

I wouldn't go so far as to say that nettles encourage wildlife into a small garden.

However, nettles are essential for many of our most popular butterflies to breed - the Peacock, Red Admiral, Comma, and Small Tortoiseshell. Therefore no nettles means none of those butterflies.

The caterpillars of those butterflies also provide food for birds, so in that sense nettles encourage more than just the butterflies.

But simply having a patch of nettles won't guarantee butterflies. To encourage wildlife, the entire garden and the gardener, need to be wildlife friendly.

Nettles are just one part of a much larger jigsaw. A garden also needs nectar flowers, some long grass, log piles, an open compost heap, and water. And of course, no pesticides and no slug pellets.

The most important thing is the change in the attitude of the gardener, to begin to ask themselves what a garden is about, and why they have one.

11/06/2012 at 12:01

Gary is perfectly right about having a garden which is wildlife friendly.  The more you encourage birds, insects, small mammals etc. the more you will benefit from healthy plants and a healthy environment for wildlife.  Although your garden is small, can you designate a small area as a wild area?  I'm lucky to have a large garden and the bottom of it is kept as a wildlife area.  The grass is only cut twice a year and I leave the flowers (weeds) to do their own thing.  I have put bluebells, honesty, vinca, daffs, snowdrops and other stuff there but I never destroy the nettles. 

I love nettles,  such a versatile plant.  The young leaves are used to replace spinach in cooking and the older leaves - after the butterflies have done their thing - are used to make nettle manure.  I have an old dustbin into which I put the nettles and rainwater and after a couple of weeks sieve and decant the smelly liquid into old plastic bottles which I leave by the water butt and chuck a glug into the watering can to feed the toms, peppers etc on the veggie plot (about 1 to 10 ratio).  When my children were approaching puberty I used to give them nettle tea twice a day and none of them suffered with acne. 

They say nettles cure rheumatism.  Well, I get stung regularly out in the garden and I've never had rheumatism so maybe it's a deterrent too - mind you, the itching drives me mad at night.  Perhaps someone knows how to stop the itching after the sting.

11/06/2012 at 14:02

When I was growing up, my mum used to use spit and dock leaves for nettle stings.

As soon as we got stung we would look around for dock leaves

11/06/2012 at 16:19

I get stung regularly too and whilst it helps with arthritic bits in my hands it does nothing for my arthritic spine.  Arthritis is also hereditary and not inevitable.  After a day among  nettles, thistles and sticky bud I get a fine itchy rash up my arms and take an anti-histamine to help.

Other than that, nettles form only part of the jig saw required to make up a wildlife friendly garden.  I have nectar plants, a pond, shrubs for birds to perch, feeders all year round, nest boxes, an insect hotel, a pond, wood piles and I leave seed heads on most perennials till spring as these provide food for birds.  I also use wildlife friendly slug pellets instead of the nasty metaldehyde version.

11/06/2012 at 22:09

Thanks for the reply,sorry I've  seem to give you the wrong impression of my garden,Ive got most of what you have advised in the garden already,apart from the grass,i was just wondering if the nettles were worth the space they take up.

12/06/2012 at 10:39

I have all the things obelixx suggests too - I should have said a wildflower bit and not a wildlife bit - but I don't put so much food out for the birds this time of year as I like them to earn their keep by munching on the undesireables around the garden. But, I don't use slug pellets of any sort.  I collect what I find (which isn't many I'm happy to say) and cut them in half and put them on the bird table.  Yes, I'm a sadist when it comes to slugs.  I do catch moles humanely though and take them to a new home in a nearby forest. 

Personally I would keep the nettles but at the end of the day it is your decision.  I think if you try eating them and using them to make liquid manure you will see how beneficial they are - and the butterflies will love you....

P.S.  Thanks for the dock leaf cure which I knew about but unfortunately I don't seem to have any dock in my garden. 

12/06/2012 at 17:38

Keep the nettles!!!!!

12/06/2012 at 22:36

And feed the birds all year.  At this time of year having easy access to food leaves parent birds more time and energy to forage for their nestlings - thus keeping the next generation of birds alive and ridding your garden of pests such as aphids and caterpillars which provide essential nutrients and moisture to baby birds.

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