Who hasn’t yet suffered the sting of wild nettle? Far from being a weed, stinging nettle is an excellent ally for organic gardeners, especially for growing tomato!
Continuous use aims to prevent diseases and pests from appearing. More concentrated solutions serve as curative treatment for tomato, too. It makes for great tomato plant fertilizer, and on the side can trigger composting and speed the breakdown of organic matter into useful nutrients. Discover the fabulous virtues of stinging nettle tea and the recipe to prepare it. Clearly you’ll understand why it’s one of the best fermented teas of all!
How to make stinging nettle tea for tomato plants
- First of all, find a lush patch of fresh stinging nettle. They often appear in forest clearings, abandoned plots of land, or – quite often actually – in your own back yard.
- You’ll need 1 pound of fresh stinging nettle for about 1 gallon of water (1 kg for 10 liters). It’s a rule of thumb and needn’t be extremely accurate. If you’ve gathered nettle earlier and it has dried out, only use one-tenth the amount for the same volume of water (3.5 oz or 100g dried material).
- Wear gloves and, with a sturdy pair of scissors, snip your nettle into inch-long bits (3 cm).
- Wrap this plant material in a cloth pouch, similar to cheesecloth. It’ll make work a lot easier when it comes to sieving the mix.
- Place the sack in a pail with the appropriate amount of water. It’s best to use rain water, or at least water that isn’t very hard.
- Next comes patience! Every day, stir the mix. Small bubbles will rise to the surface. The product is technically fermenting. This process lasts around two weeks.
- Your nettle tea is ready when no small bubbles appear as you stir: all the material has been broken down already.
- Now is the time to pour it into sealed containers. Important! This is a concentrated solution. You’ll need to thin it down with water before spraying it on soil and plants.
Use and benefits of fermented nettle tea on tomato
An insecticide against aphids
Fermented nettle tea is a natural insecticide that repels certain pests like aphids and mites. Spray leaves (topside and underside) with a 5% solution (95% water).
Nettle tea can be used preventively to fight against certain fungal diseases. On tomato plants specifically, this even includes ther hard-to-eradicate powdery mildew. It works by boosting the immune systems of the plants themselves, when sprayed on leafage. Again, here too, it must be diluted in a 5% solution.
Fertilizer for your tomatoes
Because fermented nettle tea has extremely high levels of nitrogen and potassium, you can use it to fertilize your tomato plants every Spring. The mixture will spur growth of your tomato plants and strengthen them so they’ll resist diseases better. Use it in the vegetable patch, and also feel free to let your ornamentals benefit from them. Simply spray it twice a month with a 10% solution.
Soaking young tomato transplants
Tomato seedlings sown and sprouted? Six inches tall, ready to transplant to the growing bed? Don’t let them miss out on a good, nutritious fermented stinging nettle tea soak! Dunk your young tomato seedlings in a nettle tea solution that contains 20% concentrate and 80% water, just before planting.
High levels of liquid organic matter explain why fermented nettle tea stimulates further breakdown of organic matter. It raises the temperature of the compost, thus activating it. Spray your compost directly with your fermented stinging nettle mix without thinning it down, and turn the pile over. Once fully ripe, compost is an excellent soil conditioner for tomato plants.
Sow stinging nettle to protect your tomatoes
Of course, nettle is plentiful in the wild, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plant it in your own garden. Keep a small patch to the side where you can sow stinging nettle. Nettle can grow most anywhere, but it truly thrives when the substrate is nitrogen-rich. Part shade is ideal. The soil’s nitrogen is what the plant will absorb, and it will give it all back when you use it for fertilizer! Best sow in Spring or Summer.
- Begin with raking out more common weeds, taking care to flatten the soil somewhat.
- Use the age-old technique of broadcast sowing – basically throwing the seeds every here and there.
- Rake the seeds lightly again, and press the soil down.
- Water using a gentle spray and keep the ground moist until seeds sprout.
This tiny nettle patch will find use even before you harvest it. Many beneficial insects, hoverfly for instance, love finding refuge in it. Thought the spray repels them, live nettle attracts aphids, thus attracting ladybugs which will hunt them down throughout the garden.
A good practice is to harvest your stinging nettle a bit at a time instead of cutting the patch bare, to prepare your fermented tea. Remember to keep some of the fresher leaves for you, too! There are many delicious recipes that make great use of nettle, from cake to soup to pie!
Smart tip about nettle and tomato
When planting your seedlings, throw a handful of nettle leaves at the bottom of the hole. It’ll break down into nutrients just as the soak dip effects wear off!