In this article, we will be looking at how to make a nettle macerate (Urtica dioica and Urtica urens) at home. This is a nettle-based natural preparation for eliminating harmful insects and animal pests from our organic garden. If not kept under control, these pests can cause serious damage to our crops, even leading to total destruction. The greatest challenge of organic farming is precisely this, to combat plant adversities without resorting to pesticides and plant protection products in general.
Let’s see how to prepare this important organic preparation and what uses it has.
What is nettle macerate?
Nettle macerate is a valid organic alternative to pesticides for combating garden pests. Moreover, since November 26, 2015, in implementation of the Legislative Decree 150/2012, the use of plant protection products in agriculture is only allowed for professional users. This means that only those who hold a special license, issued by regional plant protection services, can use them.
This regulation is very important as it aims to protect public health. It also protects small farmers, in order to avoid the improper use of highly toxic and health-hazardous products.
In organic farming, there are natural remedies, consolidated by practice. These also allow novice farmers to defend their crops from the adversities that threaten them. This macerate falls into this category.
We have talked about natural mulching, which is an organic farming technique that goes in this direction. Controlling the growth of weeds (main carriers of pests) is indeed a first step towards effective biological pest defense.
However, natural mulching alone is not enough. Prevention action must continue. And a product like nettle macerate helps to carry on this work excellently.
Nettle macerate is, indeed, a macerate, widely used in organic farming. It is obviously obtained from the leaves of common nettles. But let’s now look at its qualities and uses.
Qualities and uses of nettle macerate
Nettle and the preparations derived from it are rich in formic acid and salicylic acid. These are particularly effective elements in limiting the spread of many species of animal and plant pests. The main uses of this natural product are several. The most important are three:
- Repellent of animal pests of plants, mainly aphids or mites
- Organic fertilizer of high quality, being rich in nitrogen and organic trace elements
- Stimulant of the natural defenses of plants against some very dangerous fungal diseases for our vegetables, such as, above all, powdery mildew and downy mildew.
How to prepare nettle macerate
To prepare nettle macerate, use the whole plant without the roots. It is best to collect it at the beginning of spring, when it is richest in nutrients. You can also use the dry plant, perhaps collected in a favorable period, and dried in a dry place.
As you all know, nettle has a strong stinging effect, which can be avoided by handling the plant properly, using scissors and gloves, or if collected bare-handed by handling the plant from the bottom upwards, it is the upper part of the leaves, in fact, that has that annoying irritating effect, due to histamine, a chemical substance that the plant secretes from its stinging hairs. In the Middle Ages, the stinging action was used to treat gout and rheumatism, as it seems to be good for circulation.
To facilitate the subsequent macerate filtering operations, the collected nettle can be placed in jute bags.
To obtain a good nettle macerate, it is recommended to use 1 kg of green plant or 200 gr of dry plant, for 10 lt of cold water, preferably rainwater.
Immerse the jute bag containing the nettle in a container with the desired amount of water. It is recommended to use terracotta, wood, or at most plastic containers, the use of metal containers is not recommended.
The container, to promote air exchange, should not be hermetically sealed. The nettle macerate should then be stirred at least once a day.
Different types of macerate can be prepared, depending on the preparation time. Here we give three indications: 24-hour macerate, 7-day macerate, 15-day macerate.
The obtained compound (different depending on the maceration times) must be filtered (for this we recommend the jute bag), and stored in a hermetically sealed container, and can last, if stored in a cool place, even up to a year. Another precaution for preservation is not to keep the nettle macerate in places that are too frequented, the level of bad smell it can emit is extraordinary, and, as they say: “the more it stinks, the better it is”.
Depending on the days of maceration of the plant compound, we will have different types of use in our organic garden.
- 24-hour nettle macerate undiluted. It is used concentrated, without the addition of water, as a pesticide to combat aphids, at the beginning of the infestation, on small insect outbreaks
- 7-day nettle macerate diluted with water 1:20. In this case, we dilute one liter of concentrated macerate with 20 liters of water, we will have a solution to prevent attacks of pests and fungal diseases, to be distributed evenly over the entire cultivation field, preventively with respect to the onset of the infestation, as it acts as a repellent
- 15-day nettle macerate diluted with water 1:50. This dilution allows the compound to be used as an organic fertilizer, to be applied directly to the soil during the initial growth stages of the crops
Irrigation in the garden
For a correct and uniform distribution of the nettle macerate on the plants, we recommend the use of a classic backpack pump with nebulizer. This is an indispensable tool in the warehouse of a good farmer. You can find an efficient backpack pump here.
Talking about nettle macerate leads us to some general considerations. In nature, from the perspective of organic cultivation, there are good plants and negative plants. Knowing well the plants that grow and develop on our land is fundamental to understand how to act correctly.
We have seen how nettle, this plant that many consider a nuisance weed, is one of the best allies of our organic garden. So don’t destroy it, rather eat it, it is indeed very tasty, ideal for fantastic risottos, with purifying properties (naturally once boiled it no longer stings).
We have come to the end of this article. Before saying goodbye, we point out that there are already prepared organic nettle macerates on the market, very valid and economical. If you do not have the possibility to make your own macerate at home, these serve the same function. At this link you can find ready-made products.
- Urtica spp.: Ordinary Plants with Extraordinary Properties: This article from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) discusses the extraordinary properties of the Urtica species, including the preparation of hot water infusions, macerations, and tinctures.
- Wild Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica L.) Leaves and Roots: Another NIH article that explores the properties of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica L.), a plant widely used as an edible and medicinal plant.
- Natural Farming: Fermented Plant Juice: This resource from the University of Hawaii discusses the use of fermented plant juice in natural farming.