Learn How To Get Rid Of Stinging Nettles From Your Garden

Let’s say that you know how to deal with moss in your lawn. But there’s still trouble! For many of us, stinging nettles is an all-too-familiar plant. Nettles are an important food source for British butterflies and have a variety of medicinal benefits. However, they can quickly engulf borders and rough ground, compete with other garden plants and pose a concern due to their venomous, stinging hairs.

Plant of stinging nettles in a garden

It is for those reasons that some gardeners will want to keep them in check. Stinging nettles are highly invasive too, and getting rid of them can be difficult. There are various ways to do so and we will show you how to get rid of them without using any chemicals and how to treat the burning sensation and rash if your skin comes into contact with them.

About stinging nettles

It is a widespread plant found in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Both perennial nettles (Urtica dioica) and annual nettles (Urtica Urens) prefer moist, nutritious soil to thrive. A full-grown nettle plant can grow to be 1 to 3 metres tall, with some plants reaching up to 6 meters. Non-stinging and stinging hairs can be found on the stem and leaf surface. The leaves of the nettle have sharp hairs on them. These hairs contain compounds that irritate the skin and cause stinging, itching, and redness, due to formic acid and histamine.

The leaves and stems are delicately covered in thin bristles that lodge in your skin, creating red patches that itch and burn for up to 12 hours. These hairs have an interior structure that resembles a tiny hypodermic needle, allowing neurotransmitter chemicals, like acetylcholine, to penetrate the skin and cause this irritating dermatitis.

How to get rid of stinging nettles without chemicals

Getting rid of them without using chemicals is not as simple as, let’s say, using a damaging herbicide. However, it is the healthiest choice for both you and the environment. Chemical control has the disadvantage of being overly broad as you risk killing all plant life while also affecting insect and animal life. Therefore, consider the following natural remedies:

  • Nettles spread rapidly once they have set seed, but seedlings can simply be destroyed by hoeing them. To ensure that you cut through the young roots, hoe just below the surface. 
  • Because prevention is better than cure, try to remove any surrounding nettles before they flower, or at the very least, remove the flowers to prevent seeding.
  • If the problem is a well-established patch, it’s a much greater issue, and you will have to consider mowing roots. The only way to permanently eradicate nettles is to remove the entire root and underground rhizomes.Hands in gloves cutting green stinging nettle
  • It’s enough to leave a small bit of root in the soil for the nettles to regenerate. So, it’s a two-pronged strategy: first, chop down any nettles on your property. Then, from beneath the surface, remove all of the roots.
  • This will take some time because you’ll have to check it after a few weeks to see whether any new nettles have sprouted. 
  • Adding garden lime to the area is another option you might want to consider. Stinging nettles dislike alkaline soil and prefer an acidic environment. You can remove nettles by changing the chemical equilibrium of the soil with lime.

How to get rid of stinging nettles with weed killers

To treat nettles, a variety of weed control options are available. There are now many natural weedkiller options in addition to the typical ones. “Contact weedkillers” will burn and kill the foliage, but not the roots, which will continue to develop, create new plants, and spread. 

Constant spraying every time new leaves appear will weaken and eventually kill them. Spray with a systemic weed killer containing glyphosate, such as Roundup Ultra, for the greatest results. The way it works is that it is first absorbed by the leaves and then goes down to kill the roots. The best time to do this is in the growing season, i.e., from early spring until autumn. 

The use of “tough weed” treatments will improve control as a weed killer may not always be absorbed as well by older, woody plants as it is by younger plants. Therefore, for well-established nettle clusters, cut the plants down to the ground level and treat the new growth that results.

To guarantee that this method is effective, follow these steps:

  1. When the nettles are actively developing, which is primarily from March/April through September/October, spray the leaves.
  2. The larger the leaf area, the larger the amount of weedkiller that can be absorbed. So, don’t spray when the growth first emerges from the soil. Instead, wait until the leaves become larger.
  3. Spray the leaves with a fine mist to evenly coat them in little droplets, and make sure to wear gloves beforehand.
  4. To prevent the spray from evaporating and let it be soaked as much as possible, spray in the evening during the summer.
  5. If dew is expected overnight, spray earlier in the day in the spring, to let it dry before dew falls.
  6. The nettles may not be entirely killed by a single application. It’s possible that you’ll need to spray once, wait for it to die down, and then spray any regrowth again.
  7. Depending on how widespread the root system is, three or more applications per year may be required to completely eradicate it.
  8. Most contact weedkillers will kill any plant whose leaves come into contact with. Keep the spray away from desired plants and protect them by covering them with polythene or something similar when spraying.
  9. When trying to treat nettles growing close to desired plants, where the drift of the spray may harm them, gel treatments that are rubbed into and cling to the weed leaves are recommended. This should be used with caution and so always read the label and product information beforehand.Stinging nettles plant

What if you touch the nettles, and is it treatable?

The stings will feel a lot like a hypodermic needle when your skin comes in contact with them. Chemicals pass through the hollow tubes, causing a stinging sensation as well as a rash.

Nettle stings and rash are quite uncomfortable, but they can be treated and here is how:

1. Avoid touching the affected area

Avoid touching or rubbing the affected area for at least 10 minutes, and then pour clean cold water over it. Even though the pain may be severe in the initial few minutes, avoiding any touching or rubbing may help you avoid the suffering lasting for days. 

The plant’s chemical irritants can dry on the skin’s surface, which can then be removed with soap and water. By not pressing or touching the skin initially, the chemicals will not be pushed deeper into the skin, causing the painful reaction to last longer, potentially even days.

2. Use soap and water

The chemicals generated by the plant which cause pain, swelling, redness, and itching are removed by washing the affected areas of the skin with soap and water.

In many cases, once the area has been cleansed, the discomfort is either gone or considerably decreased.

3. Use a clean cloth

If you don’t have access to soap or water, gently wipe away any plant debris with a clean cloth until the area looks thoroughly cleaned.

4. Apply tape to the surface

Apply a light layer of strong tape, such as duct tape, to the affected area, and then remove the tape. This might aid in the removal of any leftover fibres lodged in the skin.

Hand of a person trying to touch leaves of a stinging nettle plant

5. Consider using a wax hair removal product

You could use a wax hair remover if the tape did not remove all of the undesired plant leftovers from the skin. Apply a layer of wax remover, wait 5 minutes for it to dry, then gently peel it off, taking the plant debris with it.

6. Use leaves from other plants

The liquids found in the leaves of either a dock plant or a jewelweed plant may be beneficial thanks to their antihistamine properties. These plants are frequently found in the same locations as nettle plants

Crush a few leaves from either plant to release their juices. Apply the crushed leaves to the affected area and give it around 15 minutes

7. Apply cool compresses to your skin

Cool compresses can be used to relieve the stinging sensation. The cool temperature will alleviate the discomfort by reducing redness and itching.

8. Apply baking soda

Make a paste out of baking soda and cold water and apply it to the rash. Itching, irritation, and burning sensation can all be relieved with the paste. To avoid further discomfort, dab lightly with a slow, circular motion.

9. Use aloe vera

Use the juice from an aloe vera plant leaf or a manufactured product with high aloe vera concentrations. Aloe vera might aid to relieve the pain and regulate the red and inflamed areas.

10. Avoid hot temperatures

Bathe or shower in cool water, and don’t apply anything warm to the affected area. Cooler temperatures are more calming and aid in reducing inflammation and redness.

11. Consider using over the counter products

Allergic reactions can sometimes be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. To treat the rash, use over-the-counter topical creams and products that contain hydrocortisone. If it persists, seek further medical help.

Young nettle leaves in a basket

There you have it! Getting rid of stinging nettles the organic way is the safest and most environment-friendly method. Always remember to avoid exposure to hot temperatures if you got a sting! 

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