Last year was the first time I noticed nettles growing in the garden. Was this because the soil was changing (fertility levels, composition) or some other factor? The answer to that question will undoubtedly remain a mystery but what benefits they bring are becoming increasingly clear.
I have already mentioned the attraction of ladybirds. Ladybirds love nettles and they also love aphids, so bring in the nettles and your aphid problem might reduce. Ladybirds are also very pretty and at risk of extinction. I am sure the world would be a sadder place without them.
The second benefit I have become aware of is as a fertiliser. The easiest way to do this is to simply place the plant (or part thereof) in water and watch the magic start. Below is a batch I made the other day (note to self: buy a more waterproof coat). You should have seen how quickly the colour of the water changed!
Of course, nettles can also be eaten. Not sure I would want to indulge in them raw in a nettle-eating competition but in a soup or dried in a salad maybe. I got quite excited about that until I read that it is best to eat them no later than June, since they can be bitter after that. Next year then?
© Helen Butt, August 2014