Growing stinging nettles... stratifying seeds, etc.

gardningscomplicated(southeast michigan - 5b or 6?)February 12, 2010

I just got some stinging nettles seeds, and I read that I need to stratify them to get them to germinate.

One thing I read said to stratify 4-6 weeks. I'm assuming that meant to _cold_ stratify.

Another thing I read is:

"Once completing their after-ripening process, seeds should be warm stratified. Seeds germinate at 20/15C in light. (1) Also, germination is reported to occur at alternating temperatures of 25 and 15ºC following warm stratification and in the presence of light on seeds that were dry stored."

That just made my head spin. (I found it here: depts.washington.edu/propplnt/Plants/Urtica%20dioica.htm)

Has anyone here ever successfully germinated these things? If you did, how did you do it? I've never stratified seeds before, so I don't know much about it, except a few things I've read. Also, any other advice, like when and where to plant them, would be very helpful and appreciated. Thanks!

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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

gardeningscomplicated - your name says it all! I think you are over thinking this problem. I have never grown stinging nettle - it is a ubiquitous weed here and people would probably think I was bonkers if I tried. However, nettles grow happily all over the place without human intervention. Personally I would just sprinkle them onto a pot of compost, protect from animals and stick them out somewhere in your garden. Since you are in MI I imagine that the temps you have at present are quite low enough and they will be plenty stratified by just sitting in your garden.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2010 at 5:07AM
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gardningscomplicated(southeast michigan - 5b or 6?)

Yeah, I'm probably making this more complicated than it needs to be:) I did a little more research, and it looks like cold stratification for 4-6 weeks should work. I think I'll put them on a damp paper towel, put that in a baggy, and put it in the fridge until I figure out where to plant them. And I'm thinking I should plant some yellow dock nearby, since it's supposed to help when you get stung. And I'm sure I'll get stung. Now I just have to figure out how to grow yellow dock.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2010 at 4:17PM
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Daisyduckworth(Aust)

Cultivated nettles are usually sown in autumn, and in a cold climate, will germinate the following spring. In the wild, you know where the soil is fertile by the appearance of nettles there. They'll actually grow just about anywhere, they self-seed readily and prolifically, but they prefer a moist soil and dappled shade.

Since Yellow Dock is often seen growing near stinging nettle, you can assume they like similar conditions. From my reading, the seeds do not require stratification.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2010 at 5:10PM
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gardningscomplicated(southeast michigan - 5b or 6?)

I think you're both right, and I'll probably put them outside instead of in my refrigerator. Or maybe half in the fridge and half outside. I want to use them for fertilizer, along with some comfrey (one more thing I have to learn about). So I really want to make sure at least some of them germinate. I tried the nettles last year, but I didn't get anything.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2010 at 2:46AM
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cyrus_gardner(8)

We have lots of nettles grown wild, as weed, called horse nettle. They belong to night shade and very close to eggplants. You cannot tell the diffrence of their seedlings from eggplants for a good while until they grow thorns. Their flowers are like those of eggplants and their fruits, which are poisonous, I have read, are the size of cherry tomatoes which turn golden yellow when ripe. In the wild,their seeds overwinter and grow late spring, early summer.
So, I wonder why one would want to grow them. Is this type of nettle edible?

    Bookmark   February 13, 2010 at 5:52AM
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Daisyduckworth(Aust)

All plants of the Solonaceae family are poisonous - or at least some part(s) of them are. In the case of Horse Nettle, all parts are poisonous. They are not related to Stinging Nettles.

Here is a link that might be useful: Horse Nettle

    Bookmark   February 13, 2010 at 6:22AM
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fatamorgana2121

Confusion in using common names happens often. That is why using botanical names is very helpful and removes all confusion. Let's see some of "nettles" I can remember off the top of my head....

The stinging nettle being discussed is Urtica dioica.

Horse nettle is Solanum carolinense.

And there are various dead nettles that are in the Lamium genus.

There is the wood nettle Laportea canadensis.

And the false nettle Boehmeria cylindrica.

And I am sure there are plenty of others I didn't remember! But as you can see, there's plants in at least 5 different genus that have plants named "nettle" in them. Lots to confuse people when you say "nettle!"

FataMorgana

    Bookmark   February 13, 2010 at 3:19PM
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luckynes13(6a)

As a stinging nettle grower, I would plant outside. I also think you will see some plants, from the seed you planted last year.
Being perenial, they take a couple of years to grow. First year, grown from seed stinging nettle is very small. The second year, lookout.
Stinging nettle is also known as an excellent spring tonic, I have made a nice cream of nettle soup. You can use the leaves to make tea, and also cook it like spinach.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2010 at 4:14PM
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gardningscomplicated(southeast michigan - 5b or 6?)

Luckynes13 or anyone?,

Do you know where I can get stinging nettles cuttings, or whatever's needed to propagate them, so I don't have to wait a couple years for them to grow from seeds? I was kinda thinking last year's seeds might sprout this year. But I planted everything in straw bales last year. And this year I'm going to just level everything out, and try to create a more traditional soil. So the seeds might end up getting buried too deep. And they're not where I want them anymore either. I'm want to grow them near some woods near the back of my yard, instead of directly in my garden. I thought I found some last year in the woods, but they turned out to be something else (no sting). And so far I haven't been able to find 'em anywhere else.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2010 at 7:48PM
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fatamorgana2121

Well, find someone where you live that has it and doesn't want it. Dig it up with their blessings!

Or try Richters - Nettle.

FataMorgana

    Bookmark   February 14, 2010 at 9:41PM
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rockguy(7a)

When stratifying seeds it is important to remember they have to be moist and cold, not just cold. Seeds that fall outside will be rained on etc all winter. Dry seeds in a pack in the fridge won't stratify. If you want to do it inside, put the seeds in a pot of soil, spray it with water, tie up in a plastic bag and then chill in the fridge.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2010 at 7:49AM
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cyrus_gardner(8)

Actually, I have come to know and like this plant that is weed for some. I did some search on it and found interesting things about it. One of those things is its medicinal properties. Second, it has lots of protein. One source said it contains 40% protein. You prepare it like spinach. But spinach has a bland taste to me and it is almost 90% water. Now I am on the hunting expedition for stinging nettle.lol

    Bookmark   February 15, 2010 at 8:18AM
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gardningscomplicated(southeast michigan - 5b or 6?)

FataMorgana,
Thanks for the link. I don't know why they didn't show up in my google searches.

Rockguy,
I was planning to use damp paper towels. They worked well for me last year when I used them for germinating vege seeds. And I'm thinking the tiny black nettles seeds should show up well on white paper, so I won't lose them. I think I'd lose them in dirt. I sometimes have problems with seeds getting moldy, but chamomile tea seems to help that. Is there any reason I shouldn't use paper towels for stratifying?

Cyrus,
It's supposed to be great as fertilizer too, if you let it soak in water for a while. I hear it smells awful, but plants love it.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2010 at 11:22PM
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cyrus_gardner(8)

Sounds good, GC, even if it smells.
I read in one source that it has close to 40% protein. Maybe it was a typo, 40%??
Anyway, I hear that SN is not native to GA. Probably it is too hot around here? But I will find some seeds and will plant them on remote places(not in the garden)

    Bookmark   February 16, 2010 at 2:22AM
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weedlady(Central OH 6)

I like nettles a lot (to eat-- cooked as spinach-- and nettles also work as a good vegetarian substitute for rennet, coagulating milk to make custard, but that's another post - LOL). BUT be forewarned: remember that they are a member of the mint family and once you get them established, they WILL spread quickly by means of stolons (running roots that take off in all directions) as well as seeds! So try to put them where this growth habit will not be a problem for you.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 5:48PM
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gardningscomplicated(southeast michigan - 5b or 6?)

weedlady,

I'm planning to put them near some woods, where they shouldn't be a problem. Any idea how far they might spread? Also, do you know if there's a way to eat them without cooking? I like spinach, but I like it when it's crunchy. So I don't think I'd like the nettles if they're cooked. Have you ever tried nettles tea? I was thinking about trying some of that.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 11:03PM
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fatamorgana2121

Makes a fine mild tea. I drink it when I'm having allergy issues.

Nettle has to be cooked or dried to remove its "bite."

While nettle will spread, it is my experience that it is not the most aggressive of spreading plants. If you're harvesting regularly, I don't think it will be unmanageable for you.

FataMorgana

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 8:56AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

gardeningscomplicated - I don't think you'd enjoy raw nettles! There's a reason they're called STINGING nettles. They are covered in tiny hollow hairs which are made of silica, so essentially glass tubes, which prick the skin and deliver a poison. Cooking destroys these hairs. I have occasionally eaten them both as soup and as a vegetable cooked like spinach. I have to say I was not particularly impressed. Even cooked I suspected I could feel a vague tingling in the mouth but that might just be psychosomatic. Most British children grow up, or certainly used to grow up, with frequent nettle stings. Paths in the countryside here are often half overgrown with nettles by mid-summer and believe me they DO sting. So you have to overcome a certain automatic repugnance to put them in your mouth. Imagine trying to eat poison ivy, even if you've been assured it's fine once it's cooked.

I have just discovered there is actually going to be a 'Be nice to nettles week' in the UK this year!

Here is a link that might be useful: Be nice to nettles week.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 11:13AM
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gardningscomplicated(southeast michigan - 5b or 6?)

I've seen videos on youtube of people eating 'em fresh. I think there's a certain technique to it though. And I'm not about to learn it by trial and error:) But the tea sounds good. And I'll probably try drying some, and see what recipes I can find online.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 8:29PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

I just looked at that video with Dave Wolfe. Yes, he was eating raw stinging nettles - but why would you want to? He seems to be going at it from a sort of survivalist angle and picking each leaf individually and very carefully whereas I would assume you would actually want to enjoy eating your nettles off a plate as part of a meal. I also noticed he was eating mature flowering nettles and all the advice I have ever seen says to pick the young fresh growth before it gets tough. (Nettles are very fibrous - you can make cloth out of them) So, to sum up, apparently you CAN eat them raw, but I can't see any reason for wanting to unless you were starving. It looked more like some sort of stunt than a serious addition to one's diet.

There is Cornish cheese which is wrapped in nettles but they are frozen first.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cornish Yarg Cheese

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 10:46AM
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fatamorgana2121

That does seem like a stunt! Seems if I was in a survival situation I would choose other items to eat fresh and take the nettles back to my campsite to cook or dry.

Agreed on the fibrous qualities of mature nettle. It is supposed to yield a fiber (after processing) that is stronger than cotton and finer than linen. In other words, collect young nettles for eating purposes.

FataMorgana

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 1:05PM
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theloud(7b)

A friend served me a delicious dish, which she later told me contained raw nettles! She ground them up very finely to break all the stingers.

In spring, I think they're the tastiest green vegetable, when lightly cooked. Later they get tough.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2010 at 7:01PM
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wold

Looking for Stinging Nettle in Los Angeles area. I love nettles soup it's a delicious.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2010 at 3:37AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

It's hard to believe this thread when I spend every trip to my wood slashing back the nettles so I can actually get down the paths without coming home covered with stings. Strange. I've tried them as soup and as a green vegetable and I can't get to feel they're worth the trouble except for novelty or out of desperation. They are so ubiquitous over here that they're treated as a horrible nuisance rather than a resource. One man's meat etc!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2010 at 2:37PM
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planatus(6)

We have stinging nettles, and do enjoy them as steamed greens (12-15 minute steaming) in March and April, when it's still wintry cold outside. They are sweet, succulent, and once steamed can fill in for cooked spinach.

They are invasive, however, and not for everyone. We compost them as long as they're not holding seeds, supposed to be good for compost.

They are not as invasive as mint, but require a commitment and no kids!

    Bookmark   May 11, 2010 at 8:42PM
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fatamorgana2121

wold - Find a local gardener beset by unwanted nettle and offer to remove it for them! It's a win-win situation!

FataMorgana

    Bookmark   May 12, 2010 at 5:30PM
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Drobin4569_aol_com

Actually Brigitte Mars has good info on stinging nettles. It's a wonderful herb!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 7:46AM
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linda_tx8(8)

Keep in mind, also, that stinging nettle can be a host plant for butterfly caterpillars. I had some growing for a couple of years before a few Red Admiral caterpillars first used it. I like butterflies, so now I have enough to share with them. I use the stinging nettle in tea.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 12:45AM
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enterpriseroof_aol_com

You guys are missing a big benefit of stinging nettles. Stinging sore arthritic joints (knees, back, hands, etc.) is the only reason I keep these plants. Use gloves and lightly sting where needed 3 to 5 days in a row. Got my grandma off her walker!!

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 3:37PM
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Merlilannie

Hi, new here. I just wanted to pass on some things I know about stinging nettle.
Firstly, to eat, or use for tea, only first year nettles, although I have had great benefit from eating and drying for tea, the very small ( up to 2" tall) nettles from second year or older plants.
Secondly, bio-dynamic gardeners let the mature nettles rot in water to make a "jauche", (yeah, it really smells), which they dilute and spray on the plants and soil around plants that are being attacked by bugs. The nettles lend their strength to the weaker plants. But the applications have to be made frequently, at least morning/evening over several days, depending on the severity of the infestation.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 4:27PM
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linda_tx8(8)

Once you get a plant going good, it might spread out and can eventually be carefully separated into multiple plants. That was how I shared a few plants with my friend. And I also moved a couple of them to other locations.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2011 at 11:56PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

"Firstly, to eat, or use for tea, only first year nettles..."

I don't really understand this advice. Stinging nettles are perennials therefore they will produce fresh new growth every spring for decades. I can't see why the growth in the first spring would be any different from that in subsequent springs. It would be like saying only eat asparagus in the first year after planting and never again. Are you sure you don't mean use only young spring nettles ie 'the first OF the year' rather than only 'IN the first year'?

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 7:42AM
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fatamorgana2121

Not to mention that first year nettles are small and harvesting them at that point would be hard on and may kill a first year plant. After they get established though, nettle will survive a nuclear bomb. ;)

It's hard to believe...I live in a 160 year old farmhouse. I have all manner of non-native plants like catnip, burdock, and more growing rampantly on the property but no nettle. So unlike every other old farmhouse I know and it is the one "weed" I use a fair amount of. I had to plant some. It's taken me about 4 years to get a patch that I can actually harvest from.

FataMorgana

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 11:23AM
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batyabeth

Found out regular strength stinging nettle tea, cooled, will take care of powdery mildew when sprayed on my sage every few days. Anything left goes on the compost. Picked and dried upside down after the spring growth, for detoxifying tea for me and the rest on the garden. Wonderful stuff.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 1:27PM
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linda_tx8(8)

I agree, no reason to use only first-year nettles. As long as it's fresh new growth, it should be good enough. âº

    Bookmark   June 11, 2011 at 12:03AM
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pas3_verizon_net

I don't know anything about growing stinging nettles, but if anyone out there can harvest some older ones(the more fibrous the better) and would be willing to let them dry then ship them to me, I'd be in your debt. I would love to try spinning the fiber from the stinging nettle plants, but I'm having a truly difficult time finding them here in Pennsylvania... I live in a fairly damp, humid, and rainy climate of PA, but I still have yet to find any of these plants anywhere near or far from my home?
I've spun flax, cotton, hemp and other fiber related plants but not nettles, not yet...
I just would love to see what type of yarn they would yield.
Thanks for your time.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 1:21PM
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fatamorgana2121

I am VERY sure that they grow near you. They are one of those ubiquitous you find everywhere along with burdock and plantain. I'm your northern neighbor in NY State and they can be found all across Western NY State. We have largely the same conditions as you do - with a bit of a moderation to our temp's from all the lakes. Do you have a cooperative extension nearby? If you could connect up with some master gardeners that are associated with it, I'm sure they could tell you exactly where stinging nettle is growing.

FataMorgana

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 3:50PM
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osteomike

I found a patch near my house in a public park! I am sure they don't want them there as there are kids playing about. They grow along the bank of creeks; that's where these are. I didn't think I could find them for a few weeks of looking; and then one day when out for my walk; there they were!

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 2:17AM
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albertine(z5b Idaho)

Hi, thought I'd add what I've found about nettles. I direct seeded nettles last spring, sowing as soon as the grass started growing, into a previously prepared bed. They were very small on emergence, but did come up fairly well, and by the end of the season was a decent patch. I got seed from Fedco in Maine. Also, Horizon Herbs has it in OR.
Nettles are a one of the best dynamic accumulators of minerals out there. They are used are a fermented plant extract, a liquid fertilizer like alfalfa tea. I've read that they make good livestock feed once they are cut, as the sting is deactivated once dried. I am using them dried as tea and they definitely don't sting dried.
I eat them lightly steamed and they are one of my favorite greens. Only the tender tips should be eaten ( whatever you can pinch off easily - wearing gloves!), and if they get to flowering stage they can be cut back to encourage new growth,giving you tender greens all summer. From what I have read, the more mature flowering tips can irritate the urinary tract - something about cystoliths.
Nettle roots are being used for prostate problems combined with saw palmetto (see link).
I love love love nettles!

Here is a link that might be useful: sloan kettering nettles

    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 2:42PM
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annakiledj

Hi, where can I get fresh or frozen nettles from here in Ca?
How about any online sites selling them! Your help is really appreciated.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2013 at 6:26PM
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annakiledj

Hi, where can I get fresh or frozen nettles from here in Ca?
How about any online sites selling them! Your help is really appreciated.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2013 at 6:28PM
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zackey(GA 8b)

I have two stinging nettle plants but they aren't growing hardly at all. I guess I made the mistake of planting the well rooted cuttings in 3 gallon pots instead of 1 gallons to start. The tea is very sweet. Such a joy to drink it. I made the mistake of trying to eat the leaves after I made the tea. Big mistake. Nothing like stinging tongue. Thank God it only lasted a few minutes. I hope I will have some to share next year. I don't know how to make it grow any faster in pots.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 5:29PM
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fatamorgana2121

Dried or cooked nettles shouldn't sting.

As far as fresh or frozen nettles, ask around. They are a weed that many people hate. Find someone who needs it cleared from their gardens and do the work for some free nettles - ask about herbicides and pesticides use first though!

FataMorgana

    Bookmark   August 28, 2013 at 4:41PM
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zackey(GA 8b)

I tried that already. The lady was all ready to have me come over and then she changed her mind, Mine got too wet from constant rains most of the summer. I don't know if they will recover or not. I really enjoy the tea I make with them.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2013 at 7:28PM
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florauk(8/9)

"Mine got too wet from constant rains most of the summer..."

If that is the case it is probably a drainage problem rather than actual amount of water. They are a rampant and widespread weed here and they thrive on our our wet weather.

I don't think the 3 gal pot will have made any difference. They can fill acres.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 5:30AM
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zackey(GA 8b)

Could be. I used a standard 3 gallon pot with drainage holes and MG potting soil. None of my other 3 gallon pots of plants died. That's why I put it in a pot, so it wouldn't take over. I have more than 2 acres of land. Not in town or a formal yard. Tempted to put it in the ground now before I lose it. It took over a year to get the plants. Everybody thought I was nuts. It makes a very sweet, tasty tea and it's medicinal.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 10:29AM
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fatamorgana2121

As long you manage how much they spread, it shouldn't take over. I planted nettle more than 6 years ago and they have spread only to a tiny patch. Probably enough for tea needs for a household for a season or a meal or two of fresh nettles. Obviously growing conditions and results vary but I find their spread manageable.

FataMorgana

    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 2:25PM
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zackey(GA 8b)

Not sure yet. We have a wild mimosa ground cover taking over part of the yard. Must have picked it up when mowing at a friend's house.

This post was edited by zackey on Fri, Aug 30, 13 at 21:48

    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 3:08PM
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