The Q&A Archives: Stinging Nettle Infestation

Question: What can I do about stinging nettle that has taken over my yard and garden?

Answer: Stinging nettles can be tough to deal with in the summertime when the plants are fully grown, but they're not so menacing in the late winter and early spring.

Nettles have little hairs on their leaves and stems that, when touched, release a defensive chemical that causes a numbing, then burning sensation on skin. These herbaceous perennials die down in the winter, but the roots remain alive. If you know where the patch of nettles is, you can dig the roots out now and dispose of them. Or, you can wait until early spring when new shoots emerge and knock them down with a hoe. As long as you keep knocking them down, you'll stay ahead of them. If you wait until they're several feet high you can still remove them, but you'll want to don long sleeves and gloves before getting too close to the plants.

One of the important steps in controlling nettles is to keep them from flowering. Once they flower, they can spill seeds onto the ground. You don't want new little plants cropping up all over! If you regularly knock the new shoots down the roots will eventually run out of energy to produce new shoots and you'll have won the battle.

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