500 Year Vision

Take pleasure from walking lightly on this Earth

A Sting of Nettles – the triffid that had its day


This year we have had an extended Autumn. Though a hard frost had us rushing to bring inside the rest of the courgettes and hang the pumpkin harvest a month ago, since then it’s been above freezing. Maybe it’s our Australians bringing the weather with them. They’re from near Proserpine, a place where the coldest it gets is fifteen degrees above freezing. At times, our hallway goes down to zero – fifteen is, if not warm, at least comfortable – experienced through several layers of clothing. We’d told them they’re welcome to stay for as long as they can bear the cold – they were a bit shocked about the outside composting toilet and tales of twenty five below. He’s not taken his hat off since he arrived.
The snow is really late this year, and the ground hasn’t yet frozen, which has meant that we’ve had bonus time in the garden. We’ve planted a new bed of strawberries from runners, mulched the spiral and other beds with fallen leaves and generally tidied up.  I made an interesting discovery in the battle against the nettles…

We’ve been using nettle as a spinach alternative and making it into a liquid fertiliser, but it’s been gradually taking over more and more ground.  During the growing season there is just sooo much to do that, apart from having an occasional hack with the scythe, we’ve pretty much ignored it.  The animals ignore it too, so bigger and bigger patches are getting established in the back field. Interestingly, they’ll eat it once it’s wilted, but nettle is a bugger – I’ve seen bowls of young cut stalks waiting in the kitchen turn towards the sunlight instead of die. It needs to be drowned or suffocated or it’ll just keep on growing.  It is an admirable species.

Now though, the other vegetation has died back making the nettle more apparent.  We could feed a lot of people on a nettle diet.  We are really never going to need that much, so it’s time to think about where the wild garden will be, and what we’ll want to plant as an alternative to nettle.  It has a two year growing cycle, and flowers during the second year. It spreads by root and by seed. The roots grow close to the surface of the soil and are a turmeric yellow.  At this time of year, if you pull the dead stalk out of the ground carefully, so that the roots come too, you’ll see the beginnings of next year’s growth – an inch or two of compact nettle baby nestled onto the plant.    The eureka moment – if we can uproot these, there will be significantly less next year. Of course, this’ll be impossible once the ground is frozen.  All we need is a little more time…

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