Getting Rid of Stinging Nettles

By Penny Lin , last updated May 3, 2011

Although the burning sensation of a stinging nettle on your skin never seems to go away fast enough, getting rid of the plant itself can be a quick and painless process. With a few helpful tips, your garden can become a lush yet safe area for relaxation and play.

Manual Removal

What makes the stinging nettle "sting" is its needle-like hairs that inject toxins into your skin and cause itching inflammations when you even so much as brush against it. To prevent direct contact, make sure all parts of your body that the plant may touch in the uprooting process are covered. Close-toed boots, long-sleeved shirts, pants, and thick gloves are strongly recommended. Cut the stem where the hairy surface begins. Discard the nettle stems as soon as possible, as dried nettles can retain their toxic substances and cause rashes.

With a garden fork, carefully tease out the deep, extensive roots from the soil. Tugging too hard leaves broken root segments in the soil, causing new growths, especially in shady areas with moist soil. If you pull gently on the roots while loosening the surrounding soil, you can remove the entire root system intact. Visit the area in following weeks to check for and remove new growths.

Chemical Removal

The chemical removal of nettles is very potent, so make sure that your nettles are not closely surrounded by garden plants you wish to keep. Glyphosate and SBK are effective and accessible herbicides. Treat the desired area according to the manufacturer's instructions, and do not to let the chemicals drift toward other plants. It may take more treatments in the subsequent growing seasons to fully eradicate the nettles. The top growth will take three weeks to wither, which is a sign that the chemicals have reached the roots. Because the herbicides are very strong, let the treated area rest for at least one year and then reinvigorate the soil with baking soda.

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