Like wasps, nettles are usually thought of as an unpleasant necessary evil of the natural world. Battered down by strimmers, poisoned by weedkiller and banished from our gardens, it’s easy to forget that – like wasps – in the natural world, everything occupies a niche and when a gap is created by us eradicating a species there are often knock effects that we may not be aware of.
At Ffynnon Beuno we grow a wide variety of plants that range from beautiful scented roses, to fragrant hops to chiili plants. When we first set out to grow our food, one thing we noticed was how plants could be quickly devastated when aphids (greenfly / whitefly) appeared on the scene. Their numbers rapidly build in the right conditions and before you know it, all the gorgeous roses start to sicken, the chilli peppers wither and the hops fail to produce the pollen laden cones that are used in home brewed beer.
It’s common at this point for people to reach for the chemical sprays. They are cheap, readily available and do the trick but that convenience comes at a cost. An insecticide doesn’t differentiate between the pests and the beneficial insects and harmful chemicals can start to find a way into our food. So what is to be done?
Well, did you know that the larvae of the humble ladybird can eat an astonishing 5000 aphids before it turns into an adult? They also eat other common pests too and you can even buy a small box of the larvae from organic gardening companies to start the process off. It is important to also understand that having a garden that is beneficial to insects like ladybirds means that an army of pest controllers is always present when you need them. Guess where the ladybirds love to lay their eggs? Yes – that old nettle patch!!!
So learn to love your nettles – not only will they be a nursery for your gardening assistants but they also vital to beloved butterflies such as red admirals and peacocks bringing beauty and vitality into your back garden.
Don’t just take my word for it – check out www.nettles.org and prepare to be amazed!