“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”

Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution

Guerrilla Gardening with Stinging Nettles

Guerrilla gardening is most commonly viewed as the act of planting and growing vegetables, herbs, and trees on others people’s property without the owners permission.  Usually an abandoned or neglected plot or in parks or recreation areas.  Though some might not consider my guerrilla gardening legit since I was on land that I own, I look at guerrilla gardening as gardening in an unconventional location.  Kind of like guerrilla warfare if you will.  This past weekend I got on my camo pants and long leave shirt; my machete, a hand trowel, and a tray of stinging nettle seedlings; and headed into the woods to do some gardening. Jack Spirko has an excellent podcast episode onguerrilla gardening – Guerrilla Gardening for Fun, Education and Survival.  The image above is made available for use under the Creative Commons License
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.


Just the act of planting stinging nettle in the first place would be unconventional enough.  My first encounter with stinging nettles was in college.  I was a wildlife biology major and I was assisting in a deer drive.  In short a deer drive is a technique used to drive out deer from an area (drivers) with counters positioned to take count of deer as they are driven out.  When you are a driver you have to keep a straight line with the other drivers as you walk through the woods, so you can’t really keep going around obstacles like thickets.  As I was walking through some tall vegetation, I got a very painful burning sensation on my arms and hands.  I poured my water on them to try to relieve the itching but it didn’t help.  I latter found out I wasn’t the only one who had encountered this and found out I had walked through stinging nettles.

The entrance into our woods where I planted the stinging nettles.

Just a few months ago I came across some information on the uses and benefits of nettles. The previous nettles link goes to the permaculture forum Permies.com were you will find a forum thread with a lot of information on the uses of stinging nettles.  I started my stinging nettles from seed that I purchased from Richter’s Herbs.  I sowed the seed in peat pellets around the first week of April. Once they germinated, I moved them to the greenhouse.  Compared to the common comfrey I sowed at the same time (0% germination), the nettles were very easy to start from seed.


Along the path, approaching the red oak that I selected to plant the nettle around.

Stinging nettle seedlings after transplanting.

I had to clear away a bunch of Japanese Honeysuckle, Virginia Creeper, and Poison Ivy to clear a spot for the nettles.  After the transplants were in the ground I covered up the area with leaves for mulch and to try to hide the disturbed area.  In my experience with planting along or in wooded areas, raccoons love coming right behind you and dig it all up.

Stinging nettle seedlings after being covered up with leaves.

As of Tuesday (May 31st), the nettles were already growing up and out of the mulch and seemed to be doing fine.

Cows in the pasture next to our woods.