Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) grows throughout the United States and is known for causing a stinging sensation when touched. Stinging nettle can be found in pastures, orchards, yards and gardens. It reproduces both from seed and from rhizomes, which are underground stems. Rhizomes can grow five feet or more during a growing season and new plants can form at each joint of the rhizome. Many methods are available for controlling stinging nettle. Since stinging nettle is difficult to remove, a combination of methods may be needed.
Carefully dig around a large stinging nettle plant with a sharp-shooter spade or shovel to expose the roots. Remove the plant while wearing gloves to avoid skin irritation from the nettle. Continue this process until all of the plants have been removed. Try to dig up as many rhizomes as possible to reduce the amount of reproduction.
Mow stinging nettle plants close to the ground if there are too many to dig by hand. Mowing before the plants produce seed will slow their reproduction. Rhizome reproduction will not be reduced by mowing and may even increase. If the nettles are growing in a grassy area, mowing will help the grass compete with the nettle. Mowing several times during the growing season is required for the grass to eventually crowd out the nettles.
Cultivate the soil with a cultivating fork or a tractor-drawn cultivator if seedling plants are present. Cultivating the soil may spread stinging nettle rhizomes and initially increase the size of the population. However, repeat cultivations will eventually control the plant.
Apply a 2 percent glyphosate concentration to stinging nettles when they are too numerous to control by mechanical methods. Applications can be made any time the plants are actively growing. Apply glyphosate with a hand-held, backpack or pasture sprayer. Thoroughly wet the plants with the herbicide spray, but do not let it drip from the leaves.