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July 2, 2011:  Lavender Workshop:  participants visited
tomato research plot.  Photos were taken. 
I show off Stinging Nettle Research Tomatoes


Mary Thorp, participant, shows height and
breadth of Stinging Nettle tea row tomato.

July 3, 2011:  Began July Journal on Website.  
July 5, 2011:  T-C and email from Jim Kotcon WV U who went to this journal and gave me this information regarding analysis of stinging nettle:

July 5, 2011:  Email results from independent lab which analyzed my stinging nettle hydrosol which is composed of the combination of equal portions of distilled stinging nettle first cut at La Paix on the following dates:  (l/2 gal. each distillation):4-30-2011, 5-1, 5-2, 5-20 and 6-1.

     Results of Stinging Nettle Hydrosol test of 6-1 distillation by WV Dept. of Agriculture

N 1.00       0,03
P205 0.10  0.01
K20 0.00    0

Results of Stinging Nettle Hydrosol test of combination of hydrosol distillations (l/2 gal. each distillation):4-30-2011, 5-1, 5-2, 5-20 and 6-1.  Stukenholtz Laboratory, Inc. 7-5-11.

N           0.12

P 295    .023

K 20       .05
trace amounts of calcium, magnesium and copper.

July 5, 2011:  I replied with this email to Jim Kotcon, Suzanne Catty and Art Tucker.

Jim,  here's the results from the ID lab vs. WV Dept. of Ag.  A hydrosol, according to Suzanne Catty who wrote the book Hydrosols, the Next Aromathery, contains everything in it at the time of harvest - it is a hologram of the plant.  A hydrosol is the waters resulting from a distillation.  According to Art Tucker and Suzanne Catty as stinging nettle is not an aromatic plant, it contains no essential oil.  As you know the tea made up of dried stinging nettle (so that all samples used were out of the same harvest) has the formula you reiterated so it is diluted considerably.  That leaves the question, what if you just laid the fresh nettle as a mulch - would then you be getting the initial nutrition and would that be a better fertilizer than the tea?
Of course, that leaves as a possible explanation of the efficacy of stinging nettle as a fertilizer that you noted in a previous email:  "It is also worth mentioning that many organic growers believe that the efficacy of these products is not from the absolute amount of N-P-K in the product, but its ability to stimulate microorganisms that alter the nutrient cycles in soil.  They may affect plant uptake, organic matter degradation, mineral cycling and other aspects.  Hence, a nutrient analysis of the nettle hydrosol may not show many nutrients, but the plants could respond better. "
Results of Stinging Nettle Hydrosol test of 6-1 distillation by WV Dept. of Agriculture

N 1.00       0,03
P205 0.10  0.01
K20 0.00    0

Results of Stinging Nettle Hydrosol test of combination of hydrosol distillations (l/2 gal. each distillation):4-30-2011, 5-1, 5-2, 5-20 and 6-1.  Stukenholtz Laboratory, Inc. 7-5-11.

N           0.12

P 295    .023

K 20       .05
trace amounts of calcium (,0002%) , magnesium (,001) and copper (3,50).

Could that amount of copper in the hydrosol account for the non existence on my plants so far of one of the problems of fungus on tomatoes (blight) in WV which has to be treated with copper sulfate?  I believe Barbara Liedl at Institute is doing research to develop a breed of tomatoes for WV farmers which doesn't get the fungus (NPR Saturday, June 25th - WV). 

Myra Bonhage-Hale, Steward La Paix Herb Farm.  Find out all about La Paix at http://www.lapaixherbfarm.com

Here is my interpretation of the reports from WVDA on your web page.

Fertilizers in West Virginia are regulated under the WV Fertilizer laws (Chapter 19, Article 15 WV State Code).  These laws require that nay product offered for sale as a fertilizer be registered and labeled as such, and meet
minimum nutrient analysis requirements.  The goal is to prevent fraud whereby unscrupulous operators offer a "fertilizer" for sale to farmers when the product actually has no fertilizer value or does not contain the nutrient levels described on the label.

Since your nettle hydrosol product is for experimental purposes, the criteria of whether it meets the minimum N-P-K content to qualify as a commercial fertilizer are not relevant, which may explain why the "Status"
column was crossed out.

The dried nettle leaves had 2.98, 0.85, and 3.8 % N-P-K respectively.  If I understand the directions on your web page, you made the hydrosol by mixing 4 oz of dried leaves in 2 gallons of water.  Thus the water dilutes the nutrients in the nettle leaves (2 gallons = 256 oz).  Therefore 2.98 % N times 4 oz nettle leaves, divided by 256 oz water should result in a final concentration of 0.0465 % N in the hydrosol, assuming all of the N is soluble.  The lab results report 0.04 to 0.1 % N, which may be within the
range of random error, or it may mean that some of the N remains tied to particles or it may mean that your tap water has low levels of nitrogen, all of which could affect the results.

It is also worth mentioning that many organic growers believe that the efficacy of these products is not from the absolute amount of N-P-K in the product, but its ability to stimulate microorganisms that alter the nutrient cycles in soil.  They may affect plant uptake, organic matter degradation, mineral cycling and other aspects.  Hence, a nutrient analysis of the nettle hydrosol may not show many nutrients, but the plants could respond better.
You may want to take leaf samples of the tomatoes to see if the treated plants are taking up larger amounts of fertility from soil, even if they do not have significantly more nutrients available.

In short, the WVDA results are not particularly surprising when you calculate how much the nutrients are diluted in the tea.

Let me know if you need any other information on this, or need other lab analyses.

Jim Kotcon
304-293-8822 (office)
304-594-3322 (home)

>>> "lapaix" <lapaix@hughes.net> 6/27/2011 12:01 PM >>>
Can you help Jim?
Myra Bonhage-Hale, Steward La Paix Herb Farm.  Find out all about La Paix at

I asked Jim if he could find out if I could get tissue analysis of 7 leaves in each row of the Research Plot to determine the nutrient quantity and quality in the tomatoes in each row.  He said he would.  Bruce Loyd of Extension Lewis County also indicated he would see if he could find a way to do tissue analysis of the leaves.
Email from Stukenholtz Laboratory indicates
it would cost $55. for each row to do tissue analysis of 30 leaves per row.  Yikes, there
goes Christmas! ($)

July 9th:  Brian Gainer visits Research
Plot.  Stands behind Stinging Nettle tea
row and says, "I'm 5'10" - this plant
isn't 6 foot!"  He's right - almost 6 " tho.
Brian, an arborist, also said that I would
have had more tomatoes if I had "suckered" the plants and showed me how.  (cut off all
downward drooping stems with fingernail)

July 5th:  Mike, my helper, propped up eight more fallen tomato plants using bamboo etc.  Terri Riffee visited again to cut lavender and show her Uncle how huge the tomato plants are in the Research plot.   
July 9th:  Torrential rains for about l/2 hour on July 7th brought 17 tomato plants down.

Visitors Lee Stalnaker, Brian Gainer, Kaycee and Paul Lamb, Ryan & Adam Lamb and Aijah toured the fallen trees (well the plants are being called trees) - suggested we stake them up with more steel fence posts.  Paul pronounced the plants "Monsters".  Brian said he had never seen such huge plants and both posed for Lee's camera.  I will post later.

Lee and I plan to have "A Wild Day" at La Paix which will have a discussion of the Tomato Research Project and a walk in the woods.  She will help me organize and give it with three other friends.  Slated for Saturday, Sept. 10th - from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. (Chef Dale Hawkins to cater dinner) please put it on your calendars!  Web page up.  Facebook page up x 2.  Will brainstorm details soon......

July 11th:  Mike, my helper, goes to town and buys 25 -  5' steel fence posts from Foster Feed.  He spent the morning raising the fallen tomato plants up and staking them with the fence posts.  I counted over 20 tomatoes on 1 plant in Row #1 - some in the plot are the size of softballs - if each plant has 20 tomatoes on it now - will I have 900 tomatoes to sell after weighing and counting them in each row?  Yikes!

Visitors to Stinging Nettle Research Plot Saturday July 9th from left:   Kaycee Lamb and Adam, Me, Brian Gainer and Paul Lamb photo by Lee Stalnaker, Bella Brucie Photograph

Paul Lamb laughs, "These aren't plants -
they're Monsters!"

July 12th:  Talked with Dale Hqwkins CSA about # of tomatoes.  He thinks I can sell them (after weighing and counting each row for research) at Farmer's Market and I can also have them processed by his CSA into salsa, sauce etc. for commercial sales.  Whew!
July 13th:  Terri F. and Joanna comes to cut lavender and visit tomato research plot - comment on size of tomatoes. 
July 14th:  Frustration - early 7 a.m. out to put in applications.  Couldn't do it.  So many tomatoes down - a few broken limbs -
tomatoes falling into each other - can't get through rows.  No weed eating or trimming has been done due to rains.
So, after getting 6 tomatoes in Commercial organic fertilizer bed sprayed (ran out - need more to complete) couldn't get past fallen plants to continue.  Re-did schedule and
got rags torn up to try to hold up out-of -control limbs of tomatoes - used up  all fence posts (25 now $139.) and ordered 20 more.  Tied add'l twine to bottom cage rings.
Will try to apply rest of applications tomorrow if can get through rows Mike worked on when I went to town
for supplies.

"On the mountains of truth you can never climb in vain: either you will reach a point higher up today, or you will be training your powers so that you will be able to climb higher tomorrow."
Friedrich Nietzsche


Welcome to the Jungle!  July 14, 2011.

I tore up rags to make ties to keep limbs
of tomatoes off ground and each other and off
walking rows.  I also trimmed around
Stinging Nettle Tea row with trimmer.  Later on the 14th of July, Mike, my helper tied and propped up the most recalcitrant plants.  Then he weed eated between the rows.

The plants are not as tall as they were a week ago, but they are wider as they droop in their flimsy cages.  Some plants have more than 20 tomatoes on them.

Tomatoes cover most of the plants - hard to say
which are heaviest, but one in the 10-1 hydrosol row
that I tried to hold up while Mike tied it, was so
heavy I nearly dropped it.


This is a tomato I tied with
an old Christmas pinafore scrap.

View of Research plot looking west - note number of fence posts (30 to date) erected in an attempt to keep huge tomato plants up. 

July 15th:  Sprayed
all tomatoes in Research Plot

Washing sprayer between different
applications.  Nozzle kept getting
gunked up.  Don't like this sprayer!
New stinging nettle tea prepared today in foreground.

What I've learned to date:

1.  Don't buy this sprayer - don't attempt to spray compost tea as it clogs up filters in sprayers.  Just use a watering can next time!

July 15th:  2.5 hours spraying different rows.  Mike was able to prop up, string up, pull up sprawling plants.  People have suggested letting them lie on the ground and spreading hay around but this would make it almost impossible to continue the research.  I am questioning if I need to continue to put applications on - however, stinging nettle is also a pesticide and there are no signs of any bug damage on any of the plants - so I'm going to try to talk with either or both Bruce Loyd at WVU Ext. this county (Lewis) ond Tom McConnell Small Farm WVU Extension about whether to continue spraying every two weeks.

What I've Learned to date:

2.  Plan for five feet between rows and five feet between tomatoes.  I did plan for 5' and then goofed and measured off 3' and wondered why I had land left over!  duh!

3.  Get a decent sprayer or plan to just water each row of tomatoes with watering can with nozzle that can easily be cleaned between applications.

4.  Hydrosol is much easier to work with than a tea of stinging nettle.  The stinging nettle hydrosol has a pleasant aroma, is kind to your skin.  The Tea stinks and you smell awful after using it.  Don't splash it on your hair either just after having gone to beauty parlor.

5.  I am 76 years old, all of it, in the sun after two hours.

6.  It is worth while doing something that may be of benefit to humanity even if is hard work and you can't take a vacation because you spent the money on fence posts.

7.  Flimsy ($1.99 each) tomato cages are pretty useless and a waste of money when it takes steel fence posts to hold up the tomatoes in the cages.  Either build something with bamboo or pay for much stronger cages.



7-18-11:  Mike, my helper, went to Weston and brought back 20 more fence posts and spent 4 hours propping up remaining leaning sprawling tomato plants.

7-18-11:  I recv'd the following email from Barbara Leidle, my original sponsor for the grant stating that she too, like Jim Kotcon (scroll down) and Bruce Loyd (via TC) thought I needed to continue spraying;  this might also show some pesticide efficacy for stinging nettle as the plants mature.  See further information she sent for keeping tomatoes from falling down:

I would have to agree with Dr. Kotcon about continuing the application if what you are looking for is to see if it affects the pests.  If you are using it only to apply fertilizer than you could probably end it now.  As usually you apply all of the nitrogen (usually in a split application) to tomatoes before the first flowers appear.  Too much nitrogen generally equates to excessive foliage on the plant and fewer flowers/fruit.  However, since you are seeing a similar affect with your control I would be too worried that your compost tea is affecting the nitrogen status too much. 
As for tying up your plants, I would have suggested using the "Florida Weave" system that is used around the state and in the south for tomato production.  Here are a few sites I found that might help you see how this is done.  Now one caution is I wouldn't try and do it now on your plants as they are TOO big to try and train them to this, but it might help you or others in the future. 
I also understand about the "clogging" of your equipment as I experienced this with the effluent from our digester.  We ended up using 100 micron filter bags to filter our effluent before we used it in our hydroponic experiments otherwise our emitters for the irrigation system would get clogged.  You can check out some examples of these bags at www.filterbag.com (http://www.filterbag.com/NMO1005GP-p129.html had one that looked interesting).  When we filtered, we put a small amount in the bag while it was over a pail to collect it.  Then we would "milk" the bag to get the liquids thru.  If the bag clogged up we would then clean it out of debris by flushing it out from the opposite side or using a new bag. 
Hope this helps.
Barbara Liedl
On Sat, Jul 16, 2011 at 6:05 PM, James Kotcon <jkotcon@wvu.edu> wrote:
My questions is whether there are any differences between the sprayed plants and the controls.  If diseases and insects have not yet appeared on the controls, I would keep up the spraying until you see some response.  Otherwise, the only valid conclusion is that early season applications do not affect pests that are not yet present, and that is a fairly trivial conclusion.

Jim Kotcon

>>> "lapaix" <lapaix@hughes.net> 7/16/2011 9:25 AM >>>

Dear Advisers:
I spent 2.5 hours in research plot yesterday spraying with various research applications on 4 rows of tomatoes (1 row control).  It is getting pretty onorous (especially with stinging nettle tea even when filtered through cheesecloth keeps clogging up the filters and sputting instead of spraying) and I wonder if it would be indicated that there has been enough spraying in the research?  The plants are huge, some rows healthier than others, there are no bugs to speak of, no problems with holes on leaves - most plants approximately 10 feet in circumferance - 5 - 6 feet high and loaded with tomatoes - very approximate 900 tomatoes ripening now.  - about 20 per plant.
So the question is:  Would it be scientifically significant and credible to stop spraying after the next scheduled date of July 30th?  I would very much appreciate your advice.  http://www.lapaixherbfarmproducts.com/stngntlreschjulyhtm.htm

We hope to do the herbicide experiment by the end of July.

I appreciate all your help in the past and look forward to seeing you as my guests at the Wild Day at La Paix on Saturday, Sept. 10th.  However, if you think I am asking too much of you, please let me know and I won't email you again.  Peace, Myra
Myra Bonhage-Hale, Steward La Paix Herb Farm.  Find out all about La Paix at http://www.lapaixherbfarm.com
The message is ready to be sent with the following file or link attachments:

Florida weave.

Picture of Florida Weave from first link above.  "  http://www.finegardening.com/how-to/articles/supporting-cast-for-tomatoes.aspx 

Florida weave
This staking option works well when growing many tomato plants. Twine is woven around wooden stakes to support unpruned plants as they grow. Steel T-posts at the ends of the row hold the temporary structure in place. A good system for either determinate or indeterminate tomatoes.


From Shorties Funny Farm
"I got a Florida weave.  I didn't make the name so please don't ask me to explain it.  I just like it/want to marry it/ an going to make a song about it.  It's everything I love - cheap, easy, useful, attractive, and organized.  Basically - we have a lot in common. " http://shortiesfunnyfarm.blogspot.com/2011/06/i-got-weave.html

Myra's comment:  Well, I've finally found a use for 45 steel fence posts!



Garden Trellis Here's another way to stake indeterminate tomatoes:
Barbara Sullivan and Karen Estevez-Gill are in the Davidson County Master Gardeners Program in Nashville. They have been growing heirloom tomatoes for seven years at the Grassmere Historic Garden at the Nashville Zoo. The trellis structure they've fashioned is a cube with bamboo poles that are lashed together. Sink three rows of 8 to 10-foot bamboo or cedar posts at least 2 feet into the soil and 4 feet apart from each other. To secure the outer stakes, take four bamboo pieces, secure them at the outside of the base from all four sides and tie them in with binder's twine or small grapevine. Then take another four pieces and secure them about 7 feet high and attach them on each of the corners with the same twine or grapevine. Place two more bamboo pieces diagonally on the top level from corner-to-corner and fasten at each intersection.
from Dr. Leidle's 3rd link:  http://www.tomatogardeningguru.com/tying_article.html

Myra's comment:  I like the looks of this and how the tomatoes are grouped.  Perhaps next
year a combination of the two methods could be used, with fence posts as the vertical supports
and bamboo as the horizontal supports.    It would make for a more efficient looking grouping.  And the next year, when plants are to be rotated, beans, peas or squash could use the same
supports.  hmmmmmmm...... 

7-19:  Ordered tote baskets (for carrying and weighing tomatoes - up to 100 lbs.) and industrial scale for weighing,

July 27th, 2011:  All tomatoes were applied with appropriate mixtures:  Row 1:  Stinging Nettle Tea 10-1
Row 2:  Stinging Nettle Hydrosol 10-1  Row 3:  Stinging Nettle Hydrosol 20-1  Row 4:  Fertrell Commercial Organic Fertilizer Row 5:  Control (nothing)
Baskets:  from left:  Control Bed:  (oops 1 plant turns out to be Cherokee Purple instead of Tappy's Heritage.  (see 3 large tomatoes extreme left.)  Other tomatoes in front of basket have damage.
Basket # 2 from left:  Fertrel tomatoes (2 damaged)  Basket #3 (middle):  20-1 Stinging Nettle Hydrosol (1 damaged)
Basket #4 from left:  Stinging Nettle Hydrosol (no damage)  Basket
#5 (extreme right) 2 tomatoes damaged.

Looking Down into the baskets  July 27, 2011 Total Tomatoes harvested 102 tomatoes, 47.75 lb.  avg. .47 lb.


Fertrel Org.

Stng Ntl Hyd 20-1

Stng.Ntl Hyd 10-1

Stinging Nettle Tea*

5.75 lb.

8.75 lb.

13,75 lb.

7.75 lb.

11.75 lb.

       12 tomatoes

19 tomatoes

30 tomatoes

18 tomatoes

23 tomatoes

 Avg, .48 lb/tomato

Avg, .46 lb/tom.

Avg. .46 lb/tom.

Avg. .43 lb/tom.

Avg. .51 lb/tom.

4 damaged

2 damaged

1 damaged

no damage

2 damaged

*Please note:  reweighing on scale revealed l/4 lb. less in each row - stats. adjusted 8-4-11.

Total Tomatoes Harvested in Research Project July 28, 2011:  102 tomatoes  49 lb.
Total weight of tomatoes harvested in non research area:  (Cherokee Purple:  35 lbs.)  Google price organic tomatoes:  $4./lb.
Total estimated value of tomatoes:  $336. total - Research tomatoes only:  $196. 

Herbicide Research Begun July 28th, 2011:  Due to the fact that I did not get the USDA Sustainable grant whichwould have funded this project, and am doing it entirely at my own expense - this part of the research has
been narrowed as follows:

My helper, Mike hand weeds a 6 ft. by 6 ft. area in the Tomato Research Plot 7-28-2011.  A 1 foot patch of weeds was left between this area and an area which was treated with undiluted stinging nettle tea, reputed to be an herbicide. 
As can be seen this 6 x 6 ft. area contiquous to the hand weeded area has weeds (also
perilla, violets etc.) about 3 feet high.  This
area was treated with undiluted stinging
nettle tea.  I'll check the area out tomorrow
to see if the weeds have been decimated.
If so, the soil itself is only improved over
time by this treatment unlike the gradual degradation of soil treated with chemical fertilizers and herbicides.

8-3:  There is no appreciable deterioration of healthy weeds in stinging nettle tea treated area.

I was sorry to hear that one of the WVHA folks participating in this research on their own farm (Andrea
Lay of Hidden Hollow Farm) has had to drop out of the project due to deer entering and devouring all but a few of her
tomatoes and peppers.   Eva Ristl continues to do part of the research as does Melissa Dennison of Garden
Treasures.  All the rest have dropped out.  It is a very taxing, very energy intensive, very time intensive, very money intensive (for those, like me, on limited income) project.  But I'm glad I persevered and I hope that the results can help
farmers all over the world as it does seem - in the preliminary stages - that stinging nettle is a viable fertilizer - just think, most farmers could make their own natural, soil enhancing, vegetable
producing fertilzers and on their own farms!  Peace, Myra Bonhage-Hale, Steward La Paix Herb Farm Alum Bridge, West Virginia, United States of America.

7-28-2011:  Made arrangements to go to both Weston Farmer's Market on Saturday and Bridgeport Farmer's Market on Sunday, July 31st.  Priced out organic tomatoes at $4/lb., organic elephant garlic at $5/lb., All blue potatoes organically grown at $1.50/lb and my hydrosols at $15/ 8 oz.  Hopefully I will get some $ back from this project.  Also put notice of produce for sale on Facebook and have quite a few responses in the last hour or so.  On right, scale bought to weigh produce - will take to
Farmer's Market.

On left is the 35 lb. basket of Cherokee Purple and Tappy's Heritage
tomatoes also grown at La Paix and treated with the left over applications in the research project!

Harvest July 29th

Row Number



Avg Wt

Total to Date

Row # 1  Stinging Nettle Tea



.47 lb.

31 tomatoes

Row # 2 10 to 1 StngNtl Hydrosol


4.75 lb.

.67 lb.

25 tomatoes

Row # 3 20 to 1 StngNtl Hydrosol


3.75 lb.

.47 lb.

38 tomatoes

Row # 4 Fertrell Comm.Org.


3 lb.

.50 lb.

25 tomatoes

Row # 5 Control


5.75 lb.

.58 lb.

22 tomatoes



21 lb.

.54 avg.

Total tomatoes to date:  141
Total lbs:  47.8lb.

avg. /lb:  .49 lb.

7-30 and 7-31-2011:  Went to both Weston Farmer's Market and Bridgeport Farmer's Market to sell tomatoes, garlic,
all blue heritage potatoes and other La Paix product Hydrosols. 

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