Horse Nettle? Good or Bad?

Weeding is sometimes therapeutic to me.  When I get in the zone, I am one weeding machine and can’t seem to stop once I get going(probably why I’m having back problems!).  I grab a weed and pull, put it in a pile, then toss it over to the pigs.  My thoughts seem to wonder from one thing to the next as I am grabbing each weed.  And then, I grab this……

My thoughts come to a screeching halt.  I do not wear gloves most of the time so you can imagine what pulling on of these babies feels like.  Horse nettle.  It’s a love-hate thing.  Let me explain.

Horse nettle is not related to true nettles, but rather to tomatoes and potatoes.  There are conflicting reports as to whether it is toxic to animals, but the most common research I have found is if it is eaten in large quantities, then chances are it could be.  If I were a goat, one look at those prickly stems and leaves would be enough for me to look elsewhere.

So where does the love part of the relationship come in, you ask?  I stumbled upon something a couple of years ago that made me appreciate these little devil plants.  I had planted a good bit of potatoes and I noticed a few potato beetle larvae eating the leaves, but nothing to be too alarmed about.  As I was picking them off, I noticed a horse nettle plant very close to the potatoes.  Guess what was eating it’s leaves almost bare?  Colorado Potato Beetles!

Throughout that summer, it was obvious that the beetles and larvae liked eating the Horse Nettle more than the potato plants.  So, my potatoes did not suffer that summer.

Now, let’s fast forward to last year’s garden.  There were just enough potato beetles that I could count on my hand!  And, I planted ten 100 foot rows.  I rotated my potato patch to a different location as I do with all of my veggies.  Is there a connection?  I’m thinking yes.  Although I still whack down a lot of horse nettle, I leave some around the potato patch. 
So, the next time I pierce my hand with a lovely horse nettle, I will gladly picture it shriveled and eaten by a potato beetle!
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3 comments on “Horse Nettle? Good or Bad?

  1. Hi there! I'm a new reader here at your blog, and I really loved this post. I think I'll look at horse nettles with a new attitude now, too. Thank you for sharing that.
    Have a great week!

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