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The stinging nettles hurt my children as they walk to school, and the owners of the land have not removed them.

How can I secretly get rid of them without anyone noticing? I don't want to start drama or get into trouble.

What can I secretly do as I walk past them, without other people noticing? Sprinkle salt? (I know that's not good) Clip with scissors? Spray weedkiller?

Not strictly a gardening question, but also an "espionage" question!

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    How are your children unable to avoid touching the nettles? Are they walking on a narrow path in a rural area or on a sidewalk?
    – Jurp
    Oct 3, 2022 at 14:27
  • Yes it's a narrow sidewalk between a fence and a road. The nettles stick out of the fence and well onto the path. It gets very busy at times, so it's not that easy to keep a safe distance from the nettles.
    – Phill Munn
    Oct 3, 2022 at 18:52

4 Answers 4

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There are bull nettles in the national forest behind my house. It is very effective to cut the main stem . I do this a couple times per year. Each year there are fewer nettles ; The second look this year found only one plant. Ask the neighbor if they mind if you cut a few weed stems. They may not realize they have noxious weeds.

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Nearly all municipalities have laws about keeping vegetation from growing out into paths. Furthermore, there are often stricter laws about anything (whether plants or not) that poses a health risk.

I always think it is best to try approaching the property owner first. If I were you, I'd knock on the person's door or leave a note, explaining the situation. If the person doesn't want to remove them, or perhaps doesn't have the resources to do so (such as an elderly person who doesn't have much income nor great physical health) you could offer to remove them yourself.

If the person refuses, I would then contact the municipal government (depending on where you live, this could be a city/town, a township, a county, or some other unit of government.) They may threaten the person with a steep fine, and hopefully that would get the problem addressed. However, some governments are more proactive about this stuff and some people may continue to refuse to comply.

In this case if it dragged out this far, I would just go and remove the stuff yourself. Cover up with glove and long-sleeves, and you then have two options: either just clip the nettles back to the edge of the path, or for a more aggressive control solution you could try uprooting them. But I think, since it's not your land, I would recommend just clipping them back.

I would not be secretive about doing this. If you are confronted by the landowner, or by police, you could explain to them that you are protecting the health and safety of your children who are using the public right-of-way. You are not going to get arrested for doing something like this, especially if you're staying on the public right-of-way and being restrained about how far you go back. Anyone seeing what is going on is going to understand that you are the reasonable party here.

Good luck! Hopefully just talking to the person works!

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I have a neighbor who loves natives and then plants them stupidly (an example is big bluestem grass next to the sidewalk so that its flowering stems and, later, seed heads, block the entire sidewalk). She also thinks that many non-natives are actually native. SMH. Anyway, I carry a clippers/secateur with me when the natives (especially the grasses) start to block the sidewalk and then cut them back as I walk past them. Occasionally, someone else or the city beats me to it. I think if you were to simply clip the nettles back to the fence that you'd have no problems. Just let the cut-off branches drop to the ground and kick them into the road.

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  • There's never anything wrong with clipping back plants growing out into a public right-of-way. You're doing everyone a favor (including the property owner, who is legally required to maintain these things and could get fined if they don't.) It's best to ask; usually people will actively appreciate if you do work for them, but if you try contacting the person and they're not there or not cooperative, you can just cut a path yourself, so long as you're not overzealous about it. Cutting too far back onto the person's property is a big no-no though and can get you into trouble. Keep to the path!
    – cazort
    Oct 18, 2022 at 18:16
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If your kids truly can't avoid the nettles then I would approach the land owner and ask them if you can trim the nettles. If that fails then resort to more sneaky methods.

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