Managing Parasitic Nematodes in the Vegetable Garden

What are Root-Knot Nematodes?

Root-knot nematodes are microscopic parasitic roundworms that like to feed on the roots of the vegetable plants. Some crops such as okra, squash, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, or eggplants tend to be highly-susceptible to root-knot nematode problems more than other any other crops in the garden. They are commonly found in sandy-well drained soils allowing them with more mobility to move around easily in the soil. The nematodes get their root-knot name due to the way they feed on the roots it causes swelling or knots on the plant roots. There are several different types of nematodes but there are only two forms that they are identified under — predatory and parasitic. The predatory nematodes are beneficial because they help with attacking garden pest like squash vine borers and cutworms. While parasitic nematodes are dangerous to the vegetable garden. Parasitic nematodes will cause plants to become weak and stunt growth. When managing parasitic nematodes many factors like good crop rotation, planting cover crops, adding organic matter, and clearing out and removing all the roots of old plants will help reduce these nematode pressures in the vegetable garden.

Managing Parasitic Nematodes

On this week’s episode, Travis discusses ways for managing parasitic nematodes in the vegetable garden. Biofumigation is a sustainable practice that we use to eliminate soil-borne pests and diseases that damage many of our vegetable crops in the garden. Crops like mustard when broken down into the soil they will release certain chemical compounds that help with the eliminate and reduce the presence of these harmful soil pests. When Travis was clearing out some of his okra plants he noticed some root-knot nematode problems. According to Travis, managing parasitic nematode problems begin by marking off around a 10-foot wide path were his previous okra plants were planted in the garden area. Then, plant in that area a dense patch of Broadleaf Mustard. This cover crop can release chemicals that will reduce nematode, insects, fungi, and weeds in the garden soil. Mustard is one of the best cover crops for suppressing these nematode populations. Not only will it help with the reduction of nematodes, but it will also add biomass that will increase organic matter in the soil. Increasing the organic matter in the soil will help improve soil tilth and better erosion control. In return, this will ensure better water runoff and decrease nutrient leaching in the vegetable garden. Using his Hoss Garden Seeder with the adjustable seed plates he takes the #1 seed plate and drills out a hole to add eight more holes to get a total of 16 holes in the seed plate. This seed plate will allow for close to around one inch of row spacing when planting. Next, Travis will take his garden seeder and plant the mustard in rows around three to four inches apart in the garden. He prefers to plant the rows tight to allow for as much vegetation as he can get in the little 10-foot wide path. For all cover crops, in order for them to make an impact in the soil, it should be chopped and tilled back into the soil. So once the broadleaf mustard reaches a decent size and before it goes to seed till it into the soil. Incorporating it into the soil will allow for those chemicals to effectively kill off the harmful pests and disease problems in the vegetable garden. So if you catch any root-knot nematode problems in the root of plants begin adding cover crops that will help destroy these in the soil and begin managing parasitic nematodes in the vegetable garden.

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