Friday, May 1, 2015

Soil Nematodes

In looking back at my blog I see that I am not posting very regularly and if I have any followers left I have to apologize.  Writing a blog post takes a lot longer than posting to Facebook, but on the upside I can get a lot more information in a blog post.  I have set up a Facebook page for Hummingbird Farmz where I keep track of gardening happenings in our little homestead.  You can follow me there by liking us at this site Hummingbird Farmz.

Growing Thymes HF5 copy

The topic I am devoting this blog post to is soil nematodes.  I am no expert on this topic, but we are learning more and more everyday as we struggle with damage caused by some bad guy nematodes that like to eat at the roots of some plants causing the plants to be stunted and slow down production by a lot.  The worst part of this problem is that you never see the little buggers or the damage until you pull up the plant and look at the roots.  I thought I had taken a picture of the damage I found recently on my chard, but I can’t find it so I am borrowing a picture of nematode damage on a tomato plant.  This Rodale article describes what is happening best…it seems that the nematode has a sharp mouth that it uses to puncture the plant cell and suck the juices, the saliva it injects into the plant causes the swelling.  While most nematodes are beneficial these little Root Knot Nematodes are not.  They travel well in sandy soil, which is sort of what we have here.  We live near a lava tube near Mt. Lassen and our soil is mostly lava rock dust.  It is easy to dig a hole for planting, but it is also easy for these guys to find the roots of the plants they love.  There are some things they seem to like better than others ie., tomatoes, cucumbers, peach tree, chard, kale and many more. 

In gardening there are many problems and just as many solutions.  I have found many sites that recommend adding lots of compost to help combat this problem.  We are planting all nematode resistant varieties of tomatoes this year and there were lots available at Totally Tomatoes and Tomato Growers.  The downside is that I love heirloom varieties of tomatoes and have had to pretty much forego those this year.  I am planting a few in 7 gallon nursery pots with compost and potting soil.  We are also experimenting with Actinovate AG as a soil drench, it is organic, but my concern is that is killing more than just the one targeted pest and taking some good guys with it.  After having dug where it has been used though I am still seeing some worm activity so that leaves me hopeful that it isn’t killing everything.  It seems that root knot nematodes are only 1/50 of an inch long so there is no way to check on their population without a microscope.  My tomatoes and egg plant have been planted in what seems to be the most heavily infested bed.  It has been treated monthly for a few months with the Actinovate and I added lots more compost and diatomaceous earth to the soil at planting time.  I am planting lots of French marigolds one is even called Nemagold marigold, it seems that their roots deter this nematode creating an environment they don’t want to be in.  One more link full of good info comes for UC Davis…Nematode Management

If you find that your tomato plants are wilting and or turning yellow early on you may be thinking that they have early blight or some other problem, but when you pull them out check the roots they may be suffering from root knot nematode damage.  There is not a lot of information out there, but it does seem to be a problem that more people are becoming aware of and more solutions are being talked about and experimented with all the time…so don’t give up on gardening just yet, we can’t let this tiny microscopic critter win!  It is just one more hurdle for a gardening to jump to get good food to the table…

we can do it!

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