Saturday, October 11, 2014

Fighting the Nematodes

Fighting the nematodes is an uphill battle especially in the hot and humid weather in North Florida.  I have ignored these microscopic worms but when I pulled up some of the okra stalks the resulting damage was clearly visible.  The roots were abnormal and knotted which is a sure way of recognizing the damage done by the nematodes.  Other signs of nematodes are yellowing of the foliage, wilted plants, and a poor harvest.

There are no good news about nematodes from the University of Florida IFAS.  They maintain that there are no chemicals that will destroy the nematodes; however, there are a few preventative measures that we can take to minimize the nematodes and some we are already practicing.

  • Solarization where you till the soil and remove debris from the ground, wet down the smooth ground and cover with clear plastic that will remain for at least six weeks.  Our garden is utilized year around so it is not feasible and it will only reduce the presence of nematode. 
  • Ground Cover.  During the summer, we sow legumes in the areas that are fallow.  The legumes enriches the soil, keeps the weed at bay, and makes for additional edible food as well.  After the harvest, the foliage may be turned into green manure in the garden..  I usually remove the roots and the thickest stems.
  • Mulch from the compost pile is a good addition of new soil and it is a deterrent for the nematodes.  It will also keep the weeds at bay and conserve the water.
  • Plant Rotation. simply means that you do not plant the same crop in the same place year after year.  Mix it up so that the nematodes cannot find the food that they have come to expect and like.
  • Nematode Resistant Plants.  When you buy plants or seeds, you may find that some of them are nematode resistant according to the labels.
  • Sunshine is one of the better methods to combat nematodes.  Till the garden several times and let the soil dry in the sunshine.  I have been out on the Back Forty and turning the soil to plant some greens for the fall.  
The nematodes do not do well during the colder months of the growing season.  Keep adding mulch, rotate the crop, and hope for a lot of sunshine.

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