Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sabatoging Nematodes with Flowers and Grass

The knobby looking squash roots I discovered last fall when cleaning up the beds for winter vegetables signified the presence of root-chomping nematodes. While not all nematodes are bad by any means, this particular member of the family is the least favorite for gardeners and farmers. (It goes to show there's always a black sheep, eh?) While it happily sucks on the roots, the plants, of course, tend to produce less and become easy targets for disease and pests. The farmers noticed a similar problem in the adjacent field, and so this spring the remedies are underway.

I've decided to implement three remedies: a grass crop, marigolds, and compost. Marigolds planted en masse (and for about 90 days) act as a trap crop. The roots secrete a chemical toxic to the little fellows. The nematode that ventures over to the marigold root for a snack will find it can't leave or reproduce. A grass crop, like my popcorn, will provide welcome compost material at the end of the season that will attract beneficial nematodes and others who feast on these little root bothering meanies. Compost, of course, brings in all the little hero creatures: bacteria, good nematodes, worms, etc., to eat, battle, and work at outnumbering the bad nematodes. (This all sounds quite unscientific, I must admit, but you get the general idea.)

The farmers seeded the entire field next to my garden with marigolds now just putting on their true leaves. I imagine it will be quite a riot of color once they get underway, and I imagine the pollinators will be thrilled, too. I've done this in one section, but plan to add them throughout the garden, too. They won't be as effective scattered, but I remain hopeful they will have an impact.

Who's your favorite garden pest and remedy? I'm all ears!


kevin said...

Probably would be a shot-gun. If I had a license and the will to use it. (I don't think monkeys are afraid of marigolds) Speaking of pests, today we brought home a little family of field mice from our rice field. Trying to figure out where to release them without the neighbors' disapproval. Mind if I drop them in your field?

Anjuli said...

I love marigolds!!!!! I would love to see the burst of color from their blooming.

Joan Lambert Bailey said...

Thanks, Anjuli! I'm sure I won't be able to resist posting photos of their blossoms once they really get rolling. It's going to be so cool! (Geeky gardening enthusiasm showing through there.)

Joan Lambert Bailey said...

You certainly could drop them off, Kevin. The neighbor cats would enjoy some new friends, I'm sure. I often tell the farmers they should call the place Hatake Nekko. They always chuckle, but I'm not sure they really appreciate it. :)