Wednesday, January 11, 2012

FAQ: What is the best way to rid my garden of nematodes?

Juvenile root-knot nematode

Q. What is the best way to rid my garden of nematodes?

A. I don't know of any chemical nematicide that is labeled for use in the home garden by the homeowner. So the simplest way would be to solarize your garden.

Solarizing is best done during hot weather of summer. Before planting, remove debris from the garden. Till the soil and rake it smooth. Irrigate briefly to moisten the soil. Spread a large, clear sheet of plastic over the garden.

I recommend you use heavy-duty plastic, otherwise holes may develop allowing hot air to escape. Bury the edges, then add weights around the perimeter. You may also need to distribute weights over the sheet to prevent wind from pulling the center up. Concrete blocks or buckets of sand will work fine. For good measure, you may spread a second sheet above the first, resting it on the distributed weights around the center. Bury the edges and weight around the perimeter, as before. This will create a greenhouse effect with more hot air trapped above the first sheet. Leave the plastic in place for 6 weeks or so.

Remove the plastic when you're ready to plant. This method heats the soil to a depth of 6 or 8 inches sufficient to kill nematodes. This is also a good method to kill weed seeds before planting.

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