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Suppression of Nematodes with Worm Tea

September 23, 2013

Hi again. After checking my notes, I seem to have a nematode problem. I found an agreeable way to help fight. Hopefully, I"ll keep a diary on the progress and results.

Here's a link to the original post and information about scientific testing.

Original discussion

Comments (25)

  • TXEB

    Nematodes are a normal part of soil life. There are good ones and there are bad ones. One of the more troublesome bad dudes is the root-knot nematode, but from what you've said elsewhere about your soil, I would suspect you wouldn't be seeing those - they like sand. So what makes you believe you "have nematodes", and I'm assuming you mean some of the bad guys?

  • chickencoupe

    Exactly. Wide spread stunted growth in plants and also on produce. Essentially, I ended up with several hundred cherry-sized tomatoes off tomato plants about 2 foot tall. There were at least seven different varieties of tomatoes. Same problem with all.

    Wilting in extreme temperatures not attributable to any other pest or disease for all plants. They never die, just wilt and stunt. Could be something else for the wilt. Again, the behavior is wide spread.

    Only thing doesn't do it: rosemary and echinacea.

    These two brought the problem to my attention. Until now I attributed it to my lack of gardening experience.

  • TXEB

    Have you had your soil analyzed?

  • chickencoupe

    Nope. Couldn't afford it. Might be able to get some simple tests done soon, though. Not sure how much for the nematode testing or if it's included. Hope so. Would help.

  • chickencoupe

    Soil testing is unknown territory. Here's the site and the samples. I don't see anything for pathogens? I could just call later today and ask. I bet they will.

    Out of these (since you know what I'm doing) which ones are most helpful to have performed?


    Ok State Soil Testing

  • TXEB

    I would forego the nematode test for now, unless you have something other than what you've described as evidence. In my experience, as a problem in home gardens they are rather rare. If you do have a serious nematode problem, it would probably be root knot type, and you can find evidence for them by pulling up a suspected plant and looking at the roots for galls. The OSU article below may be helpful - see the section on nematodes near the end.

    I had a serious stunting problem in a new bed this spring - nothng would grow right. Turns out my problems is way over the top P levels. Seems that in a rush and abesntmindeledy I got a bit carried away with composted cow manure and blew the P through the roof. It will probably take me something like 5 years to fully recover. For now I am managing it decently - fall plantings are looking really good.

    First a soil test, and since you're talking veggies / fruits, add the micronutrient and B tests as well. It's a but pricey when money is tight, but it will probably save you more than the cost by not spending money on things you don't need or would create a problem. Just be sure to get a good representative sample over the area in which you will be growing.

    Here is a link that might be useful: OK State - Common Dieseases of Tomatoes

  • Kimmsr

    Testing soil for nematodes is not a part of a soil test for nutrients. Some soil testing labs will do a separate test for nematodes and some are fairly inexpensive. Some commercial soil testing labs apparently do "free" tests for nematodes, most likely predicated on you purchasing something from them to control the wee buggers.

    Here is a link that might be useful: About soil tests

  • TXEB

    From OSU for now I would recommend the Routine + Secondary + Micronutrients = total $18.

    Nematode evaluation is normally handled by a plant diagnostic lab, which is usually a different group than the soils lab; a link to OSU's is provided below. They can be expensive - OSU is $30, TAMU is $35. If the basic soil analysis suggested above doesn't give a strong clue, then the route would be to possibly a nematode evaluation.

    Here is a link that might be useful: OSU Plant Disease and Insect Diagnostic Lab

  • chickencoupe

    Awesome suggestions. I truly appreciate it. You're saving me a lot of headaches. Too much I don't know. The price of testing would clearly be worth the effort.

    I don't recall seeing any knots that season. I didn't know what I was looking at. If they were there, it wasn't obvious. When I presented it to okiedawn, one of her suggestions was the potential for nematodes. But no one knows.

    I found some DIY testing for nematodes. I might do the radish route and see how it fares. We should have some warm weather next week.

    Solutions for Pest Nematodes

    This article puts making leaf mode in a more serious light!

    No matter what, I just learned a lot.

  • beeman_gardener

    Not saying this is a total answer to the OPs problems, but my garden suffers from Corky Root Rot. I had been using Compost Tea for a number of years and it was the wrong thing to do.
    When there is a problem you have to stand back and really study what you're doing. I didn't and kept pouring CT on the garden thinking I was doing the right thing. What I didn't realize was, I was brewing more pathogens from my Compost (made from my garden) and increasing the problem I had, wilting, poor growth from numerous plant types.
    This year I quit the CT and started with a Biotamax brewed for 48 hours.
    It has worked. I have lost the CRR, now my plants are green and healthy, even the vines don't have any problems.
    I can only attribute it to the Biotamax as it's the only thing I changed in my gardening regime.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Biotamax

  • glib

    If you do not have galls, you do not have root knot. You only need to dig out one plant to find out.

  • TXEB

    Might want to fix that link.

    The only reasonable home test I know for nematodes is to inspect the roots of suspect plants and look for galls. You may see just a few if {{gwi:306248}} infection numbers are low. If you have a severe problem, it will look more {{gwi:306249}}. Either way, galls should be evident. Here's an example on carrots. So, look for your most suspected plants across everything you plant, then look at some roots of several different species. If you see a lot of galls, then a lab test is called for. If you don't then nematodes are not likely your problem. If you exhaust a basic soil analysis as a problem, then plant diagnostics may be useful, and that may include nematodes, or other possibilities.

    If you have evidence or a confirmed diagnosis of nematodes from a plant diagnostic lab, there are few things a home gardener can do. The focus will be on controls to limit the populations, and planting resistant varieties where possible.

  • TXEB

    beeman makes the key point - don't go trying to "fix" things based upon a guess. You can very easily be doing just the wrong thing. First, get a good diagnosis, then treat accordingly.

    BTW, should have mentioned - if pulling plants to look for root galls, leave out peas, beans and any other legumes. It is normal for them to develop root nodules with nitrogen fixing bacteria{{gwi:306250}}, and those can be mistaken for root-knot galls.

  • nil13

    I've had RKN in a garden I was working. Boy, if you have them, you'll know it. I managed them with lots of organic matter and oyster mushroom mycelium.

  • chickencoupe

    "Solutions For Pest Nematodes

    Root knot 'todes are not the only 'todes, though I may not have them.

    If I read it correctly, "ringworms" are 'todes, too. There are some 'todes that favor dangerous pathogens such as e. coli. Yikes! Nasty stuff.

    My vermicompost is manufactured indoors and I use a dry clean feed. I tire of them being inside, but the more I learn, the more grateful I become. That is very good to know about compost, though. It's reason not to get careless when building my piles. I wonder if hot composting makes a big difference.

  • TXEB

    Roundworms is the common name for nematodes. The name comes from the formal phylum name -- nematoda. That includes those that are parasitic in humans and other mammals.

    What you described was just about everything was being comparably hit, and it sounded significant. For your area, however, I suspect the only ones that are broadly plant-parasitic are the root-knot variety. But you can check with your county agent or the plant lab at OSU if there are others that may be of significant concern. If you have RKN's, that broadly and badly, the roots should surely show it. If a soil analysis rules out anything, then consider plant diagnostics.

    If you do want to spring for the nematode evaluation, you need to do it at a time when they would be most active and causing problems, and you should take the soil sample from the root area of suspect plants. Some labs even want the plant roots with the soil around them. These are living things that come and go with seasons and plants to feed on, so looking for them at the wrong time can lead to false negative conclusions (i.e., very low counts).

  • chickencoupe


    Okiedawn finally chimed in about the whole matter. Her suggestion about the response in high temps was .... just hot weather in Oklahoma. After all, like you state, nematodes are temperature sensitive and won't do in hot weather.

    She suggests it might also be a mineral deficiency of some type. Then, it could be too much phosphorus or another nute problem.

    I'm definitely going to have that soil testing done and include the extra nute eval.

  • TXEB

    Yeah, there is that heat thing. Many garden veggie plants basically go dormant when temps move somewhere into the 90's. That includes many of the tropicals, such as tomatoes. For us to get a good spring-summer crop we have to plant early and be prepared to protect. Basically, we need to be done by mid June. After that, you're not getting much. We do much better planting for fall. The fun part is growing tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, etc., straight from seed in the ground - no plants.

    If the malaise you experienced was during summer heat, I am not surprised. You may need to be prepared to plant early and protect for a few weeks to get a good crop from spring planting.

  • chickencoupe

    Tomatoes, peppers and eggplant from seed in the ground?

    Never heard of it. I really do wonder if anyone in the world can actually do that. LOL

  • nil13

    lol, some of my best tomatoes are volunteers..

  • TXEB

    I've got 10 tomatoes, 12 peppers and 4 eggplants right now all planted from seed in the ground, all setting fruit. The tomatoes are ~ 3-5 feet depending on cultivar. All of this ~ 9 weeks after planting.

  • chickencoupe

    nil13 that just amazes me!

    TXEB I'll definitely keep your advice in tow of my dealings because you must have some bodacious soil! Zone 9a!!

  • TXEB

    The soil was imported for raised beds. But then, I screwed it up with a tad too much manure. Still, I manage.

    The trick is being coastal in a long growing season zone. The coastal aspect keeps it from getting too extremely hot - we seldom top 95 ðF. I further help the heat part out by growing under 30% shade cloth. So in the heat of summer I can get tomato/pepper/eggplant seeds up quickly (4-6 days), and even in the hot days things grow fast enough. Then the days moderate enough that flowering and fruiting proceed, and we have enough time before a possible early frost. I'm not sure it would work inland in, say, Dallas where it gets hotter in the days and then turns to winter much sooner.

  • chickencoupe

    That certain sounds ideal in temperature. But I'm curious to the problematic battles paralleling the long season. Guessing .... fusarium wilt? Squash bugs?

    At least the heat helps some of the pests down.

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