Now is the time for all good gardeners to take
action! Especially if you have nematodes. Nematodes are small,
microscopic, worm?like animals that live in the soil and feed
on the roots of developing plants. Their damage is observed
as decayed spots on the roots, stubby roots, enlarged root
tips, sparse root systems or galls on the roots. Although
several types of nematodes are found in vegetables and flower
gardens, the root knot nematode, which causes galls or swellings
on plant roots, is the most damaging. Plants infested with
root knot nematodes usually are stunted, yellow in color and
often die prematurely.
When removing non?productive garden plants,
examine root systems for the presence of nematode "knots"
or galls. In the case of extreme infestation, the knots
may slough off and not be present when the plants are removed.
Good healthy roots should be white and firm if not damaged
by nematodes. Roots which are decayed or rotted may indicate
the presence of nematodes in your garden.
If nematodes are found to be in the garden
area, NOW is the time to take action to prevent damage to
the spring garden. After removing old, non?productive plants
and, the gardener is faced with the prospect of an empty
garden for the next two or three months. To add greenery
to the garden, as well as eliminating some of the nematodes
, plant cereal (Elbon) rye. Gardeners who have a nematode
infestation MUST use cereal rye (Elbon) for nematode population
control or face decreased production next spring.
Cereal rye has proven to be the fastest
growing, most cold?tolerant annual grass available. You
can plant cereal rye in late fall and have a thick mat of
grass about 10 to 15 inches high in late winter. This grass
should be shredded with a lawnmower or flexible string trimmer
and tilled into the soil so decomposition can occur before
you plant in the spring. Ideally shredding and tillage one
month before planting will allow for adequate decomposition.
There are many advantages to following
this practice of planting cereal rye in your garden. It
beautifies the area with greenery. It will add high levels
of organic matter to the garden soil. This type of "green
manure" crop decomposes rapidly. If these benefits
were not enough, the roots of cereal rye serve as a trap?crop
for nematodes. Once nematodes enter the cereal rye roots,
they cannot escape and are doomed. When cereal rye decomposes,
it releases organic acids which help reduce the alkalinity
of garden soil.
Gardeners should be careful to purchase
cereal rye (Elbon) rather than annual rye. Annual rye is
used to over?seed lawns and should not be used in your vegetable
Cereal rye can be planted by merely seeding
directly on top of the garden soil and raking in. Apply
seed at about the rate of 3/4 to one pound per hundred square
feet of garden area to insure good coverage and adequate
growth. Raking to give seed some coverage by soil helps.
Be sure to water the rye regularly and fertilize with any
type of fertilizer every three weeks for maximum growth.
Remember that most of the organic material produced is in
the root system rather than the top foliage. Shred rye and
till the soil one month before planting is to occur so the
massive rye root system will have adequate time to decompose.
If you plant cereal rye in your barren
garden areas this year, it will reduce nematodes, add organic
matter to the soil and decorate your neighborhood with greenery
all winter long. Seed are available from local nurseries.