Intercropping to Repel Nematodes?

luvs2plant(z9 TX)November 28, 2005

This was my first year growing heirloom tomatoes, and what a disaster! Managed to nurse plants through this terrible summer only to lose them to root knot nematodes. Researched until I'm bleary-eyed, looking for a viable, preferably organic solution. (I hear all you veterans laughing.)

Anyway, here's my thought...considering that certain plants, i.e. brassicas, etc., are known to resist nematode infestation, would it be feasible to interplant, say mustard, with tomatoes as a REPELLENT? Or would the little buggers target the tomato roots anyway?

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suze9(z8b Bastrop Co., TX)

This was my first year growing heirloom tomatoes, and what a disaster! Managed to nurse plants through this terrible summer

Not really the question you asked, but many seasoned tomato growers in Texas don't even try to grow tomatoes all throughout the summer -- there will be two crops planted, one in spring and and one in fall. Especially where you are at on the coast. Of course, some people just prefer to go for it in the Spring, then be done with it for the year.

Did you manage to get a spring crop before it got hot?

Pulling old plants when they are done cropping in the spring and replacing them with fresh plants in August-Sept (go with early varieties and small fruited, grow your big ones in the spring) if you want a Fall crop would be what I would recommend, as nematode damage is cumulative. Cuttings can be rooted if you don't want to start seed again.

I'd also recommend that you do a member search and look for Shelly and Roy's page (to get to the link to their webpage). They have a great site on growing tomatoes in Houston. Timing, variety selection, how to deal with the sandy soil, etc.

only to lose them to root knot nematodes.
Anyway, here's my thought...considering that certain plants, i.e. brassicas, etc., are known to resist nematode infestation, would it be feasible to interplant, say mustard, with tomatoes as a REPELLENT?

Doesn't work. Marigolds (another common suggestion) don't do a whole lot either -- even if they are the right variety, and even if they are grown as a cover crop and tilled in.

As far as planting anything else amongst your tomatoes, I would actually recommend against it because of the air circulation factor (fungal disease) and because of the potential for attacting vectors for disease -- aphids and spider mites, just to name a couple.

Nematodes move from sand grain to sand grain, so one of the best organic options available is to build up the soil -- add as much organic matter as you can get your hands on.

Another option is to grow in containers or hydroponically.

Here's a good thread on the subject that was recently posted on the main tomato forum:

    Bookmark   November 28, 2005 at 10:59AM
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luvs2plant(z9 TX)

Thanks, suze9, for your input. I'd forgotten to mention that these were a fall crop, having given up on a spring crop, even with shade cloth and soaker hoses, I just couldn't battle the scorching temps. Anyway, the fall crop was going gangbusters, blooming like crazy & starting to set fruit, when suddenly, phhtt....they starting declining rapidly. Pulled 'em up yesterday and found the gnarly roots of nematode damage.

I have amended with compost, but I suspect not nearly enough.

I've read virtually every thread re: nematodes here on GW, as well as countless pages on the web, which is how I came about the idea of planting something nearby known to resist them. Pretty much figured it wouldn't work, but thought it wouldn't hurt to ask.

Going to look for Shelley and Roy's page now, thanks for the tip.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2005 at 4:34PM
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suze9(z8b Bastrop Co., TX)

It just occurred to me that maybe I was vague on how to find their page, so here it is:

Shelly and Roy's page

BTW, I have seed for Mortgage Lifter VFN (NOT a hybrid, it is OP) if you think you'd be interested in trying it out.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2005 at 5:29PM
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luvs2plant(z9 TX)

I sure would like to try them! Thanks so much for the offer. Email me the details?

Showing my ignorance, I didn't realize there were OP/non-hybrids that were VFN resistant. Learning something new everyday :)

    Bookmark   November 29, 2005 at 7:00AM
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suze9(z8b Bastrop Co., TX)

Well, Mortgage Lifter VFN is one OP that has been tested for tolerances and found/proven to have those particular ones. I don't know of any other OP that has actually been tested and been shown to meet standards for N tolerance.

The thing about OP varieties, is that usually no one is going to pay for the required testing. No one 'owns' those varieties; they don't have a financial interest in them. With the hybrids, the seed companies generally pay for it.

For the seed, just e-mail me your address through the forum interface.

If you think you'd also like to try Big Beef VFFNTA and/or Lemon Boy VFN (two of the few hybrids that I actually think are fairly good), let me know in the e-mail.

Don't give up on your other ones though. Would suggest you plant several varieties next year as a kind of experiment to see what works best for you.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2005 at 10:42AM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

The problem is that having tolerance to RKN's is minimal even if a variety has the gene bred in, regardless of whether it's hybrid or OP.

Of use perhaps to a commercial farmer who judges when to mechanically harvest based on Brix levels and thus even a week more can help, however most who grow tomatoes as a home crop don't see much advantage.

No harm in trying them out, but don't get your hopes up.

Many folks I know in RKN territory have gone exclusively to growing in containers.

As Suze said above, RKN's can build up to destructive populations by moving from sand grain to sand grain via the water shell on each grain, so separating those grains is the best mechanical way of helping the problem, and that's done by adding lots and lots or organic material.

The U of FL has done the most research I know of on RKN's, and their IPM page on it goes on and on but in the long run, not much that's been tried, whether it's Ebon rye or a cover crop of marigolds or whatever, has significantly lowered the RKN burden.

Commercial farmers have access to some rather toxic products that home growers cannot buy, and so it goes.


    Bookmark   January 5, 2006 at 9:48AM
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torquill(z9/sunset15 CA)

I'm rather curious. I use a predaceous nematode here to control the earwig population (long story), but that particular species is also listed in some places as a control for root knot nematode. It does a number on the earwigs; I wonder how effective it is on RKN.

There's a fellow gardener down the street who got some RKNs from traded garlic bulbs, since she does garlic the way we do tomatoes. I've been meaning to offer her some nematodes to see how they do as a control, but I didn't have a chance to last season.

They're only available by mail-order, to my knowledge, but Peaceful Valley carries them -- Steinernema carpocapsae (not to be confused with S. feltiae, used for flea control in lawns). I would imagine that they'd be best in combination with added organic matter, as S. carpocapsae doesn't need sand to move, only moist ground.

I'm going to get more nematodes this spring, and I'll see whether the lady down the street still has her little problem, so that I can try them out. We have clayish soil here, though.


    Bookmark   January 7, 2006 at 4:53AM
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shelly_and_roy(z9b Houston TX)

Funny that we got mentioned in regard to this. We have had root-knot nematodes since we put in the beds, and nothing has ever changed that. Our tomatoes do fine for the short season we have, but they sure have ugly root systems when we pull them out.

Chances are they wouldn't succumb to heat stress quite as early if they weren't also dealing with root-knot stress. So this year, we're trying beneficial nematodes from Gardens Alive!, reputed to provide 100% control. It's been applied, although the tomatoes had been in the ground for a few weeks at the time of application. 'Tain't cheap.

We'll see.


Here is a link that might be useful: Beneficial nematodes from Gardens Alive!

    Bookmark   April 6, 2006 at 8:31AM
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Hi all, check this out for my latest idea on controlling RKN.

I call it cylinder planting.

These are just some samples of what I'm trying. I have different diameter and depth on the cylinders hoping to find what works best. Some are small post hole size but go down as much as 3 feet while others are 12 inches in diameter and go down as little as 15 inches. On all the sand was dug out, the liner (tar paper or Tri-Flex plastic roofing underlayment) placed in the hole and the cylinder filled with potting soil. After the plant grow the top of the cylinder is covered with mulch and ends up looking very nice. The main things the cylinder have over pots is much cooler roots, much better wind resistance and much better moister control.

After this season I will know what size worked best and will report back to the list.

Take care, DC

    Bookmark   April 11, 2006 at 5:58AM
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tomatoman(9B E Cen Fl)

I didn't see anyone mention solarization of your garden to control nematodes? The recommended treatment is clear 6 mil plastic covering the garden during the heat of the summer. Even though clear is the recommended plastic, I have found the soil gets hotter with black. Another old remedy is the use of sugar.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2006 at 10:35AM
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