As you may have read in a previous post, root knot nematodes recently became public enemy number one in the Hanbury House vegetable garden. I was kind of depressed about it for a few days, struggling to decide what the best coarse of treatment was, if any. Being a home gardener, especially an organic one, there are few options for dealing with nematodes in the soil. One of the most commonly recommended organic methods to kill them is solarizing the soil, covering the area with plastic for 6 weeks to allow the soil to reach 120 degrees for an extended period. The area has to be in full sun for it to work. My particular veggie bed is only in full sun a few months out of the year, in the height of summer. I am patient and could wait until then, but according to what I have read in some master gardening publications, solarizing is less effective near the coast where summer temperatures don’t get sufficiently high. Our summer time highs are rarely over 80 or 85 degrees. Great. In all likelihood, it will not get hot enough to kill the little buggers in my coastal Southern California backyard, even in the summer.
I need an affective organic treatment for nematodes that works in the cooler seasons and in less than full sun situations. After a bit of research and a suggestion from Patricia at the end of my other post, I decided I might as well give boiling water a try, especially since I will have to wait many months before trying solarizing. In the past, I have managed to kill a few weeds with boiling water, and I am hoping it might also work against the root knot nematoads in the garden. There are lots of dept. of agricultural resources that mention hot water above 120 degrees has been affective at eliminating nematodes on the root ends of bulbs, banana plant roots, hostas, and other green house plant’s roots. Hot water seems worth a shot. Depending on the crop, the plant is left submerged a different amount of time. The publication about the banana plants said 30 seconds was sufficient to dip the ends of the plant and kill nematodes, but the one about bulbs said ten minutes. I have no control over the time it takes to soak in, but if it starts out at boiling, by the time it cools down to 120, it should have had plenty of time to work and soak down in. Boiling water is relatively cheap, non toxic, and easily available, so the worse case senario would be it doesn’t kill the nematodes.
I spent the better part of my day going back and forth between the back garden and the stove, dumping gallon after gallon of hot boiling water on the veggie bed. At any given point, I had three different pots and kettles going. Now the bed looks like warm steamy mud. I sure hope it helps, and I will report back in a few months on whether or not boiling water was effective way to kill root knot nematodes in the garden. Wish me luck!
I have a long wait until summer, and if you know of another organic solution to root knot nematodes, I would love to hear about it. I’ll give anything a try.