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how to control root knot nematodes organically
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How to get rid of Root knot nematodes organically

If your plants look stunted and its leaves exhibit chlorosis and lack vigour, yet you’ve done everything right and you can’t figure out why, it’s time to check the roots of your plants. If the roots are knobbly and have galls, you have a case of root knot nematodes in your soil. I have experienced this on a few occasions, fortunately in my planters and not in-ground. Read on to find out how to control root knot nematodes organically.

What are they? These plant parasites are microscopic roundworms that damage plant roots and feed on its vascular system. This causes growths to form, affecting the plant’s capacity to absorb water and nutrients.

Shrubs, trees and herbaceous plants are susceptible to root knot nematodes. These include begonia, azalea, hibiscus, gloxinia, hydrangea, impatiens, cyclamen, coleus, some cacti, rose, and edible plants like tomato, capsicum, chilli, eggplant, rosella, okra, cucumber, pumpkin, melons, Malabar spinach, passionfruit, banana, pineapple, sweet potato among others.  

What are your natural options? Here’s how to get rid of root knot nematodes organically, you can consider using a mix of methods to improve efficacy rates.

Grow biofumigant crops for root knot nematode control

how to get rid of root knot nematodes organically
(Photo by Eva Elijas from Pexels)

Brassicas such as Brassica rapa (field mustard) and Brassica juncea (mustard greens) have bio-fumigation properties and are effective at root knot nematode control when grown as a cover crop, however there are some other plants, like Tagetes patula (French marigolds), Tagetes erecta  (Mexican Marigold) and oats, which are highly capable too.

How it works is it releases compounds to suppress pests and pathogens in the soil. It is effective when in its early flowering stages, plants are chopped or pulped and incorporated into the soil and watered. The soil needs to remain moist for a few weeks, and isocyanate gases are released by the plants as it breaks down.

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how to get rid of snails
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How to get rid of slugs and snails

Many gardeners who have community garden plots or home gardens on the ground floor would have encountered slugs and snails gnawing at their plants, or worse, denuding them. The presence of these gastropods is a recurring event in my garden and I’ve looked at different ways on how to get rid of slugs and snails from my property in Singapore. The snails I usually find are the African Land Snail, Luminescent Land Snail,  Humphrey’s Land Snail and Allopeas Snail but we do have a diverse number of snails in Singapore.

My former flock of chickens would eat the smaller snails and slugs but my current resident flock turn their beaks up at them. So I’ve had to explore other ways of dealing with them that don’t involve slug or snail pellets, something which I’m not terribly fond of because I don’t like the use of poisons in my garden or the likelihood of making my chickens or any wildlife sick.

So which is the best way to get rid of slugs and snails?

Aside from pellets, other tactics that gardeners swear by include copper tape, beer traps/pub, wool pellets, diatomaceous earth, coffee grounds, brambles, and using a plank as a lure, where they can be found and dealt with later. This is a good time to mention that crushed egg shells are not as effective as once thought, because gardeners have found that snails and slugs just crawl over it.

There are however, non-chemical, humane strategies that you can consider, either through preventing or by baiting/trapping, and then relocating. They may come across as the enemy but they are ecologically beneficial. Their diet consists of fungi and rotting leaves and other vegetation, and as detritivores and some say decomposers, they help in breaking down plant waste, cycling nutrients back to the soil. While they are not particularly welcome to our vegetable garden especially, we don’t need to use a take no prisoners approach.

Allopeas snails Singapore
Allopeas snails, or Awl snails, on my chive plants

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poisonous plants for cats and dogs
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Plants poisonous to cats and dogs

Shopping for plants in Singapore but wondering which ones are toxic for your cat and/or dog? I speak with veterinarian and plantswoman, Gloria Lee, who highlights edible and ornamental plants poisonous to cats and dogs and explains what pet owners should do if their pet is poisoned.

1. Are most plants safe for cats/dogs? Is there a rule of thumb when it comes to choosing safe plants?
Most plants are in general not systemically toxic to cats/dogs. The more commonly available plants in Singapore which happen to be toxic to cats/dogs, are generally locally irritating to the mucosa or lining of the gut, thereby causing unpleasant gastric signs of drooling, vomiting and diarrhea. In general, plants with sap can be considered not edible. To be safe, all plants should be considered potentially toxic, unless otherwise proven. This is especially so if you have puppies which have no safety valve when it comes to chewable things. Puppies are more likely to ingest large amounts of inappropriate materials, causing more serious problems

2. Which edible and ornamental plants should cat/dog owners completely avoid having around the home?
I cannot think of an edible plant which should be avoided around the home, unless you are referring to something like brinjals and tomatoes where the green unripe fruits are toxic. There are some highly, highly toxic plants which can kill outright e.g. oleander, all bulbs belonging to the Lily family, Rangoon Creeper (Quisqualis indica), Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna), Datura etc. Flowers in bouquets are sometimes more attractive to cats and dogs and also need to be considered, not just the plants themselves. Bouquets often involve exotic flowers not grown in Singapore or the tropics, and hence, do not ping the radar when investigating a potential source of toxicity.

The common plants found which cause gastric signs are often ‘house plants’ or corridor plants e.g. Dieffenbachia (dumb cane), Money plant, ZZ plant (Zamioculcas), Peace Lily, Mother in law’s plant, philodendrons- these only cause issues if ingested in sufficient quantities- which then depends on the size/weight of the pet.

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Green Manure Crops & Crop Rotation

There are many benefits to growing green manure crops, mainly to improve soil conditions for growing your next crop of healthy vegetables. These benefits include higher nitrogen availability, additional organic matter, increased beneficial micro organisms, improved soil structure and water retention, breaking up hard soil, and in some cases soil fumigation and weed suppression.  I would highly recommend growing green manure plants as part of a crop rotation strategy – don’t have one? I’ll show you how 🙂

What is green manure?

Green manure consists of leguminous plants such as those in the peas, beans and grass family which have nitrogen fixing capabilities. Liberally distribute or broadcast seeds in your pots or garden plot, and after around 6 weeks, “chop and drop” these plants and dig it into the soil and leave to break down for 1-2 weeks to add nutrients back into the soil. Don’t wait till it begins to flower or fruit or you will lose these nutrients.

For our tropical climate in Singapore, I would suggest the following:

  • Mustard seed
  • Cowpea
  • Pigeon pea
  • Soy bean
  • Green bean / Mung bean
  • Winged bean
  • Lab Lab

If you happen to forget to chop and drop your plant in time, at least you can eat the pods of pea and bean plants, or use mustard seeds, leaves and flowers in your cooking. If you are looking to purchase some of these seeds, I have cowpea and lablab available here. I will eventually update this post to include links where you can buy these seeds.

Cowpea plant

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