Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Root knot—the gardener’s bane

By Hobo Hudson

Dad and I were inspecting a portion of my vegetable field in our backyard where the plants did not seem to be thriving as much as usual. Keeping my eyes fixed on the top soil, I noticed a teeny tiny worm crawl across the surface and dive into the ground at the base of one of the tomato plants. I casually remarked about it to Dad, and he asked me if it was a baby earthworm. I said, “I don’t think so. It was smaller than the tip of one of Mom’s needles.”

Dad couldn’t believe I could see something that tiny and accused me of making things up. To prove him wrong, I started digging and, when I uncovered the plant’s root, we saw large white globes attached all over the root. “Oh no, Hobo,” Dad cried. “We’ve got root knot!” “What does that mean?” I barked. “It means serious problems,” Dad said. “The plants won’t produce very much, and I don’t know how to get rid of it.”

This was a disaster. Since I’m sharecropping with Dad, a low yield of vegetables means less for me to trade Mom for her share of the meat dinners. I immediately ran into the house to my computer and contacted my friend, Mr. Google, who seemed to know everything. He didn’t really know anything about my problem but sure knew a lot of friends who did. He gave me a long list of names and titles, and after checking several of them, I found out that root knot is caused by a microscopic worm called a “nematode.”

The best treatise I ran across was It basically told me there was no way to cure my problem, but I could reduce it by giving careful attention to plant selection, crop rotation, solar soil sterilization and maintaining a high degree of organic matter in my soil.

My research also led me to a report of a field trial in Texas using a biological control agent called Actinovate which seemed to show a lot of promise when applied at the rate of 6 ounces per acre.

I decided to attack my problem on all fronts. First, I would pull up all plants as soon as they quit bearing and carefully dig up all the roots and give them to our garbage collector. Second, I ordered some Actinovate, which comes in the form of a powder, from eBay. When it arrived, I had Dad mix a little of the powder with water and sprinkle it over my entire garden area and also drench all the plant roots heavily with it.

Next, Dad and I took a ride to Lowe’s, the home improvement retailer, and I bought seven big bags of Jungle Growth, which is compost mixed with an organic slow release fertilizer. Back home, I had Dad spread a layer of it about
1 inch thick over all the garden area and then lightly hoe it into the top couple of inches of soil.

When Dad was done with the work, we visited my pal Josie, a little dachshund, living down the street from us, who had told me she had a great big pile of rotted oak leaves in her yard. We took a few bags of them home and spent several more days filling bags with the oak leaves and then spreading the leaves on my garden approximately 2 inches thick to bring the surface level with my two-by-four frame around the beds. Afterwards, we spread a little pelletized lime on top of the leaves to counteract the leaf’s acidity, wet everything down and just let it sit.

Finally, I examined all my packages of seeds, and if they were not nematode resistant, I threw them away, and I will buy new seeds as needed. Thus far, I have planted cabbages, carrots, radishes and cherry tomatoes, and all of them seem to be growing fine.

Last but not least, as soon as I’ll have harvested all my crops in early June, I plan to cover the beds with clear plastic and let it bake the little critters until early September when I need to start preparing the beds with more compost for my fall crop.

Let’s hope this works. If not, you might find me sitting on a street corner with an empty plate begging for food so remember to keep a rare steak in your pocket for me if you come down my way.


About Hobo

This was Hobo Hudson, my doggy brother, a little terrier mix with black fur. He became famous after his first attempt at writing stories, which was an article published in the newsletter of our local animal shelter, the same shelter in which I ended up years later before Hobo and his parents adopted me. Hobo’s fame quickly spread as he made a name for himself as a business dog and an adventurer. To keep his memory alive, my doggy sister, my three kitty siblings and I, Wylie Hudson, are continuing his blog. Our mom, the blog’s editor, is publishing a Hobo Hudson adventure in sequences. Click on: Foreign Business Affairs, and enjoy a different kind of pet story that combines suspense, lightheartedness and quirk.

Powered by Blogger.