Go Organic: Time for slug-killing nematodesBy James Ashford
May 20, 2011
We had some proper rain earlier this month and not a moment to soon.
It has given a real boost to my vegetable plot.
My peas have just about doubled in size and my lettuces will soon be ready for the first picking.
But as well as bringing the garden to life it has also brought out the slugs and snails.
These troublesome pests ride on a layer of slime and so don't travel far when the surface of the soil is really dry.
As soon as we have a decent downpour they emerge from their torpor to start devouring everything they can.
Slugs and snails are a real menace at this time of year because they target tender young seedling and in a single night can devastate whole rows.
But now the ground is both warm and damp gardeners can bring out the heavy artillery in the form of nematodes.
These are microscopic worms which occur naturally in the soil.
They kill slugs by burrowing into them and releasing bacteria which stop them feeding and eventually dispatch them.
The nematodes reproduce inside the dead body producing a new generation which spread out to kill more slugs.
They arrive by mail order and can be kept for a few days in the fridge until you are ready to use them.
The nematodes are packed in clay powder which you mix with water and then apply to the soil with a watering can.
They only work well when the soil is above 5 degrees centigrade so you can't apply them in the winter and they work best when the soil is moist.
I've held off ordering any this year because it has been so dry but after the earlier deluge conditions on my plot are perfect to release the beasts.
Organic gardeners often have a rather dotty image but nematodes are at the cutting edge of pest control.
They are so effective that they are now being used by conventional farmers to protect their crops.
It is also worth continuing to use barriers and traps to protect your plants because nematodes do not work against snails.
For more information visit www.nemasysinfo.com