Question: I have been told that my vegetable garden has a problem with nematodes. The plants have been stunted the past two or three years, and now they’re hardly growing at all. What can I do now?

Answer: Nematodes infest many of our common vegetables. When your crops show stunted growth, and, more specifically, if you ever see knots on the roots of okra, tomatoes, peppers or potatoes (or others), you need to have a soil test run through the Nematode Diagnostic Laboratory at Texas A&M University. There is a charge for the test. Your county Extension office will have all the details. If the test comes back positive, plant Elbon rye in October. Allow it to grow all winter, then plow it under in late January or early February. While it won’t eliminate the nematodes, it certainly will reduce their population by entrapping them in its root system. You do not have to worry about removing the root systems as you rototill. The nematodes will be dead by that time. You should also choose varieties that are resistant to nematode damage. Cool-season vegetables, for example, are less likely to have problems. Some tomatoes will carry the initial “N” after their variety name, indicating that they are resistant to the microscopic pests.

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