The Q&A Archives: Cucumbers With Root Problem

Question: My cucumbers were just getting ready to bear and then they started dying. When I pulled them up, the roots were all white and knobby and had white looking balls hanging all over them. Is this a something in the soil and what can I do about it?

Answer: Your cucumbers were attacked by nematodes. Nematodes are tiny worms, so small you could barely see one with a magnifying glass. They are not earthworms, but are a very different type of creature that attacks the roots of some plants.

They are also very difficult to get rid of. The best solution is to grow types of vegetable and flowers that are not affected by nematodes in the soil where the nematodes have been found to be a problem. If you have another area to plant a garden, that may be a place to try to grow plants that are attacked by nematodes.

You can also grow plants that reduce the number of nematodes in the soil. In the fall, plant ?Elbon? cereal rye and allow it to grow over the winter. Then plow it under in the spring. Nematodes enter the roots of this tall grass type plant and cannot survive. Follow this during the warm season with a solid planting of marigolds throughout the garden area. Marigolds are another nematode ?trap crop?. These plants will not kill all the nematodes, but will reduce their numbers significantly.

Finally, rototill the soil in the dry, hot days of summer and allow the surface to totally dry out for a week or so. This will kill nematodes in the upper dry layer. Repeat the rototilling and drying steps several times if possible to destroy even more nematodes.

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