The Q&A Archives: Field Dodder

Question: Last spring I bought some top soil to start a garden using wood frames to define the beds. I planted beet and banana peppers in one bed and as the beets began to grow they were quickly covered with a vine the extension office identified as field dodder. I noted that the peppers were attacked several times over the course of the summer but the vine always seemed to die or recede. This makes me wonder if there are vegetables that are resistant to this parasite and especially if I could use this bed for tomatos this summer. I was also wondering if the process called solarizing would kill the seeds of this pest.

Answer: Dodder is a peculiar plant in that it begins life as a seed and develops roots for sustanence, but when it locates a suitable host plant its roots disolve and dodder takes its nourishment from the host plant. As a parasitic plant, dodder can literally suck the life out of plants. Sadly, dodder seed can remain viable for several years so you may have problems with it in the future. What you can do is hand pull the plants as they emerge - certainly before they set seeds. Try to plant something other than tender annuals or perennials in the beds where dodder has appeared. Plant woody ornamentals instead. If you must use the infested area for flowers or veggies, try placing a thick mulch over the bed after you've planted, to exclude light from reaching the soil and triggering the germination of the dodder seed.

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