How Nematodes Work and How They Can Biologically Remove Pests from Your Market Garden

For growers ensuring crops are not completely destroyed by pests is crucial for a bountiful harvest. Traditional chemical pesticides have a hugely detrimental effect on the environment, soil health, local nature and your produce. Enter nematodes – a natural, biological solution to pest control that is gaining popularity in sustainable and regenerative growing. In this blog post, we will explore how nematodes work and how they can help you keep your market garden pest-free.

What Are Nematodes?

Nematodes are microscopic, worm-like organisms that naturally live in soil and water. There are thousands of different species, but the ones beneficial for pest control are known as entomopathogenic nematodes. These nematodes have a symbiotic relationship with specific bacteria, which they use to kill their host insects. In fully biologically complete composts and soils this happens naturally.

How Do Nematodes Work?

When applied to the soil, nematodes seek out their target pests. Once they find a host, such as a larvae or grub, they enter through natural openings or by boring directly into the body. Inside the host, nematodes release their symbiotic bacteria, which multiply rapidly and produce toxins that kill the host within 24 to 48 hours. The nematodes then feed on the bacteria and the decomposing host tissue, reproduce, and release a new generation of nematodes into the soil to continue the cycle.

Benefits of Using Nematodes in Your Market Garden

  1. Targeted Pest Control: Nematodes are highly specific to certain pests, meaning they do not harm beneficial insects, plants, or humans.
  2. Chemical-Free Solution: Using nematodes eliminates the need for chemical pesticides, making your garden more environmentally friendly and safe for consumption.
  3. Sustainable and Renewable: Nematodes naturally reproduce and establish populations in the soil, providing long-term pest control.
  4. Ease of Application: Nematodes are usually applied with water using a watering can, sprayer, or irrigation system, making them easy to distribute throughout your growing space.

Which Pests Can Nematodes Control?

Nematodes are effective against a variety of common garden pests, including:

  • Lawn grubs: The larvae of beetles such as Japanese beetles, chafer beetles and leatherjackets.
  • Fungus gnats: Affecting the roots of plants and causing damage.
  • Root weevils: Including the black vine weevil, which targets a wide range of plants.
  • Cutworms: Larvae that can damage seedlings and young plants.
  • Thrips: Small insects that feed on plants and can spread plant viruses.

How to Apply Nematodes

  1. Timing: The best time to apply nematodes is during the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late evening, and when soil temperatures are between 10°C and 30°C.
  2. Preparation: Mix the nematodes with water as per the instructions on the package. Ensure you agitate the mixture regularly to keep the nematodes suspended in the water.
  3. Application: Apply the mixture evenly over the affected areas using a watering can, sprayer, or irrigation system. Water the treated area immediately after application to help the nematodes penetrate the soil.
  4. Maintenance: Keep the soil moist for at least a week after application to ensure the nematodes establish themselves effectively.


Nematodes offer a natural and sustainable method for pest control in market gardens. By understanding how nematodes work and how to apply them, you can protect your crops from harmful pests without resorting to chemical pesticides. Embrace this eco-friendly approach and enjoy a healthier, more productive garden.

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