It was a beautiful morning for nematodes

Sometimes I do these things just to do them. For example, I saw on MAKE this watering can made from an empty milk jug, and I had to make one simply because I could.

nematodes_sprinkleLast year my cheap plastic watering reached the point of battered beyond use, and I threw it away. I haven’t replaced it because it seems an unnecessary purchase. The hose will do.

But I had a sudden urgent need for a watering can: 10,000,000 beneficial nematodes (Steinerema feltiae) in our refrigerator that had to be applied to the lawn on a rainy day. Today was that day.

nematodes_fridgeWhat are nematodes? They are microscopic parasites that kill other parasites, namely the grubs in the dirt under our lawn. Those grubs grow up to be some kind of scarab beetle, and beetles eat the fibrous roots of turf grass.

A mournful violin tune could be played every July in my front yard after the bright green grass starts to die off and wither in patches. I’ve done the soil analysis, and we have applied compost and extra nitrogen. No matter how much we tend to it, the lawn gets sickly after its early summer burst. I don’t want to spread a toxic chemical like GrubX on it. That seems like a greater harm than good. Nematodes, purchased from Gardens Alive!, are benign to all organisms but for beetle grubs, into which they burrow and eat their guts out.

Plus, I have seen grubs while planting — their fat, white fetal bodies curled into a C shape, so visible against a scoop of dark soil.

This morning, the ground was wet, but there was a lull in the rain. Under Winston’s supervision, I made a watering can from an empty water jug: I heated the tip of a brad nail with a BIC® lighter and pierced the jug lid many times.

nematodes_punctureThen I mixed 5,000,000 nematodes with tap water I had already put into the jug. (After I used up the first solution, I came back and repeated the process with the other 5,000,000 nematodes for the other half of the front lawn.)

nematodes_mixtureWith my homemade watering can, I applied the water-and-nematode solution to the grass by shaking the jug and squeezing it a bit too.

nematodes_applyThe DIY watering can did not have the same satisfying pour that an actual watering can does. The jiggling of the jug to get the water out sufficiently made the process slow. However, the control was excellent. The lawn was evenly treated.

The nematodes must be watered into the soil, so after I applied them I turned on sprinkler for about 10 minutes.

nematodes_wateringI haven’t figured out yet how I’ll be able to tell if the parasites I applied are beneficially killing other parasites. I can certainly dig up a square of soil, looking for… what? Some dead grubs perhaps.

Having done what I set out to do, I tidied up, putting away my supplies and tossing the emptied water jug into the recycling bin. It was only a hack, temporarily useful, and it made me want the real thing. Watering can, you’re on my list.

4 thoughts on “It was a beautiful morning for nematodes

  1. I’ll be checking your blog for nematode updates and lawn survival rates. I’m thinking about blogging today and remembered you had one, came to check it out and now know LOTS more about nematodes. Hope you don’t need any mournful violin tunes this year.

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