Parasitic Worm Infestation in a Garden

Ascaris lumbricoides egg (Achat1999 via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Ascaris, whipworm, and hookworm are three types of parasitic nematode worms that can infest gardens and cause harm to both humans and animals. Ascaris, also known as roundworms, are typically found in soil and can infect humans and animals through ingestion of contaminated food or water. These worms can cause a variety of health problems such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and malnutrition.

Whipworms are also found in soil and infect the large intestine of animals and humans. They are known to cause chronic diarrhea and weight loss in their hosts. The thin and whip-like appearance of whipworms gives them their name.

Hookworms are named after the hooks they use to attach themselves to the intestinal wall of their hosts. These worms can cause anemia and malnutrition in their hosts and can be particularly harmful to young children.

In gardens, these parasites can lead to stunted plant growth, yellowing of leaves, wilting of plants, poor root growth, and poor fruit and vegetable production. It is important to take measures to control these infestations in order to maintain the health of both humans and plants in the garden.


Visible in a Garden

  • Stunted plant growth
  • Yellowing of leaves
  • Wilting of plants
  • Stunted root growth
  • Poor fruit and vegetable production
  • Discoloration of roots
  • Foliage may dry out and fall off
  • Decreased vigor and overall health of plants
  • Soil may appear dry, hard, and compacted

Human and Animal Infections

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Malnutrition
  • Intestinal blockage (in severe cases)
  • Constipation
  • Loss of energy and fatigue
  • Abnormal bowel movements
  • Coughing (if larvae migrate to the lungs)

What is a Parasitic Worm

It is important to note that these nematode worms are small and can be difficult to see with the naked eye. They can be found in soil, feces, and intestinal samples, and may require examination under a microscope for proper identification. In humans and animals, a laboratory test can be performed to detect these parasites and confirm an infestation. In gardens, a soil sample can be taken for analysis to determine the presence of these parasites and to develop a management plan.


  • Round, smooth and white worm
  • Can grow up to 20 cm long
  • Has a cylindrical shape with a uniform diameter
  • Has a distinct head end that is slightly wider than the tail end
  • Has a smooth and glossy appearance


  • Long and thin worm, usually around 2-3 cm long
  • Has a whip-like appearance, hence the name
  • Has a distinct head end that is slightly wider than the tail end
  • Has a thin and elongated shape
  • Has a smooth and glossy appearance


  • Short and thin worm, usually around 1-2 cm long
  • Has hooks on its anterior end to attach to the host’s intestinal wall
  • Has a distinct head end that is slightly wider than the tail end
  • Has a thin and elongated shape
  • Has a smooth and glossy appearance

Treating a Parasitic Worm Infestation

It may be necessary to use a combination of these control methods in order to effectively manage an infestation of Ascaris, whipworm, or hookworm in a garden. Physical, cultural, chemical, and biological control methods can all play a role in reducing parasite populations and promoting healthy plant growth. The specific methods used will depend on the severity of the infestation, the type of parasite, and the type of plants being grown in the garden. A professional pest control expert or agronomist can help to determine the best course of action for managing a nematode infestation in a garden.

Physical Control Methods

  • Rotating crops: This involves planting crops in different parts of the garden each year to reduce the buildup of parasite populations in the soil. This method works by breaking the life cycle of the parasites, as they are unable to survive on the same crops year after year. It is important to rotate crops with crops from different families to ensure maximum efficacy.
  • Soil solarization: This involves covering the soil with clear plastic to trap heat and kill parasites and their eggs. The soil should be covered for at least 4-6 weeks during the hottest part of the year, and should be covered with clear plastic that is at least 6 mil thick. This method is best used in areas with warm, sunny climates.
  • Clearing debris: This involves removing any dead plant material and other organic matter from the garden to reduce the number of parasites in the soil. This can be done by removing dead leaves, stems, and other plant material, as well as removing any animal waste or compost that may contain parasite eggs.
  • Tilling the soil: This involves using a garden tool, such as a rototiller, to turn over the soil, which can help to break up parasite populations and expose them to the elements. It is important to till the soil deeply, at least 12-15 inches, to ensure that all parasite populations are disrupted.

Cultural Control Methods

  • Using organic fertilizers: This involves using fertilizers made from natural materials, such as compost, to promote healthy plant growth and reduce the need for chemical controls. Organic fertilizers can help to improve soil health and structure, making it more difficult for parasites to survive.
  • Maintaining soil health: This involves promoting soil health through practices such as adding organic matter, maintaining proper soil pH, and avoiding over-tilling. A healthy soil can help to reduce the number of parasites in the soil and promote healthy plant growth.
  • Choosing resistant plant varieties: This involves selecting plant varieties that are known to be resistant to nematode infestations. Some plant varieties have been bred specifically to be resistant to certain types of nematodes, and these varieties can be used in the garden to reduce the number of parasites in the soil.

Chemical Control Methods

  • Using nematicides: This involves applying chemicals specifically designed to kill nematodes, such as fumigants and insecticides. Nematicides can be applied to the soil before planting or after harvesting to reduce parasite populations. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully when using these products, as they can be toxic to plants, animals, and humans.
  • Using insecticides: This involves using insecticides that are toxic to nematodes, such as carbamates and organophosphates. These insecticides can be applied to the soil or directly to the plants to kill parasites. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully when using these products, as they can be toxic to plants, animals, and humans.

Biological Control Methods

  • Using beneficial nematodes: This involves introducing beneficial nematodes, such as Steinernema and Heterorhabditis, into the soil to attack and kill parasite nematodes. These beneficial nematodes are natural predators of parasite nematodes and can help to reduce parasite populations in the soil. They are typically applied to the soil as a solution or powder and can be used in conjunction with other control methods for maximum efficacy.
  • Using cover crops: This involves planting cover crops, such as clovers and alfalfa, that can suppress the growth of nematode populations in the soil. Cover crops can help to improve soil health, reduce parasite populations, and promote healthy plant growth. It is important to choose cover crops that are well-suited to the growing conditions in the garden and to plant them at the appropriate time to ensure maximum efficacy.