Before I start with my topic for today… (ants my dear friends… ants), I wanted to check in with you to see how the last days of summer are treating you. Are you growing any food for you and your family? Even if you’re growing just a single tomato plant that helps to feed your “salsa addiction” or anything else tomato in your life, that’s awesome!
Next year, plan to add some basil and a few green scallion type onions in and around your summer tomato plant then you would have the makings for tomato sauce or soup and could actually add ‘companion planting‘ under your belt. Do some research on-line… it’s a very interesting subject. For now, here’s a quick definition for those of you who are not familiar with this term…
Oxford Dictionaries definition: “the close planting of different plants that enhance each others growth or protect each other from pests”.
Now onto ants. We all know em’ and most of us have em’ in the garden, and on occasion, as unwelcome guests in our home. Most folks view them as a nuisance and a force to be reckoned with while others see them as essential workers in the garden helping to aerate the soil beneath their beloved plants. Personally, as long as the little guys are “out there” (firmly pointing out to the empty north forty portion of my back yard) somewhere other than in my veggie garden, I’m happy. In my veggie garden, and my orchard for that matter, I consider them unwelcome guests.
If they were in small numbers, okay, I could deal with them, but ants are never satisfied with quick visits or small numbers. A few scouts are sent out looking and searching for goodies their family and friends can eat. To and from their nest, they make absolutely sure to mark their trail for an easy return trip. Once their mission is complete, they return to their “nest” with exciting stories of their adventures and findings then take to their marked trail once again to return to the discovered land bringing along anyone who can “carry a load”. If the gettin’ is good, traffic ensues and they even bring along their livestock (“aphids”) and set up their farms and grazing areas beneath the very leaves and buds you are nurturing and tending to in YOUR veggie garden.
Once ants are in your garden, they can be very rude guests. Downright bully like if I say so myself. If they are close by all you have to do is lift a leaf up to peak under or dig in your soil a bit to send them into a tizzy. Really doesn’t take much. You’ll know when you’ve accomplished this state of “tizzy” when you feel the sharp sting of their bite. It always amazes me how much “hurt” these teeny guys can deliver.
My ant problem has become a daily nuisance in my garden and I know where the aphids are by following the thick trail of ants. I even experienced “swarming” yesterday when I was setting out a surprise for them. I looked down at my feet and they were crawling all over my feet and pant legs. Luckily, I was able to stomp around enough to dislodge them and spare myself multiple bites.
What’s the surprise? Borax! And since these little guys seem to like the sweet honey-dew from the aphids they farm (think about it… ants are really great farmers in their own right), a little bit of boysenberry jam to kick things off 🙂
In the past, I’ve had great success with a product called Terro Ant Killer. Sorry to say this is not an organic product, but I am very careful with its use in my garden. Also, the product contains ant bait so adding jam is unnecessary, but seems to help get things going faster.
To administer the “lethal treat”, I smeared a little jam on the inside of a couple of lids… one for each raised bed. The lids help to keep the ant treat “contained” and out of my garden soil.
Then I placed 2-3 drops of the Terro Ant Killer (Borax) directly onto the jam. The product disperses and spreads nicely over the top of the jam on its own. Only a couple of small drops are needed. Next, I brought the lids into the garden and secured them down with a couple of hooks I made from craft wire to keep the lids from flipping over in wind. As a precautionary step, if rain was in the forecast, I would remove the lids altogether to prevent the product from washing away into my soil.
After placing the “secret ant elixir” into my garden, within an hour, the ants started taking sips of the delightfully deceiving nectar. I checked on the lids this morning and to my delight the elixir in the raised bed with the largest infestation of ants was reduced down from a quarter size to about a nickel size…
The process of elimination is not fast acting, so patience is required. It takes a couple of days for the ants to sip up the elixir and take it back to their nest for others (including the queen ant) to feast upon in merriment. I expect to see less and less of my visitors over the next two weeks.
To rid myself of those pesky aphids (which by the way are in huge numbers on my plants from the excellent farming skills of the ants), I’ve been successfully using my peppermint spray I made (32 oz spray bottle filled with water – add 1 tablespoon Peppermint Dr. Bronner Castile Soap and shake up). This works great on squash bugs, worms/caterpillars and, of course, aphids. Just a squirt or two does the job. For squash bugs, squirt them a couple of times and watch them move slowly away and in about a minute they’ll drop dead.
- Disposable gloves
- Small hand shears to remove infested leaves
- Alcohol to clean and sanitize my hand shears
- Kelp meal to sprinkle around my squash to help fend off squash bugs (apparently, they do not like the smell)
- Cotton swabs (a squirt of my peppermint spray on the tip then a swipe on the teeny tiny feet of caterpillars helps to remove them from leaves and stems)
- Paper towels (to help squish stuff)
- Plastic baggies (to help collect pests for identification and/or disposal)
- and of course, Terro
Have a great and blessed day 🙂