Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Get Rid of Ants in Your Vegetable Garden


Getting rid of ants in the garden has to be one of the most popular questions that I have personally received in many emails and posts on the vegetable gardening Facebook page.  I probably should have answered how to get rid of ants a while ago, but alas I have not created any blog post to date on the topic, so here are some remedies from the research I have conducted.  

Fire Ants: Photo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Fire_ants_01.jpg

What makes this topic tough is that not all remedies work, and with over 12,000 species of ants, not all ants are technically bad for your home vegetable garden.  So here are some home remedies that you can give a try.

The first idea is one of my own that I read years ago and that is to use cornmeal.   The upside to this method is that you will reduce the ant population, cornmeal is safe for your plants, and it is fairly inexpensive and widely available at any supermarket.

Cornmeal as a Solution


The downside to this method, is that it takes a lot of applications to start seeing results and you may not wipe out the colony, which is probably what you are shooting for here.

Another example of a good ant fighting method that is safe for plants, is direct spraying with a vinegar and water mixture.  Equal parts will do.  I have not tried this method personally as I like the cornmeal method, but the idea here is that the low pH of the vinegar is not good for the ants and it will kill them.

Mix equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle
I can see an immediate issue with this method and that is, if you have a lot of ants, this could be a lot of work.  It is also a direct method, which means you are only going to get what you can see.  I highly doubt this will affect the ant colony underneath the soil that you can not see.  If you have a small problem with ants, this could be quick and affective. If your problem is much larger, you may want to go a different route.

Finally, this third method is extremely popular.  Why? Because it works, and it's quick.  OK, fairly quick, but you get the idea.  That is to mix equal parts of Borax and something sweet like jelly in a bowl.  Then place the bowl where your ants are.    Because of the sweetness of the jelly, the ants will surely consume the borax laden concoction and kill the ants.

Mix equal parts borax and something sweet like Jelly

Borax, also known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate, is an important boron compound, a mineral, and a salt of boric acid. Powdered borax is white, consisting of soft colorless crystals that dissolve easily in water.

When consumed by the ants they are unable to digest it which really messes them up on the inside.  It has also been said that it wreaks havoc on their exterior as well.  In other words, Borax works as a great one two punch, outside and inside of the ant!

Also according to http://www.boraxforants.com/, when you make a paste with Borax, water and sugar, they will take that gel paste back to their queen which will wipe out their colony, and that is what you are looking for! 

There are even more solutions than these 3.  You can find them at Exterminate House Ants with 13 Natural ingredients.  There you will find all kinds of cool solutions, including the few I wrote about here.

19 comments:

  1. Borax will be safe in the vegetable garden?? We have a serious issue with fire ants

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    1. Debbie: I have not read anything that suggests it would harm your garden, so as long as you keep your mixture in a bowl or something like that. I would not spread it around though.

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  2. Whilst it doesn't kill the ants, an excellent and safe way to 'move them along' from the house, garden, and children's play areas (like sandpits) is ground cinnamon. Simply sprinkle it thickly wherever you're having trouble with them...it works incredibly well on both the red and black ants common to house and garden in the Midwest.

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    1. I have heard of that method as well, although I have not used it mysefl

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  3. You can use 100% Foodgrade Diatomaceous earth. I use it for ants and in the garden. Safe for humans and pets as well.

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  4. Wouldn't a bowl of borax laden jelly be harmful to birds? I would hate to see piles of dead robins in my yard.

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    1. It might be. Not 100% sure about that. That is why I use the cornmeal method.

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  5. I have had ants in my garden but was never sure if they do any harm or were maybe even helpful. I don't recall ever seeing them listed as garden pests. What symptoms would I look for (or should I just get try to rid of them anyway)?.
    Where do you find Borax?

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    1. Wayne, those are great questions. There are over 12,000 species of ants and not all of them are bad. Look for any type of plant destruction due to ants. If you do not see any, then you don't have a problem. In fact many species of ants are actually good for your garden and can work as pollinators. As for Borax, you can find that online at Amazon or even at some local home centers or at your grocery store.

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    2. Borax can be found with the laundry supplies at most supermarkets.

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  6. I mix cornmeal, borax and honey to get rid of inside ants. They take the mixture back to the colony and voila, no more ants. It usually only takes a few days.

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  7. Ant bring in the aphids as they provide them food. I heard to get rid of aphids to spray with rubbing alcohol. It may reduce the ants too???

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    1. I have not tried that method ... interesting

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  8. The cinnamon works

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  9. We have a HUGE ant problem in our house and garden. After many tries and failed attempts, I finally tried the Borax and it works! I use a little dog/cat food wet with a sugar/borax water solution, sprinkling a little more borax on top of the food. I then place the poisoned food nuggets around the house in areas of high ant traffic, being sure to keep it inaccessible to the pets. The ants swarm the food and carry pieces back to the nest for the rest of the colony and within 24 hours there is a significant decrease in the ant traffic. I can only imagine how many colonies are in our walls, we've done this 3 times and still have ants lingering about, but they are getting less. For the garden, just place the poisoned food in a shallow dish under a weighted flower pot and the ants will find it and there's minimal worry about pets and wildlife getting into it. Ohh, and change the food out atleast everyother day. I have found the ants like it fresh and seem to pass it up after its sat and gone stale.

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  10. Borax is also great for fleas. It is a desiccant and dehydrates them. The 20 Mule Team brand is very fine and just sprinkle on your carpets, wait a day or two then vacuum. You can also mix corn meal and borax together and use this to dry flowers to preserve them.

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