The Q&A Archives: General Pest Control

Question: I have a container garden of herbs and strawberries as well as a jasmine and lettuce and radishes. I have a snail problem with all and an ant problem with the jasmine. Can I use Raid or do I need to use something else?

Answer: An insecticidal spray is not the best solution for ants in the garden, so let's address that concern first. The propellants in the insect spray you mentioned can affect plant tissues and cause problems with the growth and appearance of your jasmine. There are some commercially prepared ant traps that you can place in the garden that are in semi-sealed containers, to keep the poison contained and keep it from leaching into the soil during watering or rainfall. These traps are basically boric acid and a sweet substance (you can duplicate the product by mixing one Tablespoon of boric acid with 1/4 cup of sugar). Ants are attracted to the sugar and will take some back to the nest to share with other ants. The boric acid does them in. (Boric acid is generally available in pharmacies.) You might also try flooding the soil where the ants are nesting to encourage them to leave. Ants tend to nest in soils where moisture is available, but not in soils that are frequently flooded. Finally, try a thick mulch over the soil to help it retain moisture. Snail populations can escalate in a hurry when they have plenty of hiding places and lots of food. Begin your control measures by removing any debris in the garden that might give them a place to hide during the day. Remove boards, old plant material, clumps of weeds, etc. Then try trapping the snails, either with beer traps or inverted terra cotta pots resting on stones, elevated just enough for snails to crawl in and hide. Pick up the traps once or twice a day and destroy the snails that have collected. If you do this often enough, you'll reduce the population early in the year and will have fewer problems as the season progresses. You might also do 'snail patrol' in the early evening and early morning hours when the pests are most active. Hand pick and destroy any you find feeding on your plants. Hope this helps you achieve a pest-free garden!

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