beginner in gardening - Knowledgebase Question

Hyattsville, Ma
Question by daniellebro
May 10, 2010
this is my first time gardening in my first home. What do i do to get started. the previous owner had flower beds, but the flowers had weeds growing in them. i sprayed weed b gone and dug up the flowers. how do i get started planting my own flowers. also, what do i do about the red ants in the flower bed?


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Answer from NGA
May 10, 2010

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I'd say you're off to a good start! Before planting, amend the soil with organic matter. I just spread 4-5 inches of organic matter over the bed. You can use compost, aged manure, peat moss, shredded leaves or whatever organic matter is readily available in your local area. Dig or till this organic matter into the soil - 8-10 inches deep. Plant, then mulch over the bare soil between the plants with additional organic matter. A 2-3 inch layer will help suppress weeds and slow water evaporation. At the end of the season dig the organic matter into the soil and add a fresh layer. Repeat this process annually and you'll end up with rich garden loam - and a spectacular garden.

Ants generally don't cause problems in the garden. If you have ant colonies that you wish to control, there are several things you can do. A good least-toxic method is the use of boric acid baits. Boric acid baits can eliminate some ant colonies in about one week. The trick is to not kill the ants at the bait station, but to get the ants to carry the boric acid back to the nest, poisoning the members of the colony that never leave the nest. Most ants feed either on sugars or on protein, fats, or oils. To see which type you have, place small dabs of jelly and peanut butter (not mixed) where ants are seen and watch which food they are attracted to. If they are attracted to the jelly, you can make a boric acid bait by mixing one-half cup jelly, such as apple jelly, with 1 1/4 tsp boric acid powder. Punch several holes in the lid of the jar, then screw the lid on tightly and seal with tape. The holes should be large enough for the ants to pass through to reach the bait. Place the bait jar on its side where the ants will come in contact with it. If the ants are unable to gain footing on the jar lid, you might want to scratch the surface with sandpaper or a pebble. If the ants are attracted to peanut butter, use that for your bait rather than jelly. If you find many dead ants around the bait station, which ever bait you use, lower the amount of boric acid in the mixture. If you are still finding live ants after a week to 10 days, increase the amount of boric acid. Although boric acid is of very low toxicity, it is best to place bait jars where children and pets cannot reach them. Or you can use Combat or Spectracide ant bait products.

I hope your gardening venture is successful. Enjoy!

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