Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
August, 2009
Regional Report

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Ants may settle in compost piles that are left too dry.

Garden Nasties: Ants

Now we get down to specific nasties which may be plaguing our gardens. However, remember that all critters are just doing "their jobs" to survive, so many times it's more successful for us as gardeners to reconsider their natural bent as something positive for us as well. Of course, when something munches our entire crop or plant, more drastic measures must be employed. Here are some approaches for ants.

PROBLEM: Ants may be a general presence in the garden, but they are not automatically a problem -- after all, they do eat the larvae of fruit flies, houseflies, and caterpillars. However, they may also "herd" aphids, however, and then they do become a problem.

SOLUTION: Paint tanglefoot on trunks of trees to keep away ants and the aphids they herd.

A homemade sugar-and-yeast bait can be made very inexpensively: Stir together one pound of brown sugar and one-quarter teaspoon of baker's yeast into one gallon of warm water (80 degrees is ideal). If substituting refined white sugar, add a one-inch square of bread and one teaspoon of soil to initiate fermentation. For the greatest yeast activity and pest response, air temperatures should be between 50 to 100 degrees.

Ants are attracted indoors by sweet or fatty foods, so keep these foods tightly covered. Place cucumber peelings on cupboard shelves to deter them.

Invasion paths into the house can be disrupted by sprinkling them with kitchen cleansing powder. Planting mint, pennyroyal, southernwood, and tansy by doorways will drive them away. Within a 6-inch circumference of a nest entrance, stir in several tablespoons of Epsom salts into the top inch of soil.

Use silica gel to seal openings around pipes and treat areas behind cabinets. Carpenter ants don't eat wood, but they do nest in it and can cause structural damage. They are fond of moist or partially-decayed wood. Firewood that is stored outdoors should be elevated above the soil level, provided with air circulation, and covered to keep it dry. Inspect the wood before bringing it into the house, and bring in only a small amount at a time.

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