Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Gardening with ants

Gardening in the middle of nowhere New Mexico borders on impossible as far as I'm concerned. 
My hard water kills just about everything that the rabbits don't eat. But that doesn't mean I don't try. 
This year, I planted some lovely annuals in containers that sit atop plant stands outside the sunroom entrance.  
The rabbits have yet to hop that high to eat them. 
It's only a matter of time.

The rest of my garden is in a holding pattern. The area took a beating with the sunroom construction and path installation, 
and the lawn that once grew there is long gone. The Russian sage is thriving – it's very drought resistant, 
and the rabbits leave it alone. I've also got some clumps of mystery grass popping up around the foundation. 
I'd like to cover the bare dirt with sod or some sort of ground cover, but first I have to figure out 
how to relocate a colony of big black ants that has moved in.

I've googled hither and yon, but I'm still not even sure what kind of ants these are. Ants all look alike to me. 
I was bitten/stung by these little buggers a few times last summer. They're evil.

Poisoning them is not an option – JohnnyCashCat hunts in this area. 

I wonder if anteaters make good pets?

Does anybody know how I can relocate/remove this colony so that I can sit in my garden and put my feet back on the ground? 

p.s. Steel wool is at the top of my shopping list – thanks to all of you who told me the right way 
to plug the mouse door to the air conditioner! Living in the middle of takes a village.


  1. In my city dweller days with an itty bitty dog who loved everything, I used boric acid mixed with apple jelly. They carry it deep into the colony and share it there. Johnny CashCat could be kept out of it by hiding the source of the jelly under a couple of big rocks. Ants like that. Besides, I don't think of cats as liking sweets the way dogs do. It would help to keep Smooch on the straight and narrow.

    By the way, I also used the boric acid, straight, on the dog to whiten the tear stains in the corners of his eyes.

    Just a thought.

  2. Ants HATE baby powder and cannot walk through it. We pour some baby powder down the hole to shut the opening, however there is no guarantee where the next opening may be.... Could be 50 yards or 5 feet. It's a risk but it won't hurt Johnny. We have three cats and its the only one we use. The other that has been successful is boiling water and vinegar poured down th hole and across the ant trail. I just don't like the idea of boiling the ants alive.

  3. Two non-poisonous methods--hot boiling water and, because I keep bees, I also know to use cinammon around my hives to deter the ants. Works wonders.

  4. I have been researching non-toxic ant repelling methods for myself and came across the cornmeal method, whereby you simply feed them cornmeal and they bring it home, everyone eats it, and they all die since they can't digest it. Hmmm, in a perfect world.
    Then there is the cucumber peeling method, where you simply scatter cucumber peelings around the nest and they leave because it is inexcusably rude to litter near their nest! That's the one I'm gonna try, because I am an inexcusably rude person!
    Looking forward to seeing what works for you!

  5. You can pour boiling water or vinegar on the ant beds. It will kill some and discourage the rest. Repeated treatments may be required for a final solution. Good luck.


  6. You might want to try dish detergent and water mixture. It kills stink bugs and might kill ants too.

  7. I have done the boiling water and also used diatomaceous earth. It dehydrates bugs with exoskeletons....won't hurt your pets. They even have a food grade version.

  8. maybe let the girls loose. i thought chickens LOVED ants. organic as it comes!

  9. I had an ant infestation in my garden. They were everywhere. I tried all the non toxic things. Boiled hot vinegar etc and nothing worked. I guess they are tough living in this hard winter country. Anyway the boric acid mixed with honey worked and they didn't come back this year so far. They'll get another dose if they come back again. If you try the acid and sweet I would put a block over the top of the anthill so the cat can't get at it. Ants can live under heavy blocks. Good luck because they are hardy creatures. Best always,

  10. Yes, I was going to say the same as Rita....fence the chickens in there for a bit...of course I guess that means chicken poop in the walk but, hey, it will disintegrate...

  11. If you are not worried about the vegatation poor boiling water on the ant hill. we used to call it inviting the ants to tea ;p

  12. All the suggestions look pretty good, but an aardvark would be lots of fun. Not sure how The Princess would feel about that though.

  13. Well, I was going to be a smartypants and tell you "boiling water", but it's obvious that others are as smart as me. :)
    I do know that your mystery grass is called, Mexican Feather grass. Lovely stuff, won't get much taller than you see it now.
    In researching your ant species, I found out a cool thing--they are grouped in "tribes". Here's a link for your IDing pleasure.

  14. Diatomaceous Earth has been working for me.

  15. Ants don't like it when you pour boiling water down their hole......

  16. good morning Linda, don't know how to deal with ants either....they can sure sting ya tho !! haven't commented lately but still totally enjoy my daily dose of donkey/ranch news !!! wish you could have a tiny bit of the rain we have had :) keep up the good work of making us smile out here :)

  17. Yep, you have One Smart Following. I would have said a combination of the same. I think you need an ottoman and drink table for your chair. That would make it comfortable to watch the ladies dine at the moving buffet! "Entertainment in The Middle of Nowhere"

  18. On the Skeptics Newsletter they asked the question of how to get rid of ants and most of these have been mentioned here, but maybe you'd like to see them (and more) in one spot!

    Good luck, whatever you try!

    Jo in MN

  19. Both the boiling water and the chickens sound effective to me. Not at the same time, though. ;)

  20. Try drizzling them with Dawn dish soap and some Hot water.
    Also, I have great luck with Cat Mint (catnip) as a perennial that spreads everywhere. It repels insects and the cats love it. Also marigolds help with insects and rabbits.
    Good Luck!

  21. I use food grade diatomaceous earth (available from most feed stores)for ants and fleas. When I see the ants appear in the spring here, I sprinkle the DE all around the perimeter of the house, as well as in and around any anthills I find. DE is very safe, can be used directly on pets (to kill fleas) and their bedding, and is even fed to animals as a dewormer/parasite killer. Just be sure to get food grade and not the stuff that is apparently used for pools.

  22. I think your chickens would enjoy feasting on those little buggers.

  23. Hi Linda, know what you mean about these ants. Catch a couple and look under a magnifying glass. BEFORE, you incinerate them, see if they look like "pavement ants". I've got them in our mountain retirement place (also your hard water!). If you Google them, you'll find their bites will be similar to fire ants. No joke. Got three bites a month ago, they were 2" across and the inner red part was 1/2", they HURT!!! Skeeter bites are nothing in comparison.
    You have had lots of great ideas (especially the chickens ;-), some will only make the ants move around. Another method is a product called Spinosad. By all means check out it's safety online, for starters, It is labeled as *organic* and is also included in some oral anti-flea preps for pets. It is also rated for fire ants! For the ants you would just prepare some in a watering can and water into the nest. (While it's toxicity for beneficials like bees is *very* low, to reduce risk to negligible, if you spray it, it is recommended to spray early or late in the day when it's not windy and bees are not active and risk is negligible after the product has dried. **If you apply it to the ground, of course, you don't need to worry about bees, I felt the need to be thorough**)
    I would avoid vinegar as it is toxic to plants. Seriously. Fyi, I do use 1/4C vinegar in the rinse cycle. I think you'll find your clothes come out softer.

  24. Forgot to mention re rabbits. If you plant resinous plants, like your sage, you will have better luck. I would suggest also rosemary (one of my favorites), lavender, etc. Try looking on line at nurseries that sell xenoscape plants for your area.
    And P.S. if you try the spinosad, you can get it from Amazon, it probably won't be available at your 'local' garden center.

  25. One of the most unpleasant experiences I've had was standing near an ant hill. No sympathy for them from me.
    I second the catmint suggestion. It has a purple bloom and thrives on neglect. Love, love the Russian sage.

  26. Michelle from BC6/5/13, 10:57 AM

    Ants: I use Diatomaceous Earth as well as straight Pinesol in their nest area. Pinesol also keeps most critters away especially raccoons and skunks, works for us and cats/dogs will not go near it.

    Grass: you have Mexican Feather Grass growing near the house. It's a hardy grass and if you trim the top 2 to 3 inches each spring it will promote fresh growth. You have the perfect spot for growing ornamental grasses, they love hot dry places.
    Try Jeepers Creepers website for ground covers.

  27. Ants are the worst - Boo! Good luck eradicating them. Can't you get an armadillo? :)

  28. Hi Carson, You are the first place I check when I sign on, but I usually don't comment. Loved the sunset post yesterday, especially Alan's funny face and the cowboy comments from George and Smooch.

    Re ants, Jean had the right info about food grade diatomaceous earth. Never had them, but I was reading about preventing bedbugs because I live in an apt and that was the best choice. It can be put anywhere pest might come in a house,like by electrical wires and out a switchplate.

    They replaced our sidewalk and I had ants come in. Tried all the natural remedies including wiping everything with vinegar which was supposed to wipe out their trails. Didn't bother them at all. Then I got talcum baby powder, put it around and they were gone almost immediately and never came back. Got the cheap stuff at Walmart. Not cornstarch, talcum powder. Shouldn't be breathed or consumed though.

    And cats are attracted to sweet tastes so I wouldn't use anything toxic that is sweet. You have to be careful not to have antifreeze drip on the ground because it tastes sweet to them.

    Armadillo would work. That would be great if they chickens could take care of them.

    Are they the new crazy black ants invading the south? I'm sure a bug forum could id them.

    I look forward to each post. Wishing you some cloudy skies and a steady drizzle that soaks in.

  29. :) everyone has said what I would use... In my experience, with the D.E ~ at first you are deterring, not really getting rid of them. Takes a summer of sprinkles to make them stay away, and the moment you think you have won, BOOM baby ~ they come back.

    to use the D.E ~ go around where you do not want the beasts first, then shake a bunch down the hole. there is probably a back door too...they are wily beasts. Of course... after rain, and all ~ you have to reapply for sure.

    totally okay with all our domestics ~ (if it needs feeding daily, and leaves a pile behind to clean up, we own one) and it might keep scorpions out too.

    good luck! :)

  30. Ants hate lemon, and more sepcifically the green lemon. I think using acid and destructive products is not good for the earth and the environment

  31. We have itty bitty ants in the backyard and huge ass black ants in the front....or I should say had. Borax mixed with anything sweet. Vinegar straight just moves them to another location. Catmint works as does cucumber peel....
    None of those things will harm anything but the ants. You have mighty smart friends with lots of solutions that are pet friendly.
    Oma Linda

  32. Diatomaceous Earth. All natural. Cheap. Kills insects. Does not harm mammals.

  33. Ants can be a real problem. So, can bunnies, God love 'em.

    We have steel wool plugging every oriface in our house and we're STILL getting the little buggers!

    Good luck with the ants!

  34. Farmer Fred out of Sacramento recently posted about ants. You can listen to him online or via podcast. I would recommend contacting your local ag extension for advice.

  35. I use diatomaceous earth. Boric acid alone or mixed with something will work as well, as will boiling water and vinegar. But vinegar does kill plants.

    'Kaika's human