Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Ants be Gone

a closeup of single ant on grass

Pam and Ed’s Charming Patio

Hello Fellow Readers,

Pam and Ed of Sparta have a charming bluestone patio. The shady spot has encouraged moss to take up residence, which is lovely. The dilemma is, ants have also moved in. Previous attempts to evict the ants have caused the demise of their treasured green fuzz in the nooks and crannies. “What do you recommend for keeping ants out and the moss in?”

Certainly, pesticides would wreak havoc on the moss and plants surrounding the patio. Many people swear by distilled white vinegar mixed with equal parts of water and a squirt of dish soap. While the combo is effective for cleaning or killing weeds, it’s very acidic and will harm desirable vegetation as well.

There are outdoor bait traps with borax, the same ingredient used in indoor traps. Ants feed on it and bring it back to their nests. Borax, also known as sodium tetraborate decahydrate, is a mineral found in nature in the base of lakes that evaporate seasonally. It can also be made synthetically and is in many household products.

You can make bate traps by mixing one cup of borax with two-thirds cup of sugar and one cup of water. Dip cotton balls in the solution and place them around the garden. Not so pretty. Another option is mixing equal parts of borax, honey, and a sugar substitute. Spoon into open jars or containers and place them on their sides. Ants will carry the toxic bait back to their queen, which will wipe out the colony.

You can sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth (DE) around the garden. DE powder is fossilized remains of microscopic oceanic plants that destroy the waxy exoskeletons of bugs such as ants, bed bugs or fleas; yet it’s safe for mammals. It’s used in grain-based foods to keep bugs from eating them.

Some say sprinkling chili powder, cinnamon, cayenne or crushed red pepper flakes, powdered garlic, or cloves works to deter ants. The thing is, it will encourage ants to move elsewhere. Best to keep compost piles and trash bins away from your patio.

You can buy insecticidal soaps or make your own with one teaspoon dish soap to two cups of warm water. Spray directly on plants and around your garden to kill ants. May as well add a few drops of peppermint or citrus oil in the mix to deter future ants from moving in.

They say to sprinkle instant grits. Once eaten, the grits will expand and kill the ants. Which makes me think of the film, My Cousin Vinny. “No self-respecting southerner uses instant grits.” Good thing we are dealing with northern ants. Garden Dilemmas?

A cozy patio with desirable fuzzy guests…and undesirable ants

Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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