At War with the Ants

Today was a garden day. When you live in an apartment complex, gardening past your porch takes some creativity. Luckily, I am a part of a local community garden that I helped build in the past, so I do get some in-ground gardening space and a compost bin.

Compost was a big part of my visit. My garden is pretty plant it and leave it, with a thick layer of mulch and a sprinkler system. I have a container I put my compost in with a carbon filter on the top to hold my scraps, and when it is full (or to be honest, moldy) I take it off to the bin.


This is my community garden. I am very fortunate to have multiple spigots, seeds, and community produce at my disposal. My plot is in the far back, conveniently close to the greenhouse.

Although growing up in Hawai’i had its advantages (like year round gardening), I do love being able to grow cool weather crops and being forced to let my soil rest once a year. But, there is one thing I do miss about Hawai’i, a lack of fire ants in my garden.

I have been having a big problem with ants in my bed. When I revitalized my plot a few months ago, I literally shoveled out a colony into the woods. Now, the problem is less severe, but I have to keep them from coming from other plots or the grass. In an organic garden far from your house, it can be especially hard to fight the ants.

Pouring boiling water is hard when you don’t have an outlet or stove near by. Pesticides won’t do either. For my solution, I turn to the laundry room. When ants get bad, I mix 1 part sugar, 1 part borax to spread around my garden.

 

Borax is a natural substance, but is toxic to ants when ingested. The sugar attracts the ants, and they come out to take the mix back to the colony. Here you can see right after sprinkling there are already some takers (not fire ants, but still ants hurting my plants).

 

 

 

 

Here is my plot with the border of the borax/sugar mix. After spreading a good perimeter of the mix (my ants are usually only an issue around the brick border of my plot, I was able to begin harvesting some garden treats.

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We are verging on full blown cucumber season here in North Carolina. The scattered plants among the plots are pumping out cukes. Although my plant only had one to offer me, the community plots helped give me a more hefty harvest.

 

 

From one…

to four!

 

 

 

After a quick look at the community fruit, I saw the figs were finally ready! I picked all the (mostly) ripe figs I could see to let ripen on the counter. (The truly ripe ones are always eaten by the birds.)

Not a bad day in the garden, fought with ants, got a good harvest, and got out before the North Carolina sun began to beat down its July heat. If the borax doesn’t do the trick, I’ll try some Diatomaceous Earth next. What have you done to combat ants in your garden?

2 comments on “At War with the Ants

  1. Ants are a problem when I have to use beer traps for slugs. I’ve found diatomaceous earth works ok but not if you are overhead watering, you will need to reapply once the ground has dried. You could try spinosads too.

    1. Spinosads, I’ll have to look into that. The borax seems to be working well, despite rain, so for now I’m pleased with the results. Happy gardening!

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