How to Use Nature to Control Ants
May 23rd 2023
It's May and the beauty and whimsy of peonies is here. A garden myth is it takes ants to facilitate the blooming of peonies. Ants are attracted to, and eat the sweet nectar secreted by the peony bud. Ants do not harm the plants, and the plants do not require ants to open. You can cut the buds and take them into the house and let them open inside. Before taking peony buds or flowers into your house, you can turn them upside-down in a bucket of water to get the ants off.
Ants are a natural wonder but can be a constant problem. Although chemical poisons are the standard
solution, not everyone wants those poisons near themselves, their pets, their children, and the food they grow at home. There are options to cut down on ants in the garden that don't put your health at risk.
There are a number of herbs that naturally repel ants. By planting these herbs in your garden, you can cut down the presence of ants. Plant them around the areas you specifically want to protect or near doors and windows to keep them from entering your home. Anything pungent, such as basil or sage, will help repel ants when planted around your garden. The following herbs work particularly well.
Ants hate mint, especially peppermint. This makes it a great deterrent. The only complication is that mint is an insidious grower that will take over any ground it is placed in. So, choose locations for mint carefully and monitor its growth if you don't want it in your entire garden.
Growing tansy will work much the same way growing mint does to deter ants. It also produces lovely yellow flowers on tall stems that can be a good compliment to your flower garden. Unfortunately, it grows and spreads to fill an area almost as fast as mint, so be careful when planting and caring for this one.
Pennyroyal is used in repellents for a number of different types of insects, including ants. As a relative of mint, it does tend to invade the entire garden if not kept in close check. However, the sweet scent and soft lavender flowers in season may make growing pennyroyal worth the extra work to restrain it.
Ants Hate Marigolds
There are a few flowers that are known to deter ants from their area. One of the best known is the marigold. Plant a few of these around the borders of your garden or near plants you want really well protected. Marigolds have the advantage of minimal expansion. However, they are annuals that have to be replaced yearly.
Coffee Grounds Deter Ants
If you're a coffee drinker, don't throw out your used grounds. Coffee grounds have two uses when added to your garden soil. Nutrients in your coffee grounds will feed your plants, and the caffeine will repel ants. Sprinkle a ring of grounds around a tree or plant you specifically want to protect. Or, till some coffee grounds into the soil around the boarder of your garden.
Another item to add to the soil around your plants is citrus peels. Grind peels from any citrus fruit up to release the oils that repel ants and make it easy to distribute evenly. Add it to the soil in a circle around a specific tree or plant much like with coffee grounds. For even better success, try combining citrus peels with coffee grounds.
Ants Love Cornmeal
That might sound like a poor reason to sprinkle cornmeal around, but in fact it's an excellent one. Ants love the sweet taste of cornmeal, but cannot digest it. If you want to starve them out rather than just deter them, sprinkle cornmeal around your garden, or near the entrance to any ant colony you can find. Ant activity will spike for a few days, but should decrease after that. Add more cornmeal after it rains and whenever you see more ants.