Ants can be pesky creatures that sometimes invade your home and garden, but they don't necessarily cause harm to your plants. Although they may annoy you when you're tending your garden, they can actually be beneficial by aerating the soil while building their tunnels and serving as a food source for other animals. If you still wish to get rid of ants in your garden, though, there are several natural methods you can try.
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Natural Household Remedies
You can manage ants in your garden using several products you likely already have in your home:
Vinegar: Mix equal parts water and vinegar in a spray bottle and spray the mixture on any anthills you find in your garden. It not only kills ants on contact, but it also disrupts the pheromone trails they need for navigation. A downside of this technique is that it may dry out garden plants that are hit by the spray, so aim carefully.
Boric acid: Mix 1 tablespoon boric acid and 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar with 1 cup water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook over low heat until the boric acid and sugar are completely dissolved. Let the mixture cool, pour it in a jar with a tight-fitting lid, and clearly label the jar. Punch a few tiny holes in the sides of a 6- or 8-ounce plastic container so the ants can get in and add a couple of tablespoons of homemade bait to the bottom. Put the lid on the container and set it close to an anthill.
Depending on the type of ants you're dealing with, you may need to test different types of baits, such as alternating between sugar-based and protein-based mixtures, before you see results. Over time, the ants will ingest this deadly mixture and bring it back to the colony, cutting off the problem at its source.
Keep boric acid and baits made with this chemical out of the reach of children and pets at all times.
Soap and water: Stir up a super-simple mixture of 1/4 cup mild dish soap or castile soap with 1 quart of water and pour it into a spray bottle. Spray directly on ants to kill them.
You can also take advantage of the fact that certain strong odors deter ants. For example, ants are repelled by the odor of citrus, so encourage ants to go elsewhere by spraying their favorite areas with lemon juice, which wreaks havoc on the pheromone trails laid down by other ants. If you use fresh citrus fruit, such as oranges or grapefruit, try saving the peels, drying them out, and grinding them into a powder in a food processor or electric coffee grinder. Sprinkle the powder in areas where ants are not welcome.
You can also try sprinkling garlic or cinnamon around your garden, as both are natural ant repellents. Simply peel a few cloves of garlic and place them in your garden where you've spotted ants. You can do the same thing with cinnamon sticks or ground cinnamon.
A pleasant, nontoxic way to keep ants away is by planting herbs around your garden. Many herbs, such as lavender and peppermint, are extremely fragrant and ants tend to avoid them. Note that peppermint and other types of mint may be invasive when planted directly in your garden and are best grown in containers.
- Home Hardware: Have an Ant Problem? Here's How to Get Rid of Ants Once and For all
- Farmers' Almanac: 21 Ways To Get Rid of Ants Without Toxic Chemicals
- Kellogg Garden Products: Natural Way To Keep Ants Off Plants
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Ants
- New York Times: How Ants Sniff Out the Right Path