afraid to work in lasagne garden...

midsummersgardenMay 16, 2012

Oh, how I wish I hadn't done a lasagne garden. There are...hills of things. Wasps hanging around. Red ants everywhere.

We didn't get the rain we expected this year, so the newspaper didn't break down completely.

Its not just a mess; I'm concerned there are snakes, ants, wasps or other creepy-crawlies out there.

I don't even want to go out there to work on it.

I've been staying in the backyard proper and just doing small-scale stuff...but if anyone has any ideas about how to get out there and work on it without getting bitten or stung in a bad way, let me know.

Soaking it? Covering the whole area with soil? I'm done covering things up with anything solid like plastic, sheets of newspaper or old carpet. Now, I have an irrational fear of what lurks underneath the coverings!

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leisa_in_md(z6 MD)

There will always be bugs. That said, I get the heebie jeebies outside, too! I've found that most critters will want to stay out of your way. And when out digging and weeding, I wear jeans, heavy shoes and gloves in case something gets angry. So far, so good.

If I disturb a big ant nest, I just leave and come back later once they've settled down. Repeat. they get the hint eventually!

I've had stuff not break down all the way, and I've just turned it all over and let it sit some more. Or plant right in it anyway and let the plant roots help out.

Have you seen anything bad, or are you in an area that tends to have nasty critters?


    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 3:43PM
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As you say, it's mostly an irrational fear. Fire ants, not irrational. Yellowjacket nest, not irrational.

But most things that creep and crawl just want to creep and crawl on their own business. They won't bother you. Now you just have to convince yourself.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 3:45PM
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Yeah ive seen what looks like two large red ant nests and wasps hanging around, we've had five wasp nests in another part of the yard we had to eliminate. The area that's infested I will just leave alone.
its interesting that its only the area I don't normally walk into that's infested. Most.critters sure know, where they aren't likely to be bothered.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 4:09PM
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leisa_in_md(z6 MD)

eeek -- sorry! Are red ants fire ants? We don't have fire ants here. I don't know what to do about that!

We have lots of paper wasps. I've been able to work right alongside them and they've never bothered me. We did have a couple of big yellow jackets nests last year, and we did have an exterminator come take care of those. They can be mean!

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 4:34PM
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You have to identify what's out there. Like snakes, most are beneficial to the garden, but a very few are dangerous. You have to know what's what. Mostly, wasps won't bother you, but yellowjackets are dangerous - only if you get right on their nests. Otherwise, just flying around, not.

A lot of perfectly harmless ants are red.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 5:03PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Think of it as just a big compost pile you have going. That's all a lasagna garden is anyway - a big compost pile.

Wet it down really well - use a hose or sprinkler from a distance if you wish - and many things will leave just because it is so wet. Get it soaking wet.

Then take a long handled rake/hoe/pitchfork out there with you and start poking some big holes in it. If nothing turns up then you can mix it all up really well. If it is still too buggy then back off and hose it down yet again. Concentrate on getting the holes you made really, really wet.

Then let it steam well in the sun for a couple days. The steam heat will drive most anything left there out.

If you keep wetting it and letting it steam several times not only will all the beasties leave (including the good ones unfortunately) but it will begin to break down into a usable patch.


PS: if you have some dirt you can mix in with it so much the better.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 5:42PM
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Thanks everyone, just tossed a hose over the fence!

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 7:42PM
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The Fire Ants are not one of those large red ants. The obvious thing is that they build large, as in high, hills. The ground is crumbly like other ant hills but taller, and they Are red. If you see a tall hill, look closely and see if you have red ants. If so, you will probably have to work around them carefully until you can kill them slowly. You put a poison next to the hill on warm days when they are out. They take the 'food' back to the nest and the queen and after awhile she dies and the ants go away. It takes a couple weeks as I remember.

The other point is that regular ants don't like foreign ants and will protect their territory and keep fire ants (and others) away. They are your friends so don't poison them!

There are more direct poisons that will just directly poison some and force the ants to move, but they will probably just move a little way into a more inconvenient garden space.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 9:07PM
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I have two tall Hills and the dirt is dark red. I didn't even consider they might be fire ants.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2012 at 8:20PM
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I (and others) may have misread your posts. First, you haven't indicated where you live. Fire ants may not exist in your area. I lived in central CA for 60 years. I had never heard about fire ants. We don't have them there. Soon after moving to NC, from general topics of conversation, I became aware of fire ants, copper heads, chiggers, ticks etc. It's amazing that anyone ever steps outside. I expect that if you haven't heard of fire ants, that you don't have them.

Second, it is not even clear if you have even seen RED ants. I live in central NC and our soil is red and therefore our ant hills of any size are red. I assume that the color of your soil is irrelevent, but I could be wrong about that. Perhaps fire ants only thrive in iron rich oxygenated soils?

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 7:54AM
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Wasps, including yellow jackets, eat aphids and other bugs harmful to your plants. Long as you don't grab hold of one or threaten the nest, you're fine.

Fireants can be controlled with boiling water poured on the nest early in the A.M. when the queen is close to the top. Fry the queen, etc.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 9:45AM
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With the boiling water add a little dish soap for added results. In west Texas they have large red ants and they are mean but only if you step in their work area. They remove all living plants around their flat hole and also cut a path to their food supply. When they bit your will know when, it will raise a welt about the size of a silver dollar. You can drive some places in Texas and look out into the fields and see fire ant mounds every so many feet apart. They go quite deep and this is sometimes the problem of getting rid of them as you may kill many of them but they protect the queen and will move her to a new location if she lives, if not they will make a new queen.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 10:16AM
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zzackey(8b GA)

Fire ants live in the south in sandy soil. I doubt you have them that far north. If you get bit by a fire ant, dab some ammonia on the bite as soon as possible. It will take away the pain and you won't swell up.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 12:14PM
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I think some of us assumed the OP believed there were fire ants because of the reference to large mounds, and because these are actually a reason for caution.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 1:24PM
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Fire ants are in four groups according to the Master Garden class on pest.
Invasive fire ants are in Southeast,South & Southwest, also CA.

Here is a link that might be useful: Invasive Fire Ants.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 2:25PM
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natal(Louisiana 8b)

There are definitely fire ants in California.

Control is determined by where the mounds are located. Amdro is fine for lawns and flower beds, but not veggie gardens. Conserve is the control that's safe for food.

Here is a link that might be useful: fire ants in California (UC Davis)

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 4:00PM
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The spread of these ants is slow but unfortunately progressive. I didn't realize that fire ants had gotten up to LA. I hadn't actually said that fire ants were not in any of CA, but I admit that I hadn't realized that they were already down there. Us northern Californians tend to think of southern CA as another state anyway!

ltilton, I misread again. I see that the OP did mention mounds and lots of red ants in the initial post. I got distracted by the second post and the red soil thing.

I would like to point out that my prescription for irradication exactly matches that found in the 'fire ants in California (UC Davis)' link above. My addition was not to kill other ants because they will fight to keep fire ants away. These methods are the official methods taught by all ag extension agents in North Carolina counties.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 8:52PM
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Ants and wasps and other pests can move into any garden - I don't think it being a lasagna garden may be the main problem.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 9:46PM
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After reading the link (which interestingly was written just up the road from me in Davis!); the descriptions of fireant hills are dead on with what I'm seeing back there. Also I disagree about wasps. These wasps were aggressively chasing us....divebombing our heads. At one point my daughter and I had to run full tilt into the house and slam the door shut. All we were doing was swimming in our pool several feet from their nests. I'm all for getting back to nature but there's only so much I'll tolerate for a hobby.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 10:24PM
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