Treating raised bed for ants

aclumAugust 15, 2008


I've got an 8' x 5' x 2' tall raised bed with melons and squash. Everything has been doing great - lush growth and lots of fruit - until recently. I wasn't able to get out to the bed for several days, and when I did finally get out there to examine things, I discovered that aphid farming ants had about taken over. In spite of my best efforts, I haven't been able to control either the ants or the aphids (trying most everything suggested on this and other forums) and I'm afraid I'm going to have to yank out all the plants soon.

Although I read the comments about ants not being all that bad, they are not my friend and I want to get rid of them before I put in a late summer/fall crop. Once all the old plants are out of the bed, how can I treat the soil to get rid of the ants without making the soil unsuitable for veggie gardening? I assume that some things used for spot treatment of ants - like vinegar, borax, oil, etc. - could really get the soil out of kilter if used in large amounts. There aren't any ant hills in the bed. When I flush the bed with water, the ants seem to emerge from between the boards halfway down the bed and from the corners of the bed at the top surface. I've been spraying them with soapy water/vinegar when they're on the outside of the bed and this kills them, but there seems to be a never ending supply of them!

Along with my fall veggies (thinking about brussels sprouts, garlic, maybe yams, carrots, beets), are there any suggestions for plants that repel ants and/or aphids. Seems I read that mint might be good (I know it can be very invasive, but haven't found this to be a problem in other areas of the yard). FWIW, I'm in the CA central valley and we have a very late frost date.

Thanks for any suggestions!


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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

You can use Amdro granular ant bait on the outside of your vegetable beds or edible crop safe ant bait containing Spinosad inside. Read and follow all directions carefully for the best results. These baits are extremely effective as they are taken down into the nest and eventually introduced to the whole colony.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2008 at 4:22PM
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I had a similar problem; built 4 raised beds and within three weeks had sugar ants everywhere (they managed to take out half of my beets in about 3 days). I mixed up about 2 parts peanut butter, 1 part sugar, and about 2-3 parts borax soap (just kept adding in as much Borax as the peanut butter would absorb). I made penny sized discs and put them around my boxes (would not recommend putting the stuff in your beds) and wow, the ants went crazy on it. Three days later there were very few ants remaininng and I have not had any problems since. Good luck in your battle...

    Bookmark   August 16, 2008 at 12:06AM
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Thanks for the recommendations! I'll give the peanut butter mix a try tomorrow and look into the Amadol and Spinosad.

It seems like my flooding the beds is sort of working as a temorary fix. I think there's a 50/50 chance that I can save at least a few of the plants. When I flooded the bed this morning there were very few ants (comparatively speaking) that emerged. I'm pretty sure they'll be back once the bed dries out a bit, though, so I'd like a more permanent cure.


    Bookmark   August 16, 2008 at 1:31AM
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Although I have yet to try it myself, diatomaceous earth is reported to be effective against ants and other pests and contains no poisons or insecticides. The large surface area of the DE particle makes it highly absorbant and acts to dessicate and kill the insects. You would want to apply it on/around the ant nests on a dry day.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2008 at 5:06PM
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Yes, diatomaceous earth does seem to be somewhat effective against ants. They make some with bait mixed in that seems more effective than the plain food grade fossil shell flower against ants. I mix the food grade stuff with the pet food to help keep ants out of the feed bins. It is safe enough for us to eat (and we likely do since they use it in grain storage to discourage pests.) Only drawbacks I've experienced with DE is the dust, it isn't really good to breath it or get it in your eyes and it will have a drying effect on your skin which only makes sense as that it how it kills the bugs, by cutting their cuticle and drying them out. DE is safe even for the earth worms but avoid dusting it on any flowers since it would be bad for the bees.

I've also used sticky stuff around the stems of some plants (like Okra) to stop the ants farming aphids or chewing on the pods and that worked well.

We are in Florida and the ants seem to rule here. The other half has a steadily worsening allergy to ant bites so we have had to resort to to using some stuff against them. In the garden area we are trying some spinosad product and hopefully that will help.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 16, 2008 at 5:21PM
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joyful_garden(9b-St. Cloud)

I would also suggest getting Ortho ant stop and putting a circle around your bed. Not in it of course but when I had those aphid farming ants on one of my hedges, I just sprinkled the stuff directly on the plant itself and they were gone the next day. I haven't had any success with DE but I have seen many people rave about it. I must be using the wrong kind. I use the stuff I put in my pool but I think there are different kinds of DE.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2008 at 9:37AM
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