, Salem, MA


June 20, 2014

Teeny ants a big problem for gardener

Q: I need help with those teeny little ants which live in some portions of my flower border but not in others. When I kneel on my mat (my favorite weeding position) and start digging, these little creatures climb onto my gloves, up my arms and legs, under my shirt and everywhere. I do not even know they are there until they have bitten me. Is there something I can spray on the soil before digging? What can I do about this problem? It seems to not be quite so severe a problem once the soil is disturbed.

A: Wouldn’t you think that with all the rain we’ve had, at least some of the pests would have drowned?

For use in the garden:

Look for anti-ant and insect products that are primarily pyrethrum, which is considered nontoxic. These insect killers should work well if you can find the anthills. What is happening is that you are disturbing the hill as you dig or pull a weed, and they’re mad — and have come to get you!

There are also some herbals/natural substances that seem to repel surface ants: vinegar, cucumber skins, bay leaf, eucalyptus, citronella and orange peel, to name a few.

For applying to you:

Many of the herbals listed above could be rubbed on your skin or clothing. Any of the human insect repellents that list ants on the label would also work, but I’d rather smell of orange peel. Be careful applying any herbals or any chemical product to your skin if you think you might have sensitivity or an allergy.

Hope this is helpful — let me know. You certainly don’t need ants in your pants when you’re gardening.

Q: We live in Topsfield and are wondering why there is no growth on the hydrangea sticks that we have always cut off. Is it because of the past harsh winter, or are we too early? There is green growth at the bottom of the plants. Will you advise us on this dilemma?

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