Get Rid of Ants in the Garden

Gardeners despise ants in the garden. The tiny creatures frequently attack plants underground at the root level, and by the time a gardener realizes ants are in the garden bed, the plant is too far gone to be saved. Ants also like to attack plants right at the soil level. They camouflage themselves under a layer of mulch and suck the sap right out of developing flower and vegetable plants. Occasionally the tiny creatures become brazen and attack a plant bud or tender vegetable in plain sight of the gardener and even have the audacity to bite the gardener who tries to remove them from their food source. However, they have chosen to attack your garden bed, vegetables and plants, it’s time to get rid of ants in your garden once and for all with these tips and tricks.

What Attracts Ants to the Garden?

Ants come to a location in search of food, if a food source is discovered, they send the signal that brings in the rest of the colony and they set up a homestead close to a food source which is your garden bed or vegetable garden. Ants are attracted to the plant’s sap in the roots and stem and/or the nectar in the plant’s flowers. This nutrient-rich food source is irresistible to the always hungry ant because of its sweet taste and the abundance of it in the garden.

Ants are attracted by aphids which are a common pest found on many garden plants. It’s not the aphids themselves that are attractive, but rather the sweet, protein-rich, sticky substance (called honeydew) that aphids secret.

Usually to prevent or get rid of ants, you need to remove the attraction.  To get rid of ants in the garden, removing these attractions are much harder since that is the reason you have your garden.

Plant Damage Caused by Ants in the Garden Bed

Ants cause plant damage from the roots up. Underground ant nests damage plant roots, soil structure, stunt plant growth and can kill the plant.

As previous mentioned, ants love the honeydew secreted by aphids (they ‘milk’ the honeydew from the aphids) and will protect their living food source. While the ants enjoy the sweet juices from the aphids, the aphids are busy sucking the sweet sap from tender plant stems and leaves. This symbiotic relationship between the two garden pests causes damage and possible death to an infested plant.

Ants will also create entry holes into ripening fruit and vegetables so they can feast on the juices inside. Any nectar bearing bud or bloom is also a prime target for ants to feast on and destroy.

Prevention – How to Keep Ants Out of the Garden

An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure, because plant damage is often irreversible. The introduction of Lady Bugs and a pair of toads will significantly reduce the ant population in your garden. Lady Bugs will keep the aphids’ population in check and toads will eat a wide variety of other garden pests that ants feast on. Lady Bugs and toads provide a natural pest control for the garden and help increase food and flower production.

Ant and Pest Repelling Plants for the Garden

Marigolds are the one-size-fits-all flower that is a must-have in the garden. This pretty, but pungent, flower repels several garden pests, including ants.

Alliums and catmint are distasteful to aphids and will keep them away, thus helping to keep ants from infesting your garden. Any of your favorite flowers that attract birds should be tucked in around the perimeter of the garden too. Birds eat ants and will keep the plant-destroying creatures at bay.

Steps on How to Get Rid of An Ant Nests in the Garden

  1. Prevention – Repelling or not attracting them is the best way to keep ants out of your garden.
  2. Repel Ants – Set a perimeter with natural and garden friendly ant repellent and ant killer.
  3. Set bait traps outside the perimeter.  Use a product that has borax in it that is outside the perimeter and has enough distance from your garden.

Steps on How to Get Rid of in the Garden Bed or Vegetable Garden

  1. Preventing ants from nesting and forming a colony in your garden bed is the best way.
  2. Repel Ants – Plant pest repelling plants like Marigolds that repel ants and other pests.  Planting alliums and catmint will repel aphids which is a source of attraction for ants. Removing the attraction will help remove the colony.  Set a perimeter with natural and garden friendly ant repellent and ant killer.
  3. Sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth around your plants.  Read more about diatomaceous earth for ants and how safe it is around foods.  It is currently used to keep pests out of grain in agriculture.
  4. Depending on the garden you should set bait traps outside the perimeter.  Use a product that has borax in it that is outside the perimeter and has enough distance from your garden and use with caution around vegetable gardens.  Please read our article about Borax for Ants and human toxicity.

These outdoor stakes can be found in our store.  We recommend the TERRO Outdoor liquid bait stakes and the Natural Outdoor Ant Killer for killing and preventing ants in the garden.

Commercial Products to Get Rid of Ants in the Garden

Outdoor ant bait is our top recommended product and then we suggest after you let them sit for a couple days, use a spray to repel and kill any ants left.  We recommend the TERRO Outdoor liquid bait stakes and Monterey Garden Insect Spray.

Natural Ways to Get Rid of Ants in the Garden

As previously mentioned, Lady Bugs and toads are great ant killers, and there are several other natural ways to get rid of ant too. Safe for children, pets and will have no negative impact on the environment.

  • Diatomaceous earth sprinkled on top of garden soil, especially along ant trails, will be picked up by the tiny feet and cling to their bodies, causing the ants to dehydrated and die. Diatomaceous earth will impact other small pests the same way, such as fleas and ticks.
  • If you see an ant nest, apply a generous amount of table salt to the mound opening to make them move out and away from your garden. Chili powder, cayenne pepper or black pepper will have the same effect.
  • Place cucumber peels in ant trails to discourage their travel path to and from your garden.
  • Keep a watch for aphids (they hide on the underside of young leaves). Handpick and destroy when only a few aphids are discovered and blast them off with a water hose when a lot of these ant-attractors are discovered.
  • Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray ants, their trails and mounds to drive them away.

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