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Jul 13, 2009 01:07 PM

Ants in our Organic Garden

I am the Chair of our Community Garden in San Diego. Many of our plots that have chard is being attacked by ants. Does anyone have an organic suggestion to rid the garden of ants?


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  1. There's no reason that I can think of why ants would go for chard. More likely, the chard has an aphid infestation, and that's what's drawing the ants. (The ants feed on the sugary "honeydew" that the aphids secrete.)

    Check for aphids. If (when) you find them, go after them with a garlic or soap spray. Apply daily until they're gone.

    1. Agreed that the ants, themselves, aren't feeding on the chard.

      When ants are the problem, they can be eliminated by a bait trap set with Ant Terro or their multi-insect "green" bait made with boron. The ants take it back to the colony and it eventually kills the colony off. However, most species of ants cure more problems than they cause and I would avoid trying to eradicate them.

      3 Replies
      1. re: weezycom

        Is the boron organic. The added problem is that the gardeners cant take the chard home because they are covered in ants, the ants will get all over the cars and kitchens in transport.

        Thanks for the advice.

        1. re: normalheightsfoodie

          Boron is "organic" in that it's natural, but it's also pretty toxic. That's why it's used to kill bugs!

          I agree with weezycom that you shouldn't try to get *rid* of the ants. If the problem is in transport, repeatedly dunking a bunch of chard in a bucket full of water would help immensely. Maybe keep a communal bucket in your garden that all gardeners can access?

          1. re: normalheightsfoodie

            Lead's organic. Doesn't mean it's safe.

            As with many elements, many plants and animals require a small amount of boron to live; too much kills.

            Ants don't eat chard. If you have aphids, try blasting them off with water. You'll need to do this repeatedly.

            But the real answer is, if you want to go organic, stop expecting your food to look like the stuff at the grocery store.

        2. Whether the ants are going for chard or the aphids, a good way to get rid of them is Boric acid (as one poster said) or Diatomaceous (sp?) Earth, aka DE. Both of these are organic, but one should be careful not to breathe either one in. Skin contact is usually ok. You sprinkle it on the earth where their trail is, and basically it dries out the little ant bodies. It doesn't get rid of the nest though, so if you want that, I guess you would have to go with something else. We have ants (in our kitchen, so I was afraid to use some chemical), and so far this has helped us.

          1. I am having a similar problem with the ants swarming the base of the chard, not so much the rest of the plant. We did have a problem with a few aphids going after our beans, but since our aphid deterring flowers bloomed I have not seen any aphids. The areas of our garden playing host to the ants seem to be doing better than the rest of the garden. The chard leaves coming up seem to be much curlier than they should, but the leaf rot they had has disappeared. I think the ants may be devouring whatever it was in the soil that was causing the leaf rot on my chard. Anyway, the way I see it; no harm no foul. Let the ants be, as long as they are not actively eating your garden.

            1 Reply
            1. re: dnshuford9

              Which aphid-deterring flowers have you used? I planted Nasturtiums everywhere this year and they are not doing their job. However, they've great to eat in our salads (flowers and leaves). They have no bugs whatsoever.

              We have a horrific problem with Argentine ants and aphids in southern CA. Our town and beyond is literally built on top of a network of colonies that has spread over a radius of something like 80 miles. It's probably the same network that caused this post to be written. Our pesticide guy filled me in.

              Nothing I have tried has worked so far (and I've done everything recommended in this post and more). I even have 13 AntPro baits surrounding my gardens (it's in an area the size that requires only 1 bait). AntPro is basically bulk boron + water + sugar to attract the ants and kill the whole nest. Professional farmers use it for their crops.

              My best solution has been to spray diluted neem oil on the aphids (they are too plentiful to use just water and soap). But in our heat, the neem oil burnt the leaves. I used a 2% time I'll try 0.5%). Neem is stronger than what I really want to use, but I'm working on the 3rd level of offensive methods at this point).

              Prior to neem I brought in 3 types of beneficials to attack the aphids: lady bugs, green lacewing (eggs), and praying mantis (eggs)--brought the mantis mostly for my grasshopper problem. ALL of them were destroyed by the ants before they could do anything. Argentine ants are ferocious. They kill anything that will attack their aphids. They even drive other types of ants away. In fact, one species of frogs in our area have completely disappeared because their food source was one of the ant types that the Argentina ants conquered.

              It's pretty much a nightmare when you have Argentine ants. We finally had to have the perimeter of our house sprayed after I tried fighting them organically for four years. They come into the house in droves. We can't use the same stuff in or near the garden. I finally broke down and called the pesticide company one morning when I had to take a shower with a dozen ants.

              My pesticide company has so much ant and spider business in our area that they ONLY treat Argentine ants and spiders. In fact, we live on the outskirts of our town and they decided they won't come out this far any more. They are specializing in a town of 100,000 people and thriving just working for them!

              Please let me know what flowers are working for you! Thanks!

            2. Hi normalheightsfoodie,
              Are you still having a problem? I realize this is an old post. I'd like to discuss if you are because I am, too (I'm an hour north of San Diego). I also posted the reply above to dnshuford9 so you can read about my saga. Thanks!