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Starting a garden is one of the most enriching experiences a person can have – from a large vegetable garden to a tiny herb garden in your windowsill – a garden will bring you endless joy and happiness.
It’s just a pity that the pests, insects, and other critters make it so challenging to keep your darlings happy. And one of the worst is probably ants.
Ants can do some severe damage to your garden, and they’re a nuisance if their numbers start growing. Grabbing the insecticide is always tempting, but sometimes we would rather keep our garden as natural as possible and stay away from those chemicals. Strangely enough, the best way to keep ants away from your plants is with your plants.
Ants have a sharp sense of smell; it’s how they find food, each other, and how they lay down pathways to carry the food back to their home. If you can find something to repel ants through scent, your garden should be safe from these critters.
Should you kill ants?
This is a complicated answer and depends on the situation in your garden.
Ants can be very beneficial to your garden; they help control pests, boost pollination rates and support the ecosystem in your garden. Overall, if you have ants, chances are your garden will be healthy as well.
But at the same time, ants can be a problem as well. They help support certain pests, like aphids, and they can become a real pain (literally) when there’s an influx of them. A fire ant’s bite can sting for days, and the carpenter ant is no walk in the park either. Having your hands bitten and stung while picking your veggies is beyond frustrating. We can certainly wear gloves, but ants will crawl all over you, and they will find a juicy spot to bite on – trust me.
Furthermore, the carpenter ant, like its name suggests, so does loves to nest in wood. As a result, the ants can damage the structure, making the entire building or construction a hazard. If you live in a wooden house, chances are good carpenter ants will nest there.
So really, it’s up to you and your garden to determine whether ants are your friend or foe. If foe, you can try some of these plants (and tips later on) to help keep them out of your garden.
Prevention is better than cure
When ants start attacking your plants, there is a strong possibility that there might be something wrong with your gardening. Plants let loose a specific chemical to scare off any potential pests, including ants. So, if you have crawling ants all over your veggie garden, perhaps your first step is to make sure your garden is, in fact, healthy.
Healthy plants are vigorous plants, and they can easily repel what they don’t want on them. All of these plants survive droughts and winters without our help; thank you very much, so they are more than capable of taking care of themselves. But when we mix in the wrong soil, forget to water them, put them in too much sun, or the soil drainage is poor, your plants will become ill and will struggle to protect themselves.
So, after you’ve chased the ants out, be sure to check your garden’s health and make sure they are healthy and hearty.
6 Impressive Plants That Repel Ants
The best plants to repel ants out of your garden are those with a bit of a sharp scent. All of the following possibilities give off some wonderful fragrant, and some are even good for the cooking pot! Check out which of these will work in your garden, or perhaps there’s one you’ve been dreaming of getting.
This little plant has quite the scent, and as good as it is in luring cats, it is equally effective in chasing away ants. If you’re planning on growing catnip from seeds, you’ll have to damage the coat first. Catnip seed coats are notoriously difficult to break open. The best solution is to freeze the seeds overnight and then drop them in hot water and leave them for 24 hours. This should crack open the coat enough for the seed to sprout.
Catnip is quite a tough little plant and can survive in almost any soil type, and condition; plus, they demand very little in the line of care. When planting catnip, do be aware that it might lure some unwanted felines into your garden. If there are cats in the area, maybe skip over this one and try another. Unless you enjoy cats, then plant away!
A lavender’s distinct scent is hard to miss. Used in oils today for its calming effects, it can also be an excellent ant repellent. They originate from the Mediterranean; as such, they do require some severe heat and dry soil. If your lavender seems to be struggling, try easing up on the water and make sure it gets a lot of time in the sun.
There are numerous species and types, and if you take care of them, the plant should survive for a good few years. They have very few care needs but need to be trimmed from time to time to keep them neat and pretty.
A perfect little plant for tea-lovers, peppermint is quite a boss when it comes to repelling ants. With its sharp smell, it can even repel snakes! The plant originated in 1750 when botanists made a hybrid between watermint and spearmint. Peppermint was the result and thrives all over the world today.
They do require a bit more maintenance. Peppermint loves water, and it will need well-draining soil to survive. If you’re planning on using it to make oils, be sure to plant it in a sunny spot to help the plant produce a more potent oil.
Peppermint is also quite notorious for spreading quickly. So, when you plant it, be sure to keep an eye out. It can turn quite quickly into a weed you’ll have to eradicate if you’re not careful. Most gardeners prefer to plant them in containers or a sectioned-off part of the garden. However, you choose to plant it; the peppermint is perfect for keeping out ants either way!
4. Tansy – dangerous!
Tansy is a small yellow-flowering little plant with quite a distinct smell. It has a lot of benefits. It keeps ants, aphids, and other unwanted insects out of your garden and lures in the more beneficial types like ladybugs. They are an excellent addition, but they do have a drawback; they are very poisonous.
Although it can be used in remedies and even flavoring, Tansy oil can quickly kill an adult. Ingesting the plant can cause brain and liver damage, so if you have children or an overly curious dog, it is best to keep Tansy out of your garden.
They are a particularly hardy breed of plant. They prefer well-drained soil with lots of sunlight and can survive quite intense winters.
A perfect herb for chicken dishes, rosemary is a small herb and an ideal addition to any garden. It enjoys at least 6-8 hours of sunlight but prefers a drier climate, so don’t use too much water. Much like lavender, rosemary must be trimmed regularly to make it grow into a pleasant bushy state.
Rosemary is also an evergreen plant, so you’ll have herbs all year round! You can quickly grow the plant from cuttings; using seeds can be more difficult as the seeds need to be relatively fresh to germinate properly.
Much like its perfect counterparty, rosemary thyme is an ideal addition to any culinary expert’s garden. Excellent on vegetables, braised meat, and fish; it can spice up your dishes to perfection. They do require well-drained soil and lots of compost, and they love the sun. Thyme has the added benefit of luring in bees! So not only does it keep out the ants, it brings in those brilliant pollinators to your garden.
The only downside to thyme is it has a relatively short lifespan, around five to six years.
Other methods to repel ants
If all else fails, you can try some of these homemade remedies to keep the ants out. Whatsmore, these remedies can easily be used in the house and should keep ants from storming your home every summer.
You can easily combine these remedies with the plants above to get a better result – the more repellents you have on your property, the better the chances that your garden will be pest-free. Also, take some time to precisely learn which species of wants you are dealing with; some of these remedies won’t work on certain species. So before you go out to buy your ant repellents, do some research and make sure your treatment will work.
Try and find the solution or combination that works for you and your garden and start chasing those ants out!
A pretty expensive solution, but cinnamon is a tried-and-true method to keep out the ants. Sprinkle it around the border of your garden (or the specific area you want to keep them out), and the ants should scurry away in no time. Cinnamon is very expensive, so perhaps only use it when nothing else is working.
- Coffee grounds
Once again, another strong-smelling element that will deter your favorite pests, ground coffee beans, are pretty popular in keeping ants out of the house, so why no try it on the borders of your garden. Coffee is also full of minerals like potassium and magnesium, so it’s also perfect for your garden soil. What’s even better is you can pick up some used coffee beans at your local StarBucks, they should have some lying around, and it shouldn’t cost you a penny.
Just sprinkle it around the house and garden, and the ants should get the message soon enough.
Salt is an old folk remedy against ants. By making a line of salt, ants will be more reluctant to cross over into your garden. The salt physically hurts their feet. It isn’t very effective, but it can be used in combination with other remedies.
- Lemon Juice
For a more proactive approach, try lemon juice. The citrus in the lemon will destroy the scent trail of the ants and disperse them quite quickly. Mix 200ml water with 200ml lemon juice, pour it into a spray bottle, and you’re good to go!
Another excellent one to try, vinegar, works much like lemon juice and will quickly disperse the ants. The only problem with vinegar is it is far more destructive, as in, it can damage your plants. Spray a little vinegar on your plant, leave for a day and come back to see if there is any damage. Keep diluting until it’s perfect, and you can spray away.
Mix the vinegar at the same concentration as the lemon juice for a start.
- Black Pepper
Easily mixed into the soil, black pepper is quite an effective ant repellent. Ants don’t like things that burn, and they’ll quickly leave if their favorite plant now sets their mouths on fire. You can mix it into your garden’s soil, or you can mix it with some water. Around two tablespoons per cup of water. Add it to the spray bottle and coat your plants in it. Pepper can also damage your plants, so be sure to check first, like with the vinegar, before you start spraying.
- More aggressive means
Sometimes ants get out of control, and they start damaging our plants or even our property! If you’re a little hesitant in calling an exterminator, you can first try some of these homemade and natural poisons before you pay for the big guns.
- Artificial sugaring
If you want to ensure the ants won’t come back, you can try putting some artificial sugar outside their nest. The ants will take the sugar to eat, but it will, unfortunately, kill them. This should be done if the colony is growing to an uncontrollable size. It’s pretty easy for an ant population to boom, especially if there is plenty of food around.
- Borax and jelly
Borax is quite poisonous to ants, but they won’t pick it up themselves. Mixing some borax with jelly or syrup will attract them, and the ants will quickly take the sticky food into the nest. Like with artificial sugar, the ants will soon die out. They are keeping adding borax until the colony has died down some.
Also, keep in mind Borax is very poisonous to animals and humans, so be sure to keep it in a spot where your pets or kids can’t get to it. A safer option might be to call the exterminator to deal with the vast colony.
There are many ways we can keep ants out of our garden, from plants to homemade remedies to exterminators. Overall, we don’t want them to ruin our garden, but at the same time, they are suitable for the ecosystem.
Ants can be good or bad for your garden, it’s all about keeping them under control, finding that balance, and that becomes easy once your garden is sorted out. Prevention is always better than cure, and if you keep your garden pest-free and healthy, ants won’t be as eager to come and live there. They are, after all, predators, and if there is nothing to feed on, they will happily move along to a new garden to find some food there.
But also remember that some ants aren’t all bad. They are part of the ecosystem and enjoy helping you with other pests you might have. Just find the balance.
Keep your garden clean and healthy at all times, try to plant some sharp-smelling plants, get some of those excellent homemade remedies, and the ants will pass on by no problem at all.