Tips and tricks to deter ants from invading your garden

With the drier spring conditions this year, you may find that you are seeing some ant hills develop in your yard or garden.
As I have deep sandy soils that are drier to begin with, I typically have many ant hills, but with the drought conditions in Thunder Bay last summer and this spring, I seem to have ant hills popping up all over. Fortunately, I haven’t found any inside my house to date.
If you are encountering the same problem, here are a few tips to help you with the aggravation of ants.
Most people consider ants to be pests. They are not a direct pest to plants but their burrows within the soil can loosen the roots of young plants and cause them to die. But on the positive side if you have heavy clay soil these burrows can break up the soil and loosen it for better aeration and soil drainage. This may not provide you with enough positive soil amendment to want to keep ants around though.
There are still some commercial treatments available at garden centres and hardware stores but remember if you prefer to use these to follow the instructions.
If you have pets or small children or just prefer an organic method of pest control then you can choose one of the methods below for dealing with your ant colony.
Ants make hills with the excess dirt removed from their burrows that house the colony. The healthier and the larger the colony, combined with dry weather, the larger the hill will become. These can be a real menace in your yard as they are dangerous to hit with the lawn mower or can make navigating your yard treacherous. Boiling water is an extremely effective way to rid your lawn of the ants. Take a pail or planting pot, with the holes sealed, that is large enough to cover the top of the anthill and place it over the main hole of the burrow on the top of the anthill. Heat another pail of water (preferably about 5 gallons) to boiling and then pour into the soil surrounding the anthill, flooding the hill. Save enough water from the pail to fill the pail covering the anthill. The ants will seek refuge in the dry confines of the overturned pail and once the pail is full of the colony you can overturn the pail and fill it with the boiling water, killing all of the ants inside. You may have to repeat this a few times for really large hills.
Ants are repelled by certain aromatic herbs and plants. You can plant these directly in your gardens to keep ants at bay and then distribute leaves from the plant in areas where you see ants. Mint family (all plants), lavender, chives, garlic, tansy and onions.
Either citrus fruit peels or hot pepper flakes mixed with enough water to make a thin paste after pulverizing in the blender, and pour on the hill or on the soil where ants congregate. Be careful with the hot pepper mixture as it can burn your skin or nostrils if touched or inhaled. Make sure to replenish after a heavy rain.
To keep ants out of your trees a barrier of sticky paper forming a collar can be used. There are many commercial brands and types available, but the thrifty gardener can make their own by using a piece of permanent shelf liner turned sticky side out.
“Cream of Wheat” or grits sprinkled on the soil will be eaten by ants and then the wheat expands inside the ant, killing them.
The old farmer’s remedy of using Borax (boric acid) mixed with sugar and a bit of water to form a thick paste is a very effective way to kill ants. You can spread the paste on a board or stone outside (protect from rain) or place in jar lids to use in the house. This can be poisonous if ingested, so you may not want to use it if you have children or any pets that will get at the paste because of the sweetness of the sugar in the paste they may think it is food.
An alternative to the boric acid, is to place drops of aromatic oils such as camphor, clove, lavender, spearmint, orange or grapefruit, into jar lids and placing throughout the house. Replenish as they oil evaporates.
Use any of these suggestions to help you organically deal with your aggravation caused by ants and soon you’ll be ant free.