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Thursday, April 19, 2012

And.....the Battle Begins

One of the consequences of the mild winter that we all just enjoyed is going to be an increase in bug activity. The winter just didn't get cold enough for long enough to knock their numbers down....this is what we are being told.

I can testify that the bugs of summer have already arrived in my garden. The evidence is already very clear.

I've even had to through a net over my basil because they were being eaten as fast as they could grow.
I included a couple of nearby toms in the net's cover because I have already pulled off two tobacco worms. They didn't show up until May last year!
My poor, beautiful potato plants are being taken down one-by-one.
At first I thought disease. But I researched and ruled out every disease possible. All the leaves were green and healthy---stem included. Then DH noticed there were a lot of ants in the potato bed. I thought ants were harmless, but after a quick google, I saw other gardeners with wilted potato plants just like mine and they discovered that it was the ants. One gardener dug up their wilted potatoes and found that the ants were even attacking the new potatoes. From their experience, the ants suck the sap out of the plants which cause the collapse. Some gardeners say ants are harmless and others testify that ants have and will attack the veggies. Both are probably right....it probably depends on what kind of ants you have and what crops you are growing. They're more opportunistic than anything and a freshly hilled potato bed was perfect for them.
This poses a huge problem. How do you get rid of the ants without sacrificing our whole potato crop. Can't use anything that can poision the potatoes; but have to use something that will get rid of all the ants. So, we decided to try our best to make the potato bed as uncomfortable for them as possible. We first disrupted their comfy surroundings and sent them scrambling. Then we (heavily) sprinkled the bed with cinnamon and pepper and then laid several dying cilantro branches on top. We hope these scents drive them away. I will be disrupting their mound twice a day until they are gone. Believe it our not, I have found this to be very effective. Anytime I find an ant mound in a spot I don't want it. I just kick the mound in and level it. I maybe have to do this twice before they get the message and move on. No sprays, ntohing.
Here's our potato bed after all the sprinkling and laying of dying cilantro branches:
I would be very worried right now if it wasn't for two of my buddies. You see the mild winter didn't affect the lady bugs and spiders either. So within two days of pulling those worms off my tomatoes, I saw spider webs in the tomato bed. You think those belong to my friend from the shower? Lady bugs have also been a constant sight in the garden. My 5-year old was recently walking across the yard very focused. I asked what he was doing and he said 'I'm moving this lady bug to our garden'. I was so proud :).
I've also got a couple of secret weapons. Companion Planting. We'll see how they do. But so far, the squash plants are untouched....as they are surrounded by an army of garlic:
The garlic will be coming out in a few/couple weeks. I hope the nasturium is ready to take over when that happens.
I have BT and Neem on hand, but I really want to try to not spray at all and let natural enemies do my fighting. We'll see.....Let the Battle Begin!


  1. I try to hold off on using my sevins dust too unless I truly have to. I really have not noticed more bugs than usual this year except maybe ticks and then some years are worse for ticks than others anyway.
    I do have ants in the garden but have not had them kill any plants. I still do not appreciate them being there however.

  2. I have been mixing 1 cup Borax with 2 cups sugar and 1 cup water. Boil on the stove 3 minutes. It ends up clear and very thick.

    Then I placed a little in several shallow cans (tuna). I placed it at the edges of the garden. It has not killed all of the ants, but it did kill that huge ant bed that got into the middle of my garden.

    This does not work right away. It took several days for the big bed to die. And I still see ants marching around the raised beds. But it has helped. I plan to mix up some more batches and try again.

  3. I had no idea ants were harmful to plants, I certainly will be on the look out from now on.

  4. Really entertaining post. I have an area of my bed where everything seems to die for no apparent reason. I have a vague recollection of seeing ants there and will take a look. Like Norma I wouldn't never have considered them to be the cause before.

  5. I had them pretty bad last year too (ants) and they didn't harm not one plant...I guess they were after aphids or something. But in my potato bed, they are the only possible cause. They are only on one corner of the bed and that is where the wilted potatoes are. The potatoes elsewhere in the same bed are just fine. The pepper and cinnamon has not worked. Disrupting them seems to be helping, but I am not sure if that is only causing them to move further into the bed or deeper. I may have to let them have that corner if I don't figure something out. They took out 3 potato plants, but haven't taken any more in the last week, so perhaps they have all the room they want...or they'll keep expanding. Who knows. My potatoes only need another month before their 100 days is up. Argh!

  6. Last year the ants ate a lot of my radishes. I'd never had ants actually eat anything before. I've had them carry aphids to things. But not munch directly on my crops. I'm hoping it doesn't happen again this year.

  7. I've gotten rid of fire ants with Mound Drench, it is a compost tea with orange oil in it and is organic, it's ok to use on veggies.