The Living Landscape Journal
Dry, Nutty, Ants
For the first three weeks of October the weather was perfect. We saw sunny, warm days and cool nights. The last week of October the temperature cooled down with daytime highs in the fifties and overnight lows in the thirties. No real rain to speak of the whole month. October is ordinarily characterized by a handful of cool drizzly days and an occasional nor’easter or tropical storm. We are running about a five inch deficit in rainfall this year and soil moisture is low. November and early December should see a weather pattern change and bring in some much needed rain before the ground freezes.
This time of year, many animals are preparing for the long winter ahead. Nuts, grasses and berries are some of their favorite foods and this fall there appears to be a bounty. Most white oak, red oak, chestnut oak and pin oak produced enough nuts to fatten up the deer herd this fall. This is probably the reason we have not seen many deer grazing in the fields this fall. They must be up in the deep woods feasting on the nuts. I hope there is enough to go around.
Last month we touched on pest control and why it is important for our health to go with a more natural approach. Before pesticides were found on the shelves of garden centers and hardware stores, many gardeners had their own concoctions that worked. These homemade remedies use natural materials that are safe to use inside our house and in our garden.
This month we will talk about ants. For some, ants were a common problem this season, because the ground was dry and they were able to create their tiny underground caves without too much rain and flood damage.
I will start by saying ants are good. This statement will puzzle many people but ants benefit the soil. They aerate the soil and have the ability to control other pests like termites, mealy bugs, cockroaches, scales and beetles. The problem this year with ants was they were getting into our homes and were looking for food and water. The best preventative measure to keep ants out of the house is keep the kitchen and other rooms clean of food, debris and crumbs. Ants are always looking for a free meal. Maintaining clean countertops and floors, on a daily basis, should keep the ants outside. From a landscape maintenance standpoint, protect the perimeter of your home with a buffer. No tree or shrub branches should come in contact with the siding or roof. Spreading out used coffee grounds around the foundation of your house will deter ants and many other bugs from entering. Diatomaceous earth also works as a foundation barrier. Ants hate mint. Placing a sprig of mint in an area where they gather will dispense the group. Mint leaves, cayenne pepper, soybean stems, Tabasco sauce, soap powder and liquid soap all work well at keeping ants at bay.
Carpenter ants feed on decaying wood so houses in a woodland setting are more susceptible to carpenter ant infestations. It is important to locate the main nest to get rid of the colony. To eradicate the ants use carbonated water or seltzer. Pour the seltzer over the nest and the carbonation will suffocate them. This process may have to be repeated daily for about a week to make sure all the ants have died. Another way to get rid of an ant invasion is the use of corn products. Leave corn meal near where the ants are entering your home, the ants will carry the meal back to their nest to the queen who will eat it and die. We will continue this conversation next month.
Pete and the Natives