Love ‘em or hate ‘em, if you have a garden, you’re going to have ants too. Normally, ants in the garden aren’t a big deal, unless they’re fire ants, whose bites are something you’re going to remember.
So, let’s say, you want to get rid of ants that have set up shop outside. Should you? And can you? What are some of the problems they cause? And are there any benefits of sharing your garden with them?
These are some of the topics I’m going to address in today’s article and hopefully, I’ll also convince you that ants aren’t all that bad.
Should You Get Rid of Ants in Your Garden?
In my intro to this article I mentioned how ants aren’t bad for your garden. In fact, they can be beneficial for your garden in many ways.
Here are just some of the benefits ants can bring to a garden:
- They fertilize your plants, providing them with nutrients via their excrements
- They can aerate the soil when they build nests
- They collect dead insects
- Contrary to common belief, they don’t eat your plants or fruits (unless conditions are extremely dry)
But ants are not always do-gooders, so naturally, they can also create a lot of problems in your garden.
Here are the chief complaints of gardeners when it comes to ants:
- Ants can build their nest under plants that won’t fare well in the dry and highly aerated conditions created by the ants, this can lead to the destruction of these plants
- Ants farm aphids for their honeydew, so where there are aphids, there are ants too
- Ants are attracted to the sandy soil in rock gardens
- Ants can get into your home and kitchen, and you may find them overrunning your food
- Some ants will bite and sting, causing pain (especially problematic if you have small children)
You may have your reasons for trying to get rid of ants in your garden and it’s your prerogative to do so.
If you don’t want to resort to chemicals in your garden, there are several safe, natural alternatives you can read about below.
5 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Ants
Most gardeners have experimented with at least a few of the methods below and tout them as a way to deter and reduce the population of ants in your garden.
Here are the most common natural ways you can control the ant population in your garden.
1. Vinegar Mix
Vinegar is a cheap and available way to deal with ants in your garden or home. Use white vinegar and water in a 50/50 concentration. Pour this solution to where ants have their nests.
You can even “spice up” this mix by adding a bit of peppermint oil, which can also help keep ants at bay.
2. Cinnamon Powder
Cinnamon has long been used in pest control and for its antifungal properties. Use it around doors or windowsill, or wherever your ants seem to be setting up shop.
For even better results and an even stronger effect, use cinnamon essential oil.
3. Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is an abrasive substance with drying abilities known to dry out and kill insects. DE are essentially skeletal remains of maritime diatoms and they work excellently even as an ant repellent.
Things to keep in mind about DE and its efficiency:
- DE only works if it’s dry, if it gets wet, its drying properties will no longer work until it dries out again
- Ants need to get in contact with the stuff, so place it into nest openings for best effect
DE does not kill off all the ants or works the same for all ants, so you may need to reapply if the problem persists or if ants keep getting back.
4. Black Pepper Powder
Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that black pepper powder (or even cayenne pepper) can act as an ant repellent because ants don’t like the smell of these spices and avoid areas, where black pepper is laid down.
5. Coffee Grounds
Used coffee grounds are also believed to act as an ant repellent. If DE is efficient while dry, it is said that coffee grounds must be wet to repel ants, so you may need to lay down fresh coffee grounds to areas where you want to avoid ants.
While all methods I described are a natural way to get rid of ants, not all have scientific backing. Many are anecdotal ways, while some like the use of DE are backed by scientific evidence.
Because most of these things you probably already have at home in the cupboard, it doesn’t hurt trying them out to see which works for you.
Since not all ants are the same (there are about 22,000 ant species), some of these methods may work on some ants, and not others.
Can You Get Rid of Ants Permanently?
As I said before, if you have a garden, you’re bound to run into ants as well. Permanent eradication of ants is near to impossible.
Ants may temporarily move from your garden; you may reduce their numbers with the methods I described above but getting rid of them permanently is not something you should strive for anyway.
After all, ants do have beneficial effects too, so unless they’re truly an inconvenience to you, it’s better to make peace with the fact that your garden is going to have some ants sometimes.
With so many ant species roaming about, it’s difficult to say that one repellent method will definitely work over the other.
If ants are causing problems in your garden, creating nests that make mowing the lawn a bit more difficult, destroying some of your plants, or getting into your house, you may try some or all of these methods to see which will help you get rid of the problem.
Apart from these natural remedies, there are also commercially available organic products that can also help you control the ant population in your garden. These usually contain DE or boric acid.