Friday, May 25, 2012

The Ant Farm

I often joke that if anyone stands too long in any one spot in my yard, they will be eaten alive by ants.  Of course, it's not really a's probably closer to the truth than anyone would care to know.  I certainly would not be sleeping on a cot at night in the middle of my patio unless I had sprayed the parameter and underneath with poisons, and I would never be placing that cot on the bare ground...never.
I do knock the little buggers off now and then with the borax meals, but I have plenty of toads and frogs that snack on these tasty morsels, so I must be very careful and covert to minimize the risk of ending my toad and frog population.  The borax comes out when the Gulf Fritillary caterpillars on the passion vines are being harassed by the ants living in the nearby compost bins.
It's difficult placing a plant in a freshly dug hole swarming with ants.  Sometimes waiting until they disperse works...sometimes spritzing them with a bit of pyrethrum is all that works.  It's risky business, and I've evolved to playing it precisely with perfection.  I'm so full of it ;)
As a whole, I pretty well just let ants be ants in the gardens.  The home front is a different story.  I'm boraxing ants for weeks at a time if their foraging trails lead to the walls of my home or the posts on the front porch.  I serve borax meals a lot.  It's a pain-in-the-butt.  I found out almost the hard way that structure invading ants like to snack on sick pets in the home.  I'm always on a mission to control them.
Different ant's living different ways or maybe it's the same ant's living different ways, whatever...ant expert isn't on my resume.  I just observe and sometimes act.  There are ants that will nest under a trash can lid lying on the concrete patio for too long, ants that nest on the surface of the ground underneath a leaf in the garden, ants that nest under rocks and stepping stone pathways, ants that nest in tunnels in the ground - probably the same ones that nest in the compost bins, ants that nest inside the hollow stems of plants, ants that tunnel and nest in dead wood or live wood, ants that nest in the foundation or walls of a name it, there's probably an ant type that uses it.  They are an extremely opportunistic race of social insects, and my biggest migraine in wildlife gardening.
I must remain positive about my ant farm that's too big to take to any show and tell program.  I remind people that ants are both the vultures and alligators of the gardens...they go after anything dead or alive.  I try to convince myself that they are more efficient at aerating the soil than any colony of earthworms.  I refuse to believe that they are here only to give me that final tap on the forehead pushing me over the edge of sanity into the abyss of insanity every gardener toys know...thinking that your work will be complete and you can enjoy the rewards of your labor before the first snowfall.


                                                 Dream on,
                                                 dream on,
                                                 you romantic idiot...
                                                 Reality deserted
                                                 your sinking ship
                                                 ages ago...
                                                 That glow
                                                 at the end
                                                 of all those
                                                 everlasting projects...
                                                 Just a tease
                                                 that you never
                                                 really seem
                                                 to understand.


Plants tucked into the gardens this year.
  • Dumbo Ears Coneflower (Rudbeckia maxima)
  • Celandine Poppy
  • Eastern Bergamot (Monarda bradburiana)
  • Apple Blossom Grass (Gaura lindheimeri)
  • Pachysandra, Allegheny Spurge
  • Royal Catchfly (Silene regia)
  • Indian Pink (Spigelia marilandica)
  • Netted Clematis (Clematis reticulate)
  • Pitcher's Leather Flower (Clematis pitcher)
  • Purple Love Grass
  • White Prairie Clover (Dalea candida)
  • Button Blazing Star (Liatris squarosa)
  • "Petite Pink" Gaura lindheimeri
  • Lemon Thyme
  • Hardy Sage
  • "Munstead" Lavender
  • "Blue Star" Juniper
  • "Mother Lode" Juniper
  • "Munchkin" Oakleaf Hydrangea
  • "Little Susie" Semi dwarf native Witch Hazel

Vic's being a terrific sport about the gardens...ooops...Vic just read this and informed me that the correct praise is...Vic's being an exceptionally loving husband, removing the super aggressive native wild oat grass, Carolina rose, and tree seedlings that pop up every year and are a continuous headache...seedlings like cork branched elms, Bradford pears, Ailanthus, red maple, and something I haven't been able to identify.  The project has consumed his days for weeks and he's still at it.  I mark everything that has to go with that 3-inch wide bright yellow caution looks like a gigantic crime scene out there.  He's my hero!

The Bermuda grass is another story.  The survivors in the prairie garden pretty much hold their own against that grass that wants to choke everything demure out of existence, and it HAS killed everything in there that was a bit shy.  It's terrifically hard to keep it under control without killing everything else around it.  It's hindered a bit with dabs of Round Up, but eradication probably never will happen, as the yard to our left is the one with the Bermuda grass lawn.  I'd like to drench that lawn in a Round Up cocktail, but I'm short of funds at the moment.  Our neighbors always remember to cut their lawn only after it has seeded...BAD NEIGHBORS!

Every year the gardens of the advantages or disadvantages of native gardening, as areas mature and crowd out the little guys, or new friendly seedlings need to be relocated.  Pathways succumbing to the surrounding vegetation are pruned and weed whacked back into existence, as nature rightly wants to reclaim her entire earth.  I try to harness her, and force her to live by my choices.  She's always planning and executing jail break after jail break.  She's a wild thing, and I love her; although I do try to make her semi-wild on my very small patch of ground.  It's a battle I'm losing.

Veggie Gardening Non-Deluxe

Black Cherry Tomato

Pink Brandywine Tomato

One Lonely Ice Cycle Radish

I'm traveling almost to Houston by car (don't ask), my chauffeur (husband), me, and a can of flea and tick spray...I really am.  I'm going to pester my mom a bit, and check out my younger sister and husband's digs way out in the sticks of nowhere land, I am.  Their goat farm's gone...kapoot!  Lots of work it was.  It's now chickens that pop out those eggs of green and blue.  Lots of work it isn't.  I plan to sizzle and wilt in the glory of Texas.

Tenacity and Fortitude


  1. I so admire those who garden. And I so dislike bugs of any kind, ants included. And? I am quite envious of your vacation coming up! Hope you enjoy the ride, the relaxation, and visiting with family. Glad your husband is on board with you in the gardening gambit too. That helps loads, I'm sure.

  2. Are you removing the suckers from your tomatoes? It looks like too much foliage on these plants! Also, tomatoes should be planted DEEP, burying half the plant when transplanting.

    1. Thank you. I tend to let tomatoes grow naturally, and that has worked well for me. The climber will have rope spiraled around each of three or four stems and fanned out and tied to the fence. The rest of stems will be removed. This method has always worked well for the plants and me.

  3. I am struggling with ants in my new yard is horrible!!! I feel your pain sister!!! lol
    I thank you so much for linking in this week. It is an honor to host Friday's Flaunt and meet new friends and visit the regulars (who are like old friends) who share. I always feel so privelaged to know that inspiration is just a click away when need a bit of a boost for my spirits! It is a pleasure to tour and see all the gorgeous blooms...landscaping and ideas that all the participants share, and I appreciate each and every link and comment! I have shared your post today with my facebook page for Tootsie Time. I hope you will link in again soon!
    ¸.•´¸.•*¨) ¸.•*¨)
    (¸.•´ (¸.•´ .•´ ¸¸.•¨¯`•.

  4. It sounds like you have a serious ant problem. On occasion, my husband has had to go to war with them when they enter the house. He's done the boric acid trick, bud do check out (from your library if they have it or try interlibrary loan - also at the library) Dr. Bader's book: 1001 All-natural Secrets to a Pest-free Property. He has a whole chapter (and it's the first chapter!) on ants. We like the concoction he recommends that the worker ants will feed the queen and bingo - the colony is almost destroyed (until they get a new queen that is). It does stop them in their tracks. For us gardeners: he recommends planting Pennyroyal, spearmint, tansy and Southernwood. Seems to work. My husband also doesn't want to lose anything to the boric acid/sugar solution so he uses a small container with a strainer on top of it that the ants can get into and not anything else can get the solution. Good luck!

    1. Thanks with the good luck. I'm not really into wiping out all the ants in my yard...they're food for other creatures. I don't want a "pest" free property. Can't attract the good guys if they have nothing to eat.

  5. The fire ants have taken over this year and I am resolved to killing them using any possible means. Each time I check on the plants, I am attacked because I am standing on another hill. Your garden looks beautiful as always! Enjoy your time in Texas.

  6. Since I pretty much live in Lake Michigan we have ants all over here. I don't care for them all over outside but we try to peacefully co-exist. I DON'T like them in my house tho. I finally go out to do some gardening yesterday....more to come.

  7. I won't let my husband by Round-Up. Nasty stuff, it is. He says that if I can find something that works that is fine by him.
    In the summer we have to put our cat food in the garage at night. If we bring it in and put it on the back porch, we get ants in the house.

  8. I am finding diatomaceous (sp?) earth works really really well with ants. I read a little study that two gals did. Friends lived in different states. One had pets and one didn't. The one with pets tried all the natural remedies for ants and the other one tried all the ones with chemicals.
    The only one that completely worked on them was this dyatamatious earth. It's all natural. I bought a bag and have sprinkled it around and it works.

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