ants in pots

sammy zone 7 TulsaApril 1, 2012

I have 20 pots for my tomatoes. Most are 20 inch pots, or others almost as large.

We have problems with ants, and I do not want to use insecticides. I prefer to use baits around the pots.

This year many pots have been infested with ants. I have dumped out the soil, and will replace it, but need to do so now. I have sprinkled my bait on the soil that I have dumped, but it is not supposed to be used inside the pots, and I don't really want to put any insecticide inside the pots.

What do you do to avoid ants? I have a large rose garden, and swipe off aphids with my fingers. I seldom see ants in the roses, but they do like the soil in the pots.

Do you have a suggestion of a safe organic method of discouraging ants from the tomato pots?

Sammy (Tulsa, OK)

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Are you using regular garden soil/dirt in these pots or the recommended soil-less potting mix? Soil poses multiple problems in pots.

I have never seen ants infest soil-less potting mix since it is so light weight and watered so often.


    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 10:18AM
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sammy zone 7 Tulsa

I have two different kinds that I am using, but both just say "Potting soil". On the Oklahoma Gardening Forum there have been recommendations for soil-less mixtures, but I have not seen them ---- at Lowe's or Ace hardware.

Since it takes about 3 or 4 bags to fill the pots, and I have so many, money is an issue.

Even if we were to use the soil less mixture, it seems that during the winter enough leaves and debris would accumulate that the ants might go to it.

I guess it might be worth a try if I need to dump out so much every year.


    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 11:30AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Lowe's and Ace and Home Depot and even Walmart all carry soil-less potting mixes. Lowe's carries Sta-Green (a good potting mix) and Mircle Grow brands both and soil-less mixes will always say "MIX" or "Potting Mix" on the label.

Any bags that say soil as part of their name contain dirt. Miracle Grow sells Miracle Grow Potting Mix for use in containers and also one called Miracle Grow Garden Soil where it says right on the bag "Not for use in containers" but unfortunately many never read that part and have all sorts of problems with it in containers.

Soil compacts in containers, drains poorly, causes roots to rot, poor root development, stunts growth, and is prone to pest and disease problems.


    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 2:03PM
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pennypond USDA 10 Sunset 21 CA

Whenever I get ants around my plants or in the compost bin, I always sprinkle corn meal on top of the soil, around it. One day later all ants would be gone. I hope that will work for you.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 5:40PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Some organic ant-killers. Most I haven't tried.

Rather than repeat it each time, for 1-5:

= You'll need to keep these ant-killers from picking up soil moisture, so put them on small squares of cardboard or plastic, or in an upside-down small lid with low sides.

= Place near the nest or near ant pathways.

= Remove when you water or when it's going to rain.

1. Dry cornmeal or grits. Theoretically the ants take it back to the nest and eat it, and it swells in contact with the moisture inside their bodies and kills them. This worked for me, though it took a few days.

2. Same as the above, but crush a bit of uncooked white rice.

3. Mix 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup molasses, and 1 tablespoon yeast. The ants take it back to the nest and they all die. [Extra can be stored in the freezer.]

4. Mix 1 part sugar with 2 parts borax detergent; add enough water to make a gel. If your soil is high in boron, you shouldn't use this.

5. Ground-up citrus peel is supposed to repel ants. Store in the freezer until needed.

6. If the ants are nesting away from the plants, you can pour hot water in their nests. Seems to me I tried that once, but so long ago I don't remember details.

7. If the ants are nesting away from plants, you can spray them with a mixture of isopropyl alcohol and water. This is useful when you find a winged swarm moving to a new home. I have used this and they died quickly. I used the leftover pine sawfly larvae killer that I had on hand, which was equal parts of isopropyl alcohol and water, with a small amount of dishwashing liquid.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 5:59PM
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