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Garden is overrun with ants, is it because I don't dig?

(9 Posts)
MaryTheBookeeper Thu 24-Sep-20 22:02:02

My garden is utterly overrun with ants this year & ants 'farm' aphids on soft plants & young trees which really suffer. The aphids are really large this year & overtaking my plants. There appear to be no predators for the ants. I haven't dug for a year or two so the ground is like concrete. I don't think there's many worms around. But there are ant homes at the base of many plants. It appears out of balance compared to years gone by. Do you think this is down to my lack of digging?
For what it's worth my hedges are overgrown & chock full of birds. But the birds only seem to want berries & not the ants. What can I do to restore balance?

Callistemon Thu 24-Sep-20 22:33:52

If you get rid of the aphids the ants may go elsewhere.

It's odd, isn't it. We are usually overrun with ants in the garden but seem to have fewer this year. Sometimes we get a woodpecker visiting and he/she loves ants but we've only seen him or her a couple of times this year.

Perhaps ours have emigrated to your garden.

I don't think they are a problem in the garden, more of a nuisance if they get indoors.

Esspee Thu 24-Sep-20 22:51:37

You can buy a gel to get rid of the ants. Spray the aphids with soapy water. Make sure your plants are getting enough water as aphids normally go for plants which are under stress. Give your remaining plants a liquid food wetting the leaves thoroughly to help them recover.

LadyBella Thu 24-Sep-20 23:01:00

Green Woodpeckers love ants. In our last home we had several anthills. Crows used to peck at them and the ants obviously defended themselves - I believe they squirt formic acid at their predators. We never managed to get rid of the ants but learned to live with them. If you really watch them, they are fascinating. I agree it's annoying when they damage your plants though.

Callistemon Thu 24-Sep-20 23:07:51

I think it's the aphids damaging your plants, not the ants.
The ants take advantage because they like the sweet secretions of the aphids.

M0nica Thu 24-Sep-20 23:11:48

Even if you are going no dig, your soil should not be like concrete. I assume you are gardening on clay, what you must do is mulch your soil, to encourages worm activity They will aerate your soil, pulling down the mulch material and mixing it with the clay to give a good friable top soil.

Mulch your soil with any green material, either compost, bark chippings or a green crop you sow and then fork in. I put all my grass clippings on my vegteable beds (mainly) I only ever dig potaroes, how else do you get them out?

As for ants, some years we are over run by them, some years not. I do not think it has anything to do with cultivation methods.

SpringyChicken Thu 24-Sep-20 23:19:52

The soil needs improving, Mary. Struggling, weak plants are vulnerable to aphids. Ants can destroy the roots. Add as much compost and rotted manure to the soil as you can, every year.
When I began gardening, years ago, the ground was heavy clay which cracked and set like iron in dry weather. Out of every three newly purchased plants, one would just about survive. I learned eventually that it was better to buy only one plant plus a grow bag. The whole grow bag compost was added to the area where the one plant was to live.

Buy/make as much compost as you can, perhaps you can get hold of free manure - it's often possible. Stables are usually only too glad to give it away. Not a measly thin layer, you need about six inches all over every year for several years. Worms will return and soon you'll find you have wonderful, crumbly soil where plants can thrive. Given the dire condition of your soil, best to apply compost now and again in the spring to get off to a good start next season.

For the ants, there are biological remedies - nematodes. I have used nematodes for controlling slugs before - excellent results - so assume they would be equally effective for ants. Nematodes are pest specific so you'll need to order the right sort (online). Probably better to apply next year now because they don't thrive in cold temperatures.

Birds don't usually eat ants but love fat juicy ant larvae. However, these are hidden underground so are usually safe from birds.

Callistemon Thu 24-Sep-20 23:23:34

We used to collect manure from a friend's field but when it was so wet last winter we bought bags and just spread it on the surface of the veg garden. Even so, we've had some blackfly this year but not much and it was easily washed off the odd bean.

MrsRochester Fri 25-Sep-20 07:43:27

What’s your soil?

Ants colonise all of the gardens here, very sandy. We co-exist quite happily. Don’t think it’s your ants causing damage.