Monday, August 20, 2012

Ants In My Potato Grow Bag!

"Argh!!!  No!!!!!!!!  What the heck?!"

"What's wrong?"

"I'll call you later!"


It's a good thing most of my phone calls don't end this way, right?

I thought my potato grow bag was doing well.  I really did. And, well... for the most part it was.  Except that I ran into a wee little problem that I was not expecting.


ants devouring the base of a potato plant stem

A lot of ants.

Leaning in closely, I was able to see that they were tearing off an entire branch of one of my potato plants.  I followed the trails that were made, leading away from this point, hoping that I could discover where the ants were coming from, yet I kept losing them.

Poof!  Just like that, I'd lose the trail.

Whenever I have a problem with my garden, I always try to find out why the problem occurred.

Therefore, I ran to my computer to see what could be discovered about voracious ants that are driven to lay waste to potato plants, with the specific intent of causing me mental anguish.

That probably wasn't the best idea for a search term, so I narrowed it down to 'ants attacking potato plants', and went on from there.  In the end, I discovered that most people seemed to care so much about getting rid of the problem that the majority of my results had to do with throwing chemicals at the problem, rather than finding out why the problem even occurred.

Now, this is great if you have a one track mind - kind of like those ants - but does nothing to ensure the problem doesn't arise again.

Thankfully, I discovered a few gardening forums from the UK that did talk about why this was happening.  That's right - I had to go all the way to another country to find my answers.  Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there were a few American sites that had the information, they just weren't as easy to find.

It all comes down to water.

I thought I was watering my potato grow bag enough, but upon placing my hands inside the soil, I discovered that the medium was a bit more dry than it should be.  Basically, my potato grow bag was filled with the exactly appropriate level of dryness for ants to happily build a nest.

This explains why I lost the ants every time I tried to follow a trail.  No doubt, they were entering their nests somewhere along the edge of the grow bag.

Fortunately, I don't have to throw chemicals at the problem to take care of it.

The problem occurred due to a lack of water.  Therefore, giving the soil ample moisture will cause them to become uncomfortable with their living arrangement, and they'll begin to look for a new place to build a home.

I can speed up the process by sprinkling some cornmeal at the base of the plant, as well.  In theory, they'll take this treacherous peace offering.

Why treacherous?  Because they can't digest cornmeal.  It'll kill them, tearing them up from inside.


I'm actually hoping that the water alone will work.

Remember my baby powder response to the ants that were coming into the house through my doorway?  It's the same basic theory.  The difference, though, is that while they avoid the baby powder due to recognizing the danger, the cornmeal is... well... yummy.

So they take it.  The ant version of a trojan horse.

Have you had problems with ants in your garden?  What caused your problem?  How did you handle it?

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