Ants can be annoying creatures, especially when they invade your home. In the garden, they don't cause damage, but they do carry other, harmful insects such as aphids to plants and tend them like little farmers, feeding off their sweet excretion, which is called honeydew. If you control the insects ants like, you'll control the ants. But they will return with more of their favorite bugs, so you'll need to keep up with your natural control methods and remedies. Whether your ant problem is indoors or outside, you can keep them under control without using poisons.
Controlling Ants Indoors
Mix 1 tbsp. of non-ultra dishwashing detergent with 1 qt. of water in a spray bottle. Spray this safe mixture on ants and on their trails, which contain chemicals that guide other ants to the area where their food source is located.
Spread a line of cayenne pepper and black pepper as a repellent across an area where you know ants are entering your home. As soon as you are able, repair holes in your siding, screens and other areas after you discover the ants' entry point(s).
Scatter cornmeal around the outside of your house. Ants like to eat this grain, but it will make them crave water; then when they drink they will literally explode.
Mix 1 tsp. of 99 percent pure boric acid with 1/3 cup of apple-mint jelly. The jelly attracts ants while the boric acid kills them. Drop 1 to 3 dabs of this mixture at 6-foot intervals along ant trails. Check your traps every day or two and replenish them when they dry up or disappear.
Controlling Ants Outdoors
Spray plants on which you see ants with insecticidal soap. If you control aphids, scale, mealybugs and other insects that ants "farm," you will also be controlling the ants.
Scatter diatomaceous earth on the soil around plants where you have noticed ants. Repeat your application of this natural product after it rains or after you water your garden.
Mulch your garden with cedar chips, which are a natural ant repellent.
Combine 1 tbsp. of dish soap with about 1 qt. of boiling water, then pour it into ant nests after dark. Repeat this application three nights in a row.
About this Author
Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.