Natural Remedies to Get Rid of or Deter Ants

antEveryone is always looking for the safest way to keep pests from entering their home, or taking over in their garden. In some cases, old landscape practices such as using wood, or old railroad ties to construct beds is actually something these little critters are attracted to. In others, certain plants actually attract ants such as Peonies and Crab Apples.  Changes in weather and/or rain patterns can also cause ants to enter your home to take refuge, while their intention may not be to stay in your home, you can help prevent them from entering it.

The best way to keep ants out of your home and garden is to prevent them. If you have standing wood, lumber or wooden flower bed boxes, you might want to think about replacing them with stone alternatives. If you have a deck or fence you can’t replace with stone, this may be an instance where using treated wood or composite recycled wood products may be the best solution. Also, keeping well maintained firewood piles away from your home,  at the edge of your property away from buildings will help prevent insects such as ants and termites from nesting close to your home as well as rodents.

Some plants actually attract ants and in most cases the ants will not harm the plants. In either case, it may be best to plant these AWAY from your home, just like keeping a wood pile away from your home. They will eventually find them, and occupy them – so the best solution is to keep these plants away from the foundation of your home or other structures you don’t want them entering. Peonies and Crab Apple trees are the two most common plants to find ants nesting beneath or living close to. Both plants (along with some others such as Honeysuckle and Sugar Maples) have very sweet sap. The ants will chew into the plants to collect and eat the sap. Although this generally doesn’t harm the plants, they may look chewed up and be stick to touch where the ants have done this. In the case of Peonies, it is said that the ants may actually help the buds open by chewing them.

As far as ants entering your home, you may want to watch where they are coming from. Something as simple as filling a tiny crack or hole will keep them from entering. Ants send out “troops” to investigate new areas. They leave a “scent” trail for the other ants to follow if the investigation turns out to be successful. So, at first you may see only one or two ants – this is when you should NOT KILL THEM and watch where they are coming from. They will most likely lead you to a crack or tiny hole in your home. Because ants “smell” with their feet, remedies such as drawing chalk lines and using ground white pepper are often suggested. Although we are skeptical of the chalk lines actually working, we have read that the pepper does tend to work. Using soap, oil or other sticky or greasy substances may not be good in the long run, especially when used around plants.

If you already have an ant infestation and want to try to get rid of them, we have heard that using corn meal is a safe, natural alternative. The ants will pick up the corn meal as “food” and take it back to their nest. At the nest the cornmeal will be ingested and once it is ingested it will expand causing them to die. It is mentioned that instant grits may also work the same way.

Spring is Blooming, and so are Weeds!

LentenRoseIf you haven’t noticed the daffodils, hyacinths and crocus have blossomed! Breaking bud more recently are the magnolias, service berry and forsythia. In the woods you will see trout lily blooming along with trillium soon to come and jack-in-the-pulpit. The leaves on the lilacs are starting to come out along with many trees. It is finally nice to start seeing some green after our long winter!

gardenspadeLenten Rose (pictured left) is also popping up out from under the leaves. This plant comes in a variety of colors from green/white to pink/green to rose pink to deep black purples. Coming soon you will start to see redbud trees blooming along with cherries, apple and pear trees.

Also, although you may not want to see them the dandelions have also started to bloom – it would be best if you have them in your garden to dig them out now while the ground is still soft! Even if you spray them with a herbicide, they have a very strong root and may come back. In the lawn products like a dicotyledon herbicide (dandelions are dicotyledons, where grasses are monocotyledons and not affected by this type of herbicide). For in the garden, it is best to get a narrow shovel, wedge it down next to the base of the root (under the leaves) to pop the whole root out – if you leave any part of the root, they may grow back and be more difficult to remove the second time around.

If dandelions are left to flower and seed, they will spread, so it is best to get them before they go to seed or you will have to use a pre-emergent herbicide like Snapshot or Miracle Grow Weed & Feed to prevent them from germinating.

 

 

Happy December Thaw!

Today I looked outside my window and noticed I had several species of birds poking around for food including blue jays, a blue bird, titmouse and a chickadee that I noticed… So, I decided to go out and feed them and share some of the things I discovered.

First, while attempting to fill the bird feeder (which opens to fill from a little plug on the top) I’ve struggled to fill it just using my red plastic cup. On my garden stand, I noticed I had taken off the sprinkler spout of my watering can (it never worked well) and it happened that the sprinkler top detached off of that = instant funnel! So, if you don’t have a funnel available, and your sprinkler head comes apart, its not a bad alternative. See pictures below.

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Also, if you have a corn cob squirrel feeder, but no corn cobs, you can put a small terracotta pot over the nail (if the pot has a hole in the bottom which most do) and fill it with seed instead. You can also put seed on the top of rocks for the birds as well as chipmunks and other little critters if you don’t mind attracting them as for some they can be destructive in the garden. Empty cat litter bins also make excellent storage for seed and charcoal for the grill. They keep out moisture and little critters from getting in.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESIf you are like me, and don’t take down your annual hanging baskets, you can throw some seed in them as well. The birds will check them and chipmunks and squirrels also tend to bury seeds in them.

AND BEHOLD! My parsley that struggled most of the summer to develop is gorgeous and delicious! Check your garden for herbs that were protected by the snowfall before they get buried again. They are fresh and delicious.

 

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Home for the Holidays – Winter Interest in Your Garden

Here in Northeast Ohio, we are used to getting blasted with lake effect snow which is a atmospheric phenomenon that only occurs in a select few areas of world near large inland bodies of water. As we know, it can cause a large amount of snow to fall in a short period of time, which we saw recently at the end of October causing significant damage to many power lines, trees and shrubs. Although the damage can be devastating with a heavy, wet snowfall like we had couple weeks ago, it can also be a beautiful backdrop during the holiday season.

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Preparing Plants for Snow: In most cases, plants don’t need any special attention to protect them from winter temperatures or snowfall (providing they are hardy to our climate zone). However, some may choose to envelope their beloved plants with burlap or mulch to give them some extra protection. Here are some tips for preparing your plants for winter:

  • WRAPPING – Generally, it is not necessary to wrap plants unless you have something that is temperamental to our climate zone. If you are wrapping plants, use burlap or a breathable material. Plastic will not only damage your plants, but can also cause mold and fungus to grow and cause your plants to rot. You can also protect tender perennials or annuals (like snapdragons which can make it through the winter if they don’t get hit with frost) by using leaf humus or pine needles.
  • SALT SPRAY – Many forget that with snow comes the snow plows and salt trucks! Salts can harm plants along roadsides as salt spray can reach up to 20′ from the road. To avoid salt spray damage on evergreens, it is best to put up some sort of snow fencing or burlap to protect them against the salt spray which can brown out foliage. Also, if you live along a main road, it is wise to plant salt tolerant or deciduous plants that generally won’t be as damaged by the salt spray.
  • CUTTING FLOWERS & FRUIT TREES – Who wouldn’t love to have a lovely vase of flowers in their home before winter sets in? Make it a practice to cut of large flower heads of plants in the fall to enjoy them so its not a chore! Leaving flower heads on plants through the winter can cause the branches to be heavy, combined with a heavy snowfall it can cause branches to break and damage to your plants. Fruiting trees and shrubs should also be paid attention to. Trees like apples and pears that bear heavy fruit should be pruned back regularly to keep the branches from becoming too heavy and it also helps to produce better fruit!
  • TYING UP PLANTS – Some plants that have a columnar habit such as Arborvitae and Juniper may be loosely tied to prevent the snow from breaking or bending their branches. Again, although not necessary it won’t harm the plants to take the extra precaution, just make sure you don’t tie them too tightly and remove the ties in the spring.

Plants for Winter Interest: Want to be the talk of your neighborhood with gorgeous red berries frosted with a layer of ice and snow, winter blooming shrubs & perennials, or colorful bunches of branches or peeling bark in your landscape? Well you can! Below is our list of best plants for winter interest.  Although they may fall short during the summer months, these plants will shine their brightest during the late fall, winter and early spring months.

Ilex

Ilex verticillata – Fall, before the leaves drop

    • Ilex verticillata – Winterberry Holly – In the holly family, as the name suggests, this deciduous shrub will be covered in bright red or red/orange berries in the fall and through the winter. Because it loses its leaves, the berries become more apparent in the winter against the bright white snow. Branches can also be cut and mixed with freshly cut evergreens in holiday arrangements. Note – these plants have a male and female, so you will need one boy somewhere on your property or in the vicinity to produce the best fruit. This is one of our favorite winter-interest plants
    • Red or Yellow Twig Dogwood – During the summer they may look like green or variegated bushes, come winter, their branches leap out against the snow and dreary background. with bright yellow or red branches, these plants shine during the winter months. Branches can also be used as an accent in floral arrangements.

      Hamamelis vernalis | Witch Hazel

      Hamamelis vernalis | Witch Hazel

    • Hamamelis – Witch Hazel – Have you ever seen or smelled a Witch Hazel bloom? No? That is probably because it typically blooms between December and March! Plant one in an area where you will see it during the winter to enjoy this diamond in the rough. Witch Hazel’s typically bloom yellow or red.
    • River Birch – River Birch produce a beautiful peeling bark which can be enjoyed after its leaves have fallen. A common landscape plant, they provide interest year round
    • Callicarpa – Beauty Berry – Although most notable in the fall, this bright purple berrying shrub will hold its fruit through winter provided it isn’t knocked off. It looks lovely frosted in ice and no worries if it receives snow damage! This plant requires a hard cut back early in spring to looks its best throughout fall and summer so broken branches in the winter won’t ruin its beauty during the summer months.
    • Helleborus – Lenten Rose – This perennial is semi-evergreen and will hold its foliage into winter… under the snow new foliage and flowers are produced which start to emerge in the early spring months as the snow starts to melt. It is also good for deep shade and dryer soils.
    • Heptacodium – Seven Son Flower – A late fall blooming tree or large shrub, its graceful habit and peeling bark will make a lovely addition to your landscape.
    • Evergreens – Well, we couldn’t leave them out! Pines, Spruces, Arborvitae, Taxus, Holly, Boxwood (Boxwood is Deer Resistant!), Rhododendrons and Juniper just to list a few!

Looking for a Great Gift?

Gift Card FrontGet someone you love a Landscape Creations Nursery gift card! Whether it be for a plant enthusiast, a wedding gift or new home our gift cards are same as cash at our nursery can be put towards plant purchases, garden shop items, imaging/design and labor.

We have $25.00 gift cards ready to send out! If you would like to order a gift certificate please contact us at (440) 729-1374.