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.

 

 

It’s Fall! Time to Start Preparing Your Landscape for Winter

Although you can still generally plant through November,  its time to start thinking about getting your property ready for winter. Here is a list of some things you should consider:

  • Leaf Clean-Up and Removal – Fall leaves can be beautiful, fun to play in and… well… messy! It is best to get leaf debris off your lawn to prevent winter mold damage. Leaves can also be composted into rich organic matter that you can add to your beds in the fall or spring before mulching. It is also a good idea to clean up fallen branches and limbs to help prevent winter lawn damage.
  • Bring in Your Annuals & Tropicals – Although some can be left out in a frost and survive, if you want to make sure they stay great looking before you bring them in for the winter (if you do that sort of thing) covering them with a cotton cloth such as a bed sheet or table cloth, do not use plastic and make sure the cloth is not damp or wet when you cover the plants.
  • Firewood – Stack firewood within reach, but away from your home. Stacked firewood can attract over wintering insects and rodents. So placing the firewood against your home or garage could attract pests that may eventually get in your home.
  • Water Feature Preparation – If you have a water feature that should be drained, disabled, or contains ornamental fish that can’t survive our winters make sure you have a plan in place to get it in order for winter. This will help extend the life of your water feature for years to come.
  • Fertilizing & Herbicide Application – Flowers are going to seed, and plants are getting ready to go into dormancy. Fertilizing now gives the plants time to take up extra nutrients needed for the winter months. Putting down a pre-emergent herbicide also prevents all those seeds that are being produced from germinating. Products such as Snapshot and Miracle Grow Weed & Feed can be used to help control weeds now, that may become an issue in the spring.

We hope this list reminds you do a few things to keep your landscape looking beautiful! If you are in need of a fall clean-up please don’t hesitate to contact us at (440) 729-1374.

Help Save the Monarch Butterflies!

This year marks a huge drop in Monarch populations. Although it is thought they will bounce back, the deforestation of their natural habitat in Mexico along with the disappearance of natural meadows and milkweed in the landscape, is not helping their cause…

HOW YOU CAN HELP:File:Monarch Butterfly Danaus plexippus Laying Eggs.jpg

    1. If you have a garden or even an area on your property that you may not mow or are able to let native flowers (weeds) grow, consider planting some species of Asclepias, including Common Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed and Butterfly Weed. Although Butterfly Weed may not thrive in Northeast Ohio, if planted in an ideal location it can survive. However Common Milkweed (which you can find growing naturally) and Swamp Milkweed are hardy plants. Common Milkweed tends to spread from its root system and many pull it out as it can get invasive in a flower garden. However, it can be maintained if kept up with. Swamp Milkweed is what you will most commonly find at local nurseries (garden centers rarely carry it as it is not appealing as many other perennials). It is available in White and Pink and does not spread like Common Milkweed, however the seeds can take and sprout plants up randomly around your yard, which if aren’t identified can be taken as weeds and pulled in spring.
    2. Plant Butterfly Nectar Plants near the Milkweed, including annuals. Most perennial and shrub butterfly nectar plants are later blooming. Make sure to fill your garden with annuals and early blooming perennials the butterflies that over wintered can feed off of. This will also help attract them to areas where you have Milkweed planted so they can easily find it to lay their eggs on. Some great plants are Lantana (annual), Verbena (annual), Butterfly Bush, Echinacea, Garden Phlox, and Yarrow.
    3. Let your weeds grow! Well, some of them anyways… plants such as Iron Weed (Deep Purple Flower) and Joe Pye Weed (Pink Flower, VERY TALL) are very attractive to butterflies, however many people pull them out or mow them down before they bloom. Some nurseries even sell Joe Pye Weed and Iron Weed if you want to add some to your garden (we do carry Joe-Pye-Weed).
    4. USE CAUTION WHEN USING PESTICIDES: Regardless if you are using pesticides to keep away Aphids, Japanese Beetles, Ants or other pesky insects, before you spray consider what it will do to other insects. Just because a pesticide advertises use for certain insects, doesn’t mean it won’t kill other insects!  If you need to use pesticides, avoid using them on plants that the Monarch Butterfly feeds or lays eggs on. Only spray the plants that are affected by the insect you are trying to get rid of rather than everything in your garden.
    5. Don’t squish that worm! Many of us tend to kill the big green caterpillars that are eating our plants… however they turn into butterflies and moths! Teach your children which ones are ok, and which ones you may not want eating your vegetables, although they rarely kill the plant, they may just leave some nasty bite marks all over them and leave your veggies looking half eaten… even Tomato Caterpillars turn into night flying sphinx moths. The Monarch is easy to identify, and will usually only be found on Milkweed (however they can travel to other plants). Here is a picture of a Monarch Caterpillar, please don’t kill them! File:Nymphalidae - Danaus plexippus Caterpillar.JPG
    6. Leave Chrysalis and newly hatched Butterflies alone. Disturbing the Chrysalis can damage or kill the butterfly. A newly hatched butterfly needs time to pump fluid from its body into its wings (they wings don’t dry as many people think) once ready, the butterfly will take off in search of nectar plants.
    7. PREDATORS: Monarchs have few predators because of the toxicity in their system from digesting Milkweed as larvae. Many toxic insects are identified by predators with their bright colored and black markings which is why the Viceroy butterfly mimics the Monarch. However, Milkweed can attract aphids, which attract Asian Lady Bugs (this is good right because the ladybugs eat the aphids?) well, no… Asian Lady Bugs (an introduced species) will also eat Monarch Larvae! So, although we don’t encourage killing every Lady Bug you see as they are beneficial in some circumstances, we recommend that you remove aphid infested sections of Milkweed and destroy them. The aphids will destroy the Milkweed anyways, so removing them will prevent Asian Lady Bugs from being attracted to the plant, keeping any Monarch Larvae a little safer.

You can also add butterfly houses and feeders to your garden, but planting natural nectar and host plants is always the best way to get them to your yard.

Stop in and purchase some Swamp Milkweed (or any other butterfly nectar plant) and receive a free Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle coloring project for your kids (while supplies last)!