Ants, aphids and snails, oh my — there are a variety of ways to get rid of garden pests but some are more fun than others
Fire ants, aphids, slugs and snails are some of the most common garden pests we encounter in North Texas. And there are different ways to get rid of each. There’s the right way and then there’s my way.
Probably the most insidious pests in a Dallas garden are fire ants. The imported variety, found in this area, is more aggressive than native strains and can cause more damage. They attack other types of ants, other insects and small animals and can damage gardens and even homes and electrical lines.
When their mounds are disturbed, they become aggressive. Their bites are painful.
Armadillos feed on fire ants, but attracting these creatures into the yard is probably not a good option. A better natural way of controlling fire ants is to sprinkle cayenne pepper around their mounds and along their trails. Also, mix citrus peelings and water and pour on the mound. Orange Guard is the natural, organic fire ant killer available at some private garden centers.
When those approaches fail, Amdro is the chemical, environmentally questionable alternative available at supermarkets and home centers. Sprinkling just a little on the mound usually destroys it within hours when ants take the bait and share it with their queen.
Then there’s the old fashioned Texas remedy that I prefer. It’s fast, efficient and I get to play with matches. Pour some gasoline on the mound, let it soak in just enough and then set it on fire.
Warning: this may violate some locate city ordinances. But it works.
Garden snails, or escargot as I like to call them, leave a slimy film everywhere they creep. Slugs are even slimier. Both like moisture and need water. If slugs and snails are a problem, water the garden in the morning so the ground will be dry before evening.
Before resorting to nasty chemicals, try sprinkling some salt directly on any slugs you see and they will disintegrate before your eyes. What fun!
Rosemary is a natural repellent as well. Try sprinkling some of that in the garden. It’s also easy to grow and does well in our climate and traditionally bad soil.
Set traps for snails by sinking a small bowl into the soil and fill halfway with beer. The smell will attract them and as they’re trying to feed, they’ll drown. For those opposed to the use of alcohol for moral or religious reasons — or if you live in Oak Cliff or some other "dry" area of town — grape juice also works.
Aphids are small, destructive insects that come in a variety of colors. More than 4,400 species of these pests are known. The best organic defense against these plant-killers is ladybugs. While most garden centers will try to sell chemicals and oils to wipe on the leaves of affected plants, the cute little orange insect with black dots on their backs are actually more effective. Home Depot sells a half pint of ladybugs for $14.95.
Or try spraying affected leaves with soapy water. That will usually get rid of an aphid infestation. Filthy little aphids just don’t like nice, clean soapy water.
But there’s something about going to Home Depot to purchase bugs that just appeals to me.
This article appeared in Dallas Voice’s Great Spaces Magazine April 16, 2010.