Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Strawberries & Ants


Ants in your strawberry patch can be very destructive.  I don't mind a few taking on a snack but when over half of the strawberries I picked had large ant holes then it was time to take action.  My harvest had gone from 3 pounds of strawberries a day down to maybe a pound and one-half.
Picture on left is what I was seeing on a large majority of my strawberries.  Large holes and ants.  It is sickening to see that berry wasted on ants.
I tried onion water as a deterrent but it did nothing.  So then I remembered my cabbage plant that had an ant mound under neath it.  Soap.  I applied soapy water to the root area and the ants vacated the cabbage roots, so I decided to try my soap solution.  I am not big on killing everthing that bothers my garden, I would rather chase it away or use other insects to fight off the issues.  Suggestions of hot water, dish detergent as soap, vinegar, sugar with cinnamon or grits were solutions for killing the ants.  I really didn't want them dead I just wanted them to find a different food source.  NOTE: even if suggested NEVER use dish detergent, it is not good for the garden.  Use only organic soaps.

Earlier in the year(in the winter) I was preparing organic pest solutions and one of those was soap water.  I purchased an organic bar of soap from the Dollar Store, Yardley oatmeal and Almond, slivered the soap and put it in a gallon of saved rain water and let it soak, shaking it up every week of so.  I intended to dilute one to one but have since found out it will go much farther than a one to one mix.

I found that I could add about 2 cups of soap water to every two gallons of rain water for a great pest solution.  I then went into my strawberry patch in the morning and started to pick my berries.  Every time I was a berry covered or bitten by ant I gave the plant a douse of soap water.  I took about 8 gallons of soap solution to finish the patch.

In the evening of the same day I went out to see if it was working and It was.  Some of the ant mound that I identified and gone away, the ants just moved out.  I still found some ant chewing away on my strawberries so I either missed that area or they need another douse.   Now I was up to 12 gallons of soap solution and the gallon of soap solution I had stared with was still going strong (plenty left).

The second morning I went out to pick strawberries and voila most of the strawberries I pick were good to go and those that were still bothered by ant got another douse of soap solution.
I was happy with the results.  Soap is the remedy for my ant problem.

Other solutions suggest prevention by putting charcoal dust around the perimeter of the patch but since I didn't want to confine my ant I wanted to chase them away I will use a perimeter solution once I think my ant have vacated my patch for good, maybe preventing the same problem for next year.

This colander should have been full to the brim with berries, over half of my berries were destroyed by ants.  This is the picture on the first day before soap solution.

This colander (right) is the berries I picked the day after the soap solution.  Much better.
My patch of strawberries is in the background.  For how I plant and maintain my strawberry patch see PLANT STRAWBERRIES.
Go to for more information on Strawberry types and general information
Prepare soap solution:
I bar organic soap(oatmeal, almond, lavendar, mint)  unscented is good.
1 gallon rain water, or spring water, just don't use city tap water.
Shave the soap bar into small piece and put in 1 gallon of water.  I use a gallon milk jug.  Let sit for at least two days and shake to desolve the soap shaving.
Divide gallon soap into two 5 gallon buckets and fill with rain water.  Stir thoroughly.  Pour soap solution in a pour can, I use a 2 gallon sprinkler can with the sprinkler nozzle off.
Pour this solution around the base of the strawberries and on any trouble areas with ants.  I sprinkles down the paths of my strawberries the first day and then just applied to missed area or on areas still experiencing ants.
I put remaining amount of soap solution back into one gallon milk jugs.

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