Gardening with Laurie: Rain brings out good, bad

Laurie Garretson

Who would have thought we would be having these wonderful rain showers in the middle of July? And there isn't even a hurricane associated with it. We were also very fortunate to have rain showers this past spring. We gardeners must be doing something right. Let's keep it up.

Although rain brings much relief to the scorched earth, it also brings a few undesirable things with it, such as mosquitoes and ants. Just to name two. Like it or not, we have to take the good with the bad.

It seems to me that there has been an unusually high population of mosquitoes this summer. Of course, our rain showers do contribute to their happiness and wellbeing. There are a few things that we can do to lessen the mosquito population in our yards.

First of all, let's think about how we get these pesky creatures. Mama mosquito wants to lay eggs in damp or wet areas, whether it be a pond, birdbath, any type of empty container or just damp wet grass. All these areas and more will suffice.

Your best option to rid your yard of mosquitoes will be prevention. This means you want to rid your landscape of all possible breeding spots. Keep the lawn mowed and try to empty anything that can hold water on a regular basis, especially after a rain.

There is a product that can be put in standing water (birdbaths, ponds etc.) that kills only mosquito larvae. You will usually find this product under the name of Mosquito Dunks or Mosquito Bits. Keep this product in all standing water to keep out mosquitoes. It is safe for all other animals, fish, bugs and humans.

Another problem we have when we have periods of rain, are ants. The rain seems to disrupt their mounds, tunnels and life style in general. You'll find them everywhere in your yard and often times indoors, as well. I've been noticing lots of crazy ants. They seems to be everywhere.

Fortunately, they don't bite, but can still be very annoying. These ants always act like they have had several cups of espresso. They run around at top speed in a very erratic fashion, unlike other ants.

I find that indoors, these ants are easily killed by using a product made of different herbal oils. It has a pleasant smell that is not offensive. This product is not a bait and will only kill worker ants. It is not taken back to the queens. I do have to reapply every week or so if the ants persist. Keep in mind that when it comes to ants you usually only see 10 percent of any one colony's population. The rest of the ant colony stays underground working and producing more ants.

For outdoor ant problems in the landscape, you can apply dry molasses to the entire yard along with some beneficial nematodes. Applying dried molasses at the rate of 10-20 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft. will stimulate the beneficial microorganisms, as well as provide them with a food source.

It will also provide the soil with sulfur, potash, carbon and many trace minerals and help to get rid of ants. You can also treat individual mounds with organic ant baits that contain, conserve or drench ant mounds with liquid molasses and orange oil.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.