How to Get Rid of Ants in a Vegetable Garden

Ants are some of the most common insects in a vegetable garden. Their role in vegetable gardens is a mix of positive and negative impacts. Getting rid of them can be complicated, especially since they are likely to return.

You can eliminate ants from a vegetable garden by using natural sprays such as those with essential oils or soap. Drawing chalk lines around the garden also helps keep ants out. Ants in nests can be killed with boiling water.

Ants are some of the most difficult insects to control as they form colonies. Up to a few thousand ants can live in a single colony.

Some of the most common ants in gardens are Carpenter ants, Fire ants, and Argentine ants. Carpenter ants and Leafcutter ants are a few common species also known to bite so dealing with them might be mandatory.

How to Get Rid of Ants in a Vegetable Garden

There are a few common methods of eliminating ants in a vegetable garden, but you might not want to kill all of them.

Are ants in the vegetable garden good or bad?

Eliminating ants is sometimes recommended, but not all gardeners kill them. Depending on their species, ants can even be beneficial.

Ants kill common vegetable garden pets

Ants are known to eliminate many types of bugs and insects that eat vegetables. They eat small-scale bugs and their eggs as well as other species of invasive bugs.

Ants created galleries that aerate the soil

Ants can further benefit the garden by naturally aerating the soil. They dig underground galleries which promote better airflow and essentially help vegetables grow vigorously.

Ants can attract aphids

Ants can be detrimental to vegetable gardens in many ways. They feed on aphid honeydew and promote their negative impact on vegetables. Aphids feed on vegetables, roots, and leaves.

Some ants bite

Carpenter ants can quickly bite people. These ants resort to biting when they perceive you as a threat. This is any situation when you’re close to their nest.

Carpenter ants can damage the house

Carpenter ants can dig galleries in old wood or wood affected by dampness. They can expand from the vegetable garden to the garage or the house essentially creating structural damage.

How to eliminate ants in the vegetable garden

You can eliminate ants in vegetable gardens with natural repellents such as essential oils, garlic, or vinegar. Serious Carpenter ant invasions need to be dealt with insecticide as they can spread to homes creating structural damage.

Use natural sprays

Natural ingredient sprays made at home are sufficient to eliminate ants in most vegetable gardens. If you’re afraid your vegetables are going to be invaded by bugs but you don’t want to use insecticides you can consider the following

Essential oils

Peppermint essential oils deter all types of ants. Clove essential oil can also kill and deter ants from vegetable gardens.

You need to spray all vegetables with essential oils and water so that ants move away. Entire vegetables need to be coated in essential oils as this deters ants and other insects and bugs.

Essential oils are recommended in small gardens as spraying large gardens is expensive. You can consider this solution for any vegetable garden you have at home.

Essential oils

Lemon juice

Lemon juice is one of the common alternatives to the concentrated formula of citruses essential oil. You can squeeze the juice of a lemon into a sprayer and top it up with water before spraying your vegetable garden.

You kill ants when you spray lemon juice on them but most importantly, you eliminate all the scent trails ants use to move around.

This means ants from the nest will not find their way to the vegetables in the garden when their scent trails are gone.

You can spray the ant nest as well if you find it. Alternatively, you can pour lemon juice directly on the nest to kill or deter ants.


A cheaper but equally efficient solution against ants in vegetable gardens is the mix of vinegar and water. 1/3 parts of vinegar is a 4-ounce sprayer is a recommended mix in vegetable gardens.

Vegetables are spread entirely with this solution after every rainy day but not more frequently than every 2 weeks so that you don’t damage the vegetables.

The amount of vinegar you add to a sprayer bottle depends on its concentration. You can add up to 50% distilled vinegar in a sprayer as it comes with up to 8% acetic acid (a type of fermented ethanol). Alternatively, you can add up to 1/3 parts spirit of vinegar as it comes with a higher concentration of acetic acid of up to 20%.

Soap and water

Dishwasher soap and water can also be sprayed on vegetables. This is one of the ideal options when it comes to a low-cost anti-ants solution in the garden.

Diluting up to 2 tablespoons of dishwasher liquid in lukewarm water and spraying it on vegetables kills and eliminates ants.

Refraining from over-spraying is recommended. You should only spray the garden again within a few weeks if the ants return. However, most ants don’t return to a garden with traces of soap.

Garlic and water

Garlic is a more natural alternative in case ants return. Since you cannot over-spray soap and water on vegetables you can come back with a mixture of garlic and water.

Garlic-infused water can be sprayed on all vegetables to clear common insects such as ants. The mix can be re-applied soon after it rains as it gets washed away in the ground.

Chili powder and water

Spicy chili powder has the same effect on ants as garlic. It kills them on the spot and it keeps them away for up to a few weeks. Chili needs to be mixed in small quantities as it has a potent effect. A teaspoon of chili powder in a 4-ounce bottle kills ants on the spot.

Use ant traps

There are many types of ant traps you can use indoors and outdoors. Ant traps work by using a lure or a type of sugary bait ants like to eat. This bait is mixed with a chemical that kills ants.

Ant traps can be set up around the garden in multiple areas so that ants are killed and efficiently prevented. Most ant traps work in a matter of days and you should check for dead ants within 48 hours.

Ant traps can be used together with other solutions, especially when it comes to large gardens where ants can create routes and galleries around these traps.

Try boiling water on garden ant hills

Other solutions need to be considered when your vegetable garden has ant hills. You can consider boiling water as it penetrates these dirt hills killing ants at the same time.

Spraying ant hills have little effect except killing surface-level ants. This is why hot water or pouring water and soap on the ant hills is a better alternative.

Keep ants away from the garden

Once ants are cleared from the vegetables and the garden you can proceed to preventive measures. These measures only work to keep ants out, as they don’t kill ants.

Draw chalk lines

Drawing chalk lines around the garden is one of the methods to keep ants out. These lines can only be drawn around pots and raised beds, however. Chalk lines are never crossed by ants as they don’t like chalk.

Sprinkle cinnamon powder

Cinnamon powder or cinnamon sticks can be sprinkled around the vegetable garden to keep ants out. The potent astringent smell of cinnamon keeps ants and many other bugs and insects away from the vegetables.

Can I use insecticides against ants in a vegetable garden?

Insecticides kill ants on the spot. They can be a solution in large vegetable gardens or in areas prone to large ant invasions that cannot be controlled with other natural repellents

Use insecticides against ants

You can use insecticides to kill ants continuously. These chemicals continue killing ants even after you spray them in the garden.

The main problem with chemicals against ants is they persist on the vegetables for a long time. They can be harmful to your health, to children touching the vegetables, or to pets touching the vegetables.

However, professional pest controllers often have no other choice, especially when it comes to an imminent threat Carpenter ants pose to the structural integrity of a nearby house. Insecticides can come in the following forms.

  • Liquid
  • Granular
  • Powder

It’s best to apply them as recommended by the label of the product with the safety precautions indicated by the manufacturer.


Eliminating ants from a vegetable garden may or may not be a priority depending on their species. If you have biting ants in your vegetable garden you might have no other alternative but to kill them.

Many types of natural solutions such as spraying essential oils or chili powder around the garden are known to kill and deter ants. They are the first option to chemical alternatives as they don’t impact your health, even when absorbed by vegetables.

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