Heavy mulch around house attracts ants

We were told by a pest control company that the mulch next to our house was contributing to our ant problem. I’d prefer NOT to put rocks in those beds. Is there any kind of mulch that is not attractive to ants?

                                — Gwen

Actually, heavy mulches against the house can sometimes provide a moist, protected environment for an ant colony. This is a tough call — the possibility of helping the ants versus the benefits to your plants of the mulch. I have a bed on one side of our house that has mulch on it. The plants in the bed are getting to be a pretty good size, so I’ve let the mulch thin out and disappear so that I’m not fostering an ant invasion. If you’re absolutely bound and determined to get rid of the ants, then you might pull the mulch away from the house for several feet. It’s not something that will make the ants go away by itself, but it does help in the fight.

I’m not aware of any mulch that deters ants. Even gravels will keep the soil moist and cool compared to bare ground, and there’s even some types of ants that prefer that environment. Wish I could help more.

 

I have a blue spruce tree about 4½ feet tall. My big forsythia bush is spreading out and crowding it— can I transplant it to another spot in my yard? When would be a good time to do this, if it’s possible?

                      — Janet

 

The best time to transplant a woody plant like your spruce is mid- to late-March next year. You could transplant later this fall after the deciduous plants have dropped their leaves, but I don’t like that as well as spring. Winter can be stressful for plants and, sometimes adding the additional stress of transplanting can push the plant over the edge. Let the plant get through the winter first and then do the transplanting before it breaks bud next year.

So if you have the luxury of time, wait. Otherwise, I’d try to wait until the leaves are off the tree.

Whenever we talk about transplanting, we’re talking about odds. Doing everything right at just the right time doesn’t guarantee success; it just gives you the best chance of success.

Conversely, you can do everything wrong and be successful; it’s just that your chances of success are less than if you had done it right. Here’s how I would recommend doing it:

The first thing you want to do is dig the hole in your yard where the tree is going to go. Have the hole ready so that the plant is out of the ground as little time as possible.

Next, you want to dig as large of a soil ball around the plant as you can handle (remember you’ll have to pick up that bad boy and carry it over to the new hole!).

I would guess that for the tree you have, you will need a rootball that’s 18-20 inches in diameter. That’s going to be pretty heavy, but remember that the bigger the rootball, the better you chances of success will be.

It’s important to keep the rootball intact: Don’t let it crack or break apart. It’s helpful to wrap the soil ball with burlap or an old sheet to help support it.

You might even want to further support it by wrapping some chicken wire or wire fencing around the ball to help hold it together. Get it planted in the new hole and water it well.

After that initial watering has soaked in, give it a second soaking with a solution of Fertilome Root Stimulator. It has a rooting hormone in it that helps stimulate the formation of new roots and that’s the name of the game at that point.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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