TX Organic Research Center



Baby talc marches against ants
September 24, 2004
By Howard Garrett

Baby talc marches against ants

Here is a great suggestion from a reader who doesn't enjoy sharing the house with ants:

I've got a tip for controlling ants: baby talc made from a mineral called magnesium silicate. (This is not the same as baby powder with cornstarch.) It is readily available, it smells good, it matches white windowsills, it comes in a handy dispenser and, best of all, it works.

I had sugar ants in the kitchen, and a friend advised me to use baby talc on the windowsill. In an ant-invasion emergency, body talc can be used instead.

D.F., Dallas

Question: We have approximately 2,000 lavender plants on 1 1/2 acres of previously uncultivated land. Our major problem is weeds. My husband is ready to give up and use chemicals, but we wanted our plants to be organic, so I am not ready to quit.

I have devoured your book, Texas Organic Gardening - The Natural Way, and I am interested in the use of corn gluten meal. However, you caution against using it at the wrong time because it can cause "healthy weeds."

When is the right time to apply corn gluten meal for weed control?

J.Y., West, Texas

Answer: Mid-September is the right time to apply corn gluten meal as a natural weed-and-feed for the control of winter weeds such as poa annua, dandelions, rescue grass and clover. It won't hurt desirable plants unless you are trying to grow them from seed.

After the weeds are growing, you can kill them with vinegar-based mixtures.

To 1 gallon of 10-percent-concentration vinegar add 1 ounce of orange oil and 1 teaspoon of liquid soap. Spray only the undesirable plants.

You also can improve the situation by mulching. Bare soil grows weeds; mulched soil doesn't grow weeds. Shredded native tree trimmings are the best mulch.

Question: I've heard about a type of peat moss collected near Shelton, Wash.

It can be purchased online and supposedly is better than other types of peat moss.

I am interested in moisture retention because I live in a desert. Getting the soil to retain water in a desert is a big issue.

J.G., Arizona

Answer: In general, I don't like peat moss. It is expensive, nutrient-deficient, lifeless, anti-microbial and has to be shipped across the country.

Compost, my recommended alternative, will create biological activity in the soil. This is the most effective way to hold moisture, and it is cheaper, more nutritious and life-stimulating. It also recycles waste materials.

Another soil amendment that will help is volcanic (lava) sand. It is available in stores that sell organic products.


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