rosiegirl
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Ant infestation in my leaf pile?

Hi,

At the end of the fall I collected as many leaves as I could and stored them in an outdoor bin so that I had a stash for the spring and summer to use in my compost.

I just went to check on it now that all the snow is gone and it is filled with ants! Help...what do i do?!

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imafan26
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Re: Ant infestation in my leaf pile?

The ants are probably nesting there. If you dump everything out and spread it out; clean up the bin the ants will go look for a new home.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Ant infestation in my leaf pile?

Yes, by keeping them in a closed bin with no ventilation, you made a nice warm moist home for the ants.

I keep mine in a wire bin like this:

Image

and they don't get ants.
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rosiegirl
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Re: Ant infestation in my leaf pile?

If I keep it in an open container then how do I keep it dry all winter and for use as dry browns in the compost?

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applestar
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Re: Ant infestation in my leaf pile?

They do that when the ground is saturated, too. Move their nest to higher, dry location. They might be gone once the ground is not saturated from rain, etc.

If you want to be rid of them, use a borax bait. If you can get the leaves without the ants getting on you, etc. you can just use the leaves for the compost. It might help if you open the lid about 1/2 hour before use. Then most of them will become busy moving eggs, larvae and maybe the queen to a darker damper/more protected location.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Ant infestation in my leaf pile?

rosiegirl wrote:If I keep it in an open container then how do I keep it dry all winter and for use as dry browns in the compost?
You don't have to keep it dry and even if the leaves get wet, they are still "browns" in the compost. The leaf surface getting wet does not change the Carbon: Nitrogen ratio in the leaf. Actually getting wet helps the leaves start breaking down, which is what they are going to do in the compost pile anyway.

Actually, your leaves may have been more moist in your closed container. In the open bin, they get wet and then they dry out. In the closed bin all the moisture (evaporated from leaves, seeping in from humidity, condensing on the inside of the bin) is held in, so they can't dry out.
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rosiegirl
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Re: Ant infestation in my leaf pile?

rainbowgardener
You don't have to keep it dry and even if the leaves get wet, they are still "browns" in the compost.
i had no idea! i started composting a year ago this month and i was under the impression that the leaves needed to be dry to act as browns in my compost! maybe I'm mixing up grass vs. dried grass?

when the leaves are wet they kind of clump together and get all slimy. that's okay? won't it make my compost too wet if i have nothing dry going in?

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Ant infestation in my leaf pile?

The balance we are trying to keep in the compost pile is sometimes as a shorthand called wet vs dry, but it is not. The balance is Carbon heavy vs Nitrogen heavy. So the Carbon heavy stuff (aka "browns") like leaves, paper, corn cobs, straw, tends to be harder, drier. The Nitrogen heavy stuff (aka "greens") like pulled weeds, most kitchen scraps, grass clippings, tends to be softer, moister. But that is internal moisture (water content) we are talking about, not what is on the surface But it is the C:N ratio that is important. If you are putting fall leaves in your pile, you are adding browns, whether or not the surface of the leaves has gotten wet.

You might want to read the intro to composting threads at the beginning of this Composting Forum. In one of them there is this discussion about C:N ratios viewtopic.php?f=35&t=29022&p=157417&hil ... io#p157417

Grass vs dried grass is also not an important distinction except that wet grass clippings can mat down too much for good mixing and air circulation. But if you have lawn grass clippings and they dry out, their chemical composition has not changed much. There is a distinction about WHEN the grass, leaves, grain stems, etc leave the plant. Green tree leaves in summer are a "green," higher in N. The reason that the same leaves when fallen in autumn are a brown is that the tree thriftily sucks the Nitrogen back from them before releasing them. The same is true of hay vs straw. Hay is grain stems that are cut while still green and growing, right after the grain is harvested. It still has a lot of Nitrogen. Straw is the same stems that are left standing until they dry out naturally. The plant has used up the Nitrogen out of them, so it is a brown.

If your leaves are tending to mat, just tossing them or mixing them in the pile should take care of that.
Last edited by rainbowgardener on Tue May 02, 2017 2:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Ant infestation in my leaf pile?

Just to be confusing, there is a water issue in compost piles, but it is separate from the green/brown, C:N ratio.

See composting basics thread: viewtopic.php?f=35&t=56881

Your compost pile is like a living creature. Like other living creatures it needs air, water, and food to keep living (or in this case composting). So there needs to be good air circulation. The food is the organic materials you add, greens and browns. Then all those materials need to be kept dampish (we say like a wrung out sponge) for the decomposition to occur. If your pile dries out, decomp stops (it will start again the next time the pile gets rained on or whatever). But to keep it going, you should water. If it is dry enough to water my garden, I also water the compost pile.

But if the compost pile gets TOO wet, soggy, as sometimes occurs in compost tumblers or other enclosed bins, then all that water prevents air circulation. Then you get anaerobic decompostion, which leads to a slimy, stinky mess.

Hope this helps and I haven't confused you.... :)
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Re: Ant infestation in my leaf pile?

I used to bag my leaves and stack them under the deck to stay dry all winter. Then I realized that if I put them in to a wire fence cage out in the weather, they will actually start breaking down a bit by themselves over the winter. Yes, it's a little hard to mix them with the greens in the spring, but it's worth it, because the compost is done sooner. The leaves are the slowest ingredient to decompose so it gives them a head start. If you have a LOT of leaves, you can leave a bin full out in the weather for 2 years (at least in temperate climates) and get leaf compost - fabulous stuff.

Green grass, when dried, is still a green, because it retains some nitrogen, but wetting browns does not somehow give them nitrogen and turn them into greens. I wish! :)
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Re: Ant infestation in my leaf pile?

Ants in a bin full of dry leaves... my approach would be some water and some sloppy greens.... If the wet didn't get them to decide it was time to move, maybe bumping up the temp of the pile with greens and water would do it.
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