I have raised a vegetable garden in Dry Ridge since 1997. For the past two years I have had terrible success with corn and yellow beans. I plant four rows of each and might get two or three plants per row. I have noticed a large number of ants and wonder if they could be eating my seeds. I use 10-10-10 for my fertilzer. I planted 16 tomato plants last year and picked more than 1,000 nice tomatos. I do very well with cucumbers and several types of lettuce. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Frank: Well, you are certainly not a novice vegetable gardener. 1,000 tomatoes! Now that is a bumper crop. I hope you are canning them so you can enjoy them year-round. As for your corn and bean seeds, it is possible that if you have several colonies of ants living in the garden they can certainly eat your vegetable seeds, and as a result you end up with only a few plants. Of course when gardeners plant seeds and only a few plants survive, my first thought is poor germination. This can be a caused by several different factors, including inadequate soil moisture or temperature as well as seed to soil contact. Planting older seeds or seeds that are not of the highest quality can also result in poor germination. Inadequate soil pH and nutrient levels are also a possibility. You can always have your soil tested through your county cooperative Extension service if you think this is a possibility, but since you have been growing these vegetables for a long time it does seem like there is something else going on besides the obvious. From what you mentioned it sounds like you are doing everything right in planting in several rows to ensure good pollination and using 10-10-10 is sufficient as a fertilizer. So, before planting your seeds next spring, after our frost-free date has passed, turn the soil and if the ants have not moved during the winter months you will need to get rid of them before sowing your seeds. Diatomaceous earth is a natural product made of fossilized diatoms (aquatic microfossils). When it is used in the garden the ants will crawl over it, puncturing the exoskeleton, killing the insect. You can use this now and again in the spring if necessary. You may want to take a sample of your ants to the Extension service so you know what type of ant you are dealing with.