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Lime tree question.

 
R McCauley
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I am the newest of newbies. I had barely heard of permaculture before a few months ago, and of forest gardens not at all. Our family has been in apartments for the last decade (moving in between each degree), but we're moving this fall (hopefully permanently) to a house in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas (zone 9), and a forest garden is my dream. I have almost no experience with growing things, so I intend to proceed slowly, but I am so excited. So far, I have read: gaia's garden, Paradise Lot, Perennial Vegetables, and started the two volume Food Forest books, as well as a book about earthworks rainwater harvesting for drylands. I have read that you need to spend a year observing your land before you jump in, which gives me a lot of time to learn more, but I thought my kids and I might dabble in some annual gardening this fall, just to get our hands in the dirt.

On the property we have purchased, there are already several mature trees: Lime, Banana (several), Fig, Pecan, Ash, Texas Olive...I want to add some more citrus and persimmon for sure, at some point. The one thing I want to address kind of quickly, is the lime...it appears to be the favorite tree of some local fire ants, and I would like to know what I can plant around it to deter them-- would ginger/galangal/turmeric be good choices? Daffodils? Garlic? Chives? Help!
 
Stefan Sobkowiak
permaculture orchardist
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R McCauley wrote:
I am the newest of newbies. I had barely heard of permaculture before a few months ago, and of forest gardens not at all. Our family has been in apartments for the last decade (moving in between each degree), but we're moving this fall (hopefully permanently) to a house in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas (zone 9), and a forest garden is my dream. I have almost no experience with growing things, so I intend to proceed slowly, but I am so excited. So far, I have read: Gaia's Garden, Paradise Lot, Perennial Vegetables, and started the two volume Food Forest books, as well as a book about earthworks rainwater harvesting for drylands. I have read that you need to spend a year observing your land before you jump in, which gives me a lot of time to learn more, but I thought my kids and I might dabble in some annual gardening this fall, just to get our hands in the dirt.

On the property we have purchased, there are already several mature trees: Lime, Banana (several), Fig, Pecan, Ash, Texas Olive...I want to add some more citrus and persimmon for sure, at some point. The one thing I want to address kind of quickly, is the lime...it appears to be the favorite tree of some local fire ants, and I would like to know what I can plant around it to deter them-- would ginger/galangal/turmeric be good choices? Daffodils? Garlic? Chives? Help!

Hi R, I can't grow any of the plants you mention. But why do you want to deter the fire ants? Are they harming the tree? Are they directly harming you? Ants are extremely useful in soils that do not support earthworm. They both provide the same ecological function for FREE to you. They AERATE the soil to great depths. Bring down organic matter (saving you tilling, plowing, work). And overall improve the soil immensely. I know they have a bad reputation but so do wasps which are the ABSOLUTE best ally you can have in the garden against caterpillars of all kinds. Give the fire ants a chance and see what GOOD they do.
If we take one step toward nature, nature will take 10 steps toward you. If you take a step away from nature you will always be running from it. -- ME.
 
R McCauley
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My daughter has a very severe allergy to fire ants-- like ER visit severe. And, I'm not sure it was the ants, but yes, something is eating at/damaging the tree.
 
Tina Paxton
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Location: coastal southeast North Carolina
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Since Stefan is from the Great White North and not familiar with the Plague of the South -- Fire Ants -- let me explain: Fire Ants are not the nice little black ants that go quietly about their business. Fire Ants are a military force to be reckoned with. They attack as a group with vicious determination and with a painful bite that leaves a toxic venom behind. And, you don't get bit by just one...they came in force, wait for a good number to be in position on you, then they all start biting at once. You get many bites.... Hurts like #@$$. They will also take up shop in any and every garden bed and eat the plants therein...and attack you the next time you put your hand in....

I am not aware of any natural deterrents or enemies of this non-native ant. I know a person or two who have taught their Muscovy ducks to eat fireants but mine are not yet convinced. I've also heard that guinea fowl will eat them but I don't know first hand--guineas are too loud for my neighborhood. I've heard that orange oil pored into the mound (look up The Dirt Doctor in youtube as he has a how-to for this) will kill the mound. I've also heard that dried molasses is disliked by fire ants but I've not noticed a mass exodus from my property when I put out the molasses.
 
Dan Tutor
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Location: Zone 5, Maine Coast
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R McCauley wrote:
I am the newest of newbies. I had barely heard of permaculture before a few months ago, and of forest gardens not at all. Our family has been in apartments for the last decade (moving in between each degree), but we're moving this fall (hopefully permanently) to a house in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas (zone 9), and a forest garden is my dream. I have almost no experience with growing things, so I intend to proceed slowly, but I am so excited. So far, I have read: Gaia's Garden, Paradise Lot, Perennial Vegetables, and started the two volume Food Forest books, as well as a book about earthworks rainwater harvesting for drylands. I have read that you need to spend a year observing your land before you jump in, which gives me a lot of time to learn more, but I thought my kids and I might dabble in some annual gardening this fall, just to get our hands in the dirt.

On the property we have purchased, there are already several mature trees: Lime, Banana (several), Fig, Pecan, Ash, Texas Olive...I want to add some more citrus and persimmon for sure, at some point. The one thing I want to address kind of quickly, is the lime...it appears to be the favorite tree of some local fire ants, and I would like to know what I can plant around it to deter them-- would ginger/galangal/turmeric be good choices? Daffodils? Garlic? Chives? Help!



You should definitely start to dabble as soon as you move in! How could you resist?
I believe in starting with your first zones, dabbling, learning how you use the space, discovering the most convenient place for the compost or coop, for instance. It might take you a few tries!
So start early and don't be afraid to experiment and observe and be sensitive to your relationship to the place.
After you get your feet wet designing and redesigning your zone 1-2, growing through one year or three, you will have a better feel for expanding into the outer zones where time moves a little slower and designs should have permanence in mind. You will also discover the magic of your place in that time: special views, nooks and crannies, friendly trees or rocks that become familiar locals.
That's not to say not to plant trees! But I cringe a little at permacultures that are installed like city parks or ball fields, scrubbing things clean of natural features before starting anew.
On another note:
Artemisia is often recommended to deter ants. Tansy is also an insect deterrent.
 
Meryt Helmer
Posts: 395
Location: west marin, bay area california. sandy loam, well drained, acidic soil and lots of shade
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do the fire ants have a nest near the tree? maybe you can do something to the nest if you can find it? I wonder if chickens can be taught to eat fire ants? we had a hornet nest right where my kids liked to play and some sort of local wildlife came in the night and tore it open and ate them all. it took a month for them to finish but they completely took care of it. I wonder if there is any local wildlife where you are that likes to eat fire ants and if so could you do anythingt o encourage them to come along and enjoy a fire ant feast.
 
Tina Paxton
Posts: 283
Location: coastal southeast North Carolina
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Meryt Helmer wrote: I wonder if there is any local wildlife where you are that likes to eat fire ants and if so could you do anythingt o encourage them to come along and enjoy a fire ant feast.


That's the problem -- fire ants are non-native and there are no native enemy of the fire ant. As I say, some have trained their muscovy ducks to eat them and some say guineas will eat them.
 
Mary Saunders
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My mom always put coffee grounds under her lime in the Florida Keys. She made a lot of pies with those limes. I read on another thread that some ants do not like coffee grounds. Pool-quality diatomaceous earth also discourages many insects and might please your lime. I have a lime I have kept for 30 years in Oregon, but I have to pull it in in the winter. It is a dwarf Bearss lime in a pot. They like a lot of fertilizer, and my citrus trees also get worms and pill bugs, who aerate, when the plants are outside in warm weather. I can say that worms like coffee grounds a lot. Anyway, worms up here do. Humans here drink coffee like some places drink sweet tea, and many coffee shops give out the spent grounds to customers as a courtesy, rather than having to pay to have them taken in trash. Citrus trees will also need phosphorus to bloom and bear fruit. The cheapest source of that is Vitamin Pee, for which there is a very entertaining thread here on permies. I highly recommend it when you have time. I found it to be hilarious, the famous Women Peeing Outside.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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