This expert hack could keep ants off your plants – if all else has failed

Baking soda could be the way to stop ants invading your outdoor space, according to one gardening expert

person holding a small trowel with baking soda on it and plants in the background
(Image credit: Helin Loik-Tomson/Getty Images)

Ants thrive in hot temperatures and once they’ve set up home in your garden, in your pot plants or on your patio, they can be notoriously difficult to budge, causing damage to plants and shoots and annoying everyone. 

There are many recommended ideas, hints and tips for how to get rid ants, but one experienced gardener has a new suggestion – a sprinkle of humble baking soda, that household staple with a multitude of uses. 

baking soda in a clear jar

(Image credit: Eskay Lim/EyeEm/Getty Images)

Using baking soda for ant problems

'When deciding how to control pests in your garden, it’s important to remember that chemical pesticides are always the last resort,' says Matt Jordan, gardening expert at The Greenhouse People.

'There are a number of ways which can help control ants without potentially harming other insects or plants.

'Baking soda is one of these. But ants aren’t likely to eat baking soda by itself, so create a mixture with equal parts sugar and baking soda. The sugar will encourage the ants to eat it and take it back to the colony.

'Sprinkle this around the edges of your garden planters where you’ve noticed ants and in areas where there is a lot of ant traffic, such as across vegetable beds.'

person holding a small trowel with baking soda on it

(Image credit: FotoHelin/Alamy Stock Photo)

Why baking soda works

Baking soda – also known as sodium hydrogen carbonate – will help to create an alkaline environment. This eliminates bacteria, which is why baking soda can be used so effectively for cleaning tasks in the home.

However, when baking soda enters the physiological system of an ant, it meets a certain acid and causes a rapid chemical reaction, explains plant science expert, Arifur Rahman, owner of Garden for Indoor, an advice website for home gardeners. This leads to the body of the ant drying out and its outer shell falling off, so it dies.

large plant pots raised up off the ground on pot feet

Raising plant pots off the ground and surrounding the base with baking soda can help with ant issues. Pot feet from Annabel James

(Image credit: Annabel James)

Up and away

If ants have set up home in your container garden and are happily munching your prized patio plants, sprinkle baking soda around the base area, but also lift up the pot onto ‘pot feet’. Or as a quick fix, small pieces of wood, stone or brick.

Although ants can creep, crawl and climb, if you stop them in their tracks with the baking soda mix, then cut off their means of escape – into your precious potted plants – you should be able to banish them until at least next year. 

And if you're looking for other uses for baking soda, it's worth knowing it can also be used to make a homemade solution to get rid of weeds and stop them from spreading too. 

Is it time you added baking soda to your shopping list?

Jayne Dowle
Freelance writer

Jayne Dowle is an award-winning gardening, homes and property writer who writes for publications including Sunday Times Home, Times Bricks & Mortar, Grand Designs, House Beautiful and The Spectator. She was awarded the Garden Journalist of the Year accolade at the Property Press Awards in 2021.