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Organic ways to treat ants, beans and curling courgettes

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Ben Raskin Ben Raskin | 10:02 UK time, Thursday, 20 May 2010

Lots of you have been writing in worried about ants and your Dig In veg. This month's gardening expert, Ben Raskin of the Soil Association, gives his answers below.

Kate asks: I have an ants nest in my compost bin, how can I get rid of them ecologically?

Answer: My first response might be do you actually need to get rid of them? If your compost bin is very close the house then ants can, of course, be a nuisance but if not then you could leave them be. They do a good job of recycling the compost and aerating your heap at a constant temperature. However, if you do want shot of them then simply turn your heap very frequently. Ants tend not to like getting disturbed and will quickly vacate the premises if you shake them about occasionally.

Louise May asks: I've planted my beans inside and then I planted them outside last week. I checked them today and there are loads of black tiny insects on them! How can I get rid of them? I would prefer not to use pesticides but will do what I need to do in order to get rid of them!

Answer:: If you have an ecological washing-up liquid then a very dilute (that is, a few drops in a sprayer) solution sprayed on the plants will disrupt the feeding of the blackfly. If the plants are actively growing you can try pinching off the worst affected shoots and hope that the new shoots grow quickly to replace them and are not affected.

You don't say what type of bean you have planted, but if it is French or Runner then you are still very early to be planting them outside in view of the cold late spring. I would wait until June.

Michelle asks: I planted my courgette seeds in little terracotta pots on my windowsill and the plants are getting quite tall now. However, half of the leaves have started to curl over. Is this normal? I wondered if I had given them too much sunlight, maybe. I water them every day too.

Answer: It sounds to me like you might be watering them too much. When the plants are very young they often don't need water every day. Feel the compost and if it is at all damp then do not water. Unless your windowsill is very hot once every two or three days at this time of year is probably all they will need. Once they get bigger then you will need to water them more often.

If anyone else has had similiar problems with ants, beans or courgettes, please share your stories below.

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