This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V21", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
In the December number of the Monthly I notice the article "advantages and disadvantages of Florida." As the writer wishes to know some method to get rid of the pests as he calls the ants, and I think I can suggest some, I do not hesitate to give my experience.
Having been engaged for some time in garden work in South America, about the same climate as Florida, where ants are to the cultivator of the soil the greatest foe, I will describe below the way in which gardens are kept clear of them. All small farms or gardens are divided into squares by ditches about two feet deep, in low places. Water is kept constantly in them to prevent the ants colonizing from other places. If a nest of them is discovered a large kettle is placed near the nest with water, under which a fire is built; as soon as the water is boiling the work of destruction begins by pouring the hot water on the nest and earth; water and ants are worked and mixed about the same way as mortar is made, only quicker. This mixture when dry will be as hard as stone; care should be taken so that few ants can escape, for they will make new colonies and the work will have to be done over again. If, however, the nest is under a tree, or as I often have found, under a house, the method is different.
In the first place after the nest is discovered, all the holes but one are stopped up, in which a machine something like our smoking machines for greenhouses with a pipe attached to one side, and a bellows on the other is inserted. On the pipe end some sulphur and rags are placed in the machine, which is kept burning by working the bellows, the smoke of the sulphur entering the nest and destroying ants and eggs together. In a few days the escaping ants will make new nests, mostly in the open field which are easily destroyed. As a general rule the industrious gardener will have them soon under control and will only have to keep an eye on those coming over from his neighbors.
Very few people have an idea how destructive these insects are; as they mostly work at night the damage is only discovered when too late. I have known them to clear trees of their leaves in one night, if nothing would suit them underneath. They are very fond of cabbage and all plants belonging to that family.