A Nasty Surprise In One Of The Window Boxes

While working on the yard the weekend before last, in between successfully cleaning up one of the overgrown flowerbed areas, I figured I’d get a little head start on one of the garage window boxes in preparation for actually planting some flowers in them this summer. Specifically, this one over here:

Arrow Pointing At Windowbox

We’d had these old red window boxes on the garage ever since we moved in, but never touched them, not even a little bit. This one wasn’t completely empty, though, and had what looked like a desert landscape from the previous owner. There was a succulent plant of some sort, and a couple of flat rocks:

Red Window Box

I guess it made sense, since the overhang of the garage roof would keep it somewhat sheltered in all but the heaviest rain-blowing-sideways kind of rains, and it’s low maintenance — we haven’t touched it once in almost two years, and that succulent thingy hasn’t even died.

But the desert look wasn’t as desirable as the goal of a lovely bed of flowers, even if they’d have to be watered, so I figured I’d get started on cleaning it out.

I pried up the flat rock — and out came ants. Swarms and swarms and swarms of ants. I tried to snap a picture of all the ants, but I don’t think it’s possible to make them out against the specks of dirt and whatnot:

Window Box With Ants

At that point, I got out a bottle of bug spray, sprayed the ants, and then started using a trowel to scoop out the dry, dusty dirt into a yard waste bag. But it wasn’t just a little anthill at the top — each shovelful revealed new swarms of ants, and it turned out to be ants all the way down to the bottom. The whole thing was just one big ant colony.

So in conclusion, I committed a massive ant genocide and emptied the window box of all its contents. This might also be a good time to show a closeup of how old and rotten this window box was:

Rotten Red Window Box

The bright red paint seems to have held up pretty well for the most part, with not too much fading or chipping on the front, so I think it gave the illusion that the box was in better shape than it actually was. The wood was so brittle and rotten that a portion of the side actually started to crack off when I grabbed it, and even with the ants gone, it seemed pretty clear that the window box was past its prime and had to go.

And that’s the story of how it ended up sitting by the trash can:

Red Box In Trash

It turned out to be just sitting on some brackets (which looked like the same variety you’d use for a shelf), and while it was attached to the garage with a couple of long nails, those were loose enough that I was able to easily pull it off without any tools.

The other window box was just as old and rotten (though thankfully ant-free!) so I removed it as well for consistency sake. I’ll spare you guys the closeups of just how much dirt and crud and spider nests had accumulated in the space between the boxes and the wall, and just end with this shot of the garage with the window boxes removed:

Garage Without Window Boxes

I know it doesn’t look so great in the above photo, but things always get worse before they get better, right?

How about you guys? Any stories of stumbling upon an infestation in an unexpected place? In our case I’m guessing that the dry, undisturbed environment created the perfect space for an ant colony to thrive, so that’s something we’ll have to keep in mind for the replacement window boxes (the details of which will be coming to the blog shortly!)

4 Comments

  1. Oof, looks like both boxes were painted over dirt and crud that was never removed first. I’d repaint the walls where the boxes were, and plant varying height arrangements in the ground under the windows. Like maybe gladiolus or climbing roses against the building, and shorter things in front.

    • That’s true, those boxes definitely did look as though they had layers of dirt or peeling paint or something on them when they were last painted. And the garage walls behind the window boxes are indeed in dire need of some paint as well — the one with the ants in it looked as though it hadn’t even been painted the last time the exterior of the garage was painted. I like the sound of varying-height plant arrangements beneath the windows — thanks for the suggestion! :)

  2. We had an ant infestation (though not as bad as yours) as well! They had created a home in a baby aloe plant. It almost killed the poor thing! Luckily, hosing off the ants was easy, and didn’t hurt the plant, and it’s doing much better now! I wonder if juicy plants attract ants, since there were succulents right there for your ant colony to enjoy. Are you thinking of putting up new boxes, or do you think you’ll leave them off for good? I don’t always get a chance to comment, but I’m keeping up with your posts! You, Joe, and Lillian (who is the most adorable garden helper EVER) will have a backyard paradise before you know it! ^_^

    • Aww, poor baby aloe plant! I’m glad it’s doing okay now though, and that’s a good question about whether ants are drawn to succulents — maybe if the soil tends to be drier, or if they can feed off of it somehow, it might look like an attractive home to them? And I loved the look of window boxes under those garage windows, especially the thought of them overflowing with flowers, so if these hadn’t been so rotten I think we would have kept them. So they’re definitely getting replaced with newer less rotten window boxes — I’m working on a blog post about it now actually! ;) And I’m really glad you’re enjoying the blog even if you can’t always comment (which is totally fine and understandable!) so thanks for reading and I hope you’re right about our soon-to-be backyard paradise! :)

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