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We're having trouble with ants around our potted plants. The ants appear to be crawling out of the holes in the pots. We have watered the plants with a solution of Malathion, but the ants keep coming back. What can we do?

Malathion does not affect ants to any noticeable degree.

Ants sometimes get into the soil in potted plants and cause drying of roots, however. We lost a beautiful cattleya orchid because we were unaware that ants had built a nest in the pot.

The best solution is to repot all the plants which you suspect have ants around the roots. Do it over a tub of water so you can rinse the roots thoroughly and repot in clean soil.

Pouring boiling water over the old soil after you get it away from the roots will destroy any ants. Dusting around the pots with borax will usually get rid of them as well.

We discovered a tuna-fish-can remedy for ants quite by accident. When opening the can leave a segment of the cover intact. Leave a few crumbs of tuna inside and fill part way with water; then push the lid back down.

Having an affinity for tuna, the ants crawl in the water and drown.

We are new at gardening and appreciate your helpful hints. Perhaps you could answer a question for us. What are pelleted seeds? We see them referred to, but there's never an explanation.

Pelleted seeds are those coated with a harmless material that dissolves when coming in contact with moisture.

Tiny seeds, such as begonias, are very difficult to sow evenly, but other seeds are coated as well to:

* Make them more easily and evenly planted by hand or mechanized planters;

* Delay germination until conditions are right;

* Adjust the pH level;

* Protect against pests; and

* Provide nutrients.

According to a garden newsletter,''The Avant Gardener,'' the practice was developed in the 1950s in New Zealand so the seeds of forage grasses could be sown more easily by plane in remote areas. Today's seed companies make pelleted seeds available to home gardeners as well as commerical growers.

Editor's note: In a recent ''Ask the Gardeners'' column mention was made of Miller Chemical Company as a source of animal repellents. A company spokesman informs us that the Hot Sauce produced by the firm is available only to commercial growers in large quantities due to federal regulations for repellents. Good substitutes are ground hot pepper, Tabasco sauce, and Louisiana Hot Sauce.

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