Q. I was out working in my garden and was surprised to see teeming mound of little ants. What should I do?
A. You probably don't need to do anything. Generally, ants found in the garden are considered beneficial or at least inconsequential, but they can become pests when they nest beneath plants, undermining the roots or when they take up residence in childrens' play areas. In lieu of using pesticides, discourage them in the garden by raking down their mounds frequently and keeping the area wet. This won't kill them, but will encourage them to move somewhere else.
The teaming mound of little ants you saw was probably a territorial "war" between two colonies of pavement ants. When in a mass like you observed, they are biting and trying to tear each other apart. The war should end before long, but they are best left undisturbed because their bites have a little sting to them.
Q. We are going to feed out two heads of cattle for beef. If we feed them some grain, do we need to feed hay too? If so, what kind of hay and how much?
A. Yes, you will need to provide some hay. Cattle, which are ruminants, require roughage in their diet to keep their digestive tract healthy. Consider that the animals should get a minimum of about 10 percent of their diet in roughage. Moderate to good quality grass or grass/legume mix hay will work well. Also remember to start with a small amount of grain, and slowly increase the quantity to the desired amount so the animals have ample time to adapt to the diet. This will help ensure that digestive upsets won't occur.
Q. Is there a way to judge how much water a fruit tree needs? I heard there might be a water shortage this summer.
A. Trees can survive on surprising little water. The exact amount used is a complex answer that depends on the soil, size of tree and temperature. This website (http://cesonoma.ucanr.edu/files/27167.pdf) is a good resource to explain it further. "Partial root zone drying" is a water-saving technique where half the root zone is watered one week and the other half is watered the next week. The plant always has water but less overall was applied.
-- Questions should be called in to the WSU Extension offices in Kennewick at 735-3551 or Pasco at 545-3511.