As our homestead grows and we experience new challenges, we are always adding new tools to our natural and organic way of life. The best tools for us are ones that can be used on a variety of things especially when it comes to pest and disease control in the garden. Diatomaceous earth is one of the safest and most adaptable natural pest controls we have found. It’s nice to have something safe enough to use in the garden to fight pests as well as inside the home. Ryan and I love the stuff. You’ve probably heard us talking about all of our troubles in the garden throughout this year. Diatomaceous earth is what has helped us stay in the game.
diatomaceous earth (DE) uses in the garden
What is it?
Diatomaceous Earth is fossilized remains of microscopic algae-like plants which is comprised of nearly pure silica. It’s a talc-like powder to us, but to bugs it’s like broken glass. It is a non-selective dust that kills insects by cutting up their waxy coated bodies and wicking moisture out, therefore dehydrating the insect to death. (Poor guys, I can’t help but feel bad.) It is a physical pest control, so there are no chemicals to worry about. Because it is lethal to beneficial insects as well, you want to use it sparingly and wisely. Thankfully, earthworms are one beneficial insect not effected by the wondrous stuff.
Only use DE that is food grade or OMRI-listed. Do not use the pool grade as they can contain added chemicals. Though DE is not deadly to bees, avoid using in areas that bees may come in contact with it as it can be harmful to them. Also, avoid dusting flowers as it deters pollinators. That’s a lose lose for us all. If your infestation is bad enough where you need to use it around flowers, cover the plants with a sheet. Once the treatment is over, uncover the plants and rinse off any DE with water.
As for us humans, DE can irritate our lungs, so play it safe and use a mask when applying it. Always keep it away from children as they can be far more sensitive than adults.
Pests it kills.
ants, aphids, beetles, borers, caterpillars, cockroaches, cut worms, fleas, flies, lice, mites, pysllids, silverfish, squash bugs, spiders, thrips
How to use it.
Use a duster or squeeze bottle to dust the diatomaceous earth in areas that the pests hang out. For pests that eat on the leaves and upper growth, completely cover the upper and lower sides of the leaf. We apply the dust around the base of our squash plants to take care of squash borers. DE has played a large role in our little ant war, we spread it both across the ant hills and in the areas they march. It has even been used to keep roaches away by dusting it into the little cracks and spaces that they escape to. (I’ve had to learn that living in Georgia means roaches will enter your world once in a while.) In areas that get rained on, reapply until pests are gone.
When we finally enter the world of keeping chickens, DE can be sprinkled on the ground in nesting coops to prevent lice and mites. It can even be dusted over their feathers to treat them directly. Some farmers even add it to animal feed to control internal parasites of livestock. It can even be added to manure to reduce odor and kill breeding flies. A Ring of DE is occasionally sprinkled around plants, like the strawberries below, to keep those
cute mean slugs away.
DE can be mixed with water to create a whitewash of sorts that can be painted on the trunks of fruit trees. DE is the first line of defense against borers and other pests that plaque fruit trees.
Wet spray it.
Mix 1-4 tablespoons of DE per gallon and spray on affected areas like the lawn, shrubs, tree trunks and around building foundations. Once it dries up, it has the same affect as dry DE. Plus, it will cover and stick to the surfaces of leaves and walls better than dusting dry with DE.
Diatomaceous earth has something of a miracle-cure reputation and it certainly is effective against many pests. DE has saved us numerous times. As our homestead grows, the ways it saves the day will only grow. ( I suddenly have an image of DE with a cape in superman pose.) There are many uses for DE outside of the garden. We have really only scratched the surface with the little ways we use it on the occasional trespassers inside the house.
So put the chemical sprays away and pick up a little diatomaceous earth. It’s inexpensive and goes a long way. An organic garden is a happy garden, if we do say so ourselves.