Farmers and gardeners today are aware of the environmental benefits of using organic products like diatomaceous earth.
The widespread use of chemical pesticides and fungicides is harmful to bees and other essential pollinators, wildlife, and domestic animals.
Public awareness of the danger of toxicity in food crops has emphasized the need to return to the use of organic methods.
Diatomaceous earth has been known since antiquity as a natural insecticide as well as for its many health-giving properties .
Here are 13 diatomaceous earth uses and benefits for the modern organic gardener. We’ll also look at application methods.
1. All-Round Natural Insecticide
The most important benefit of DE is as a general non-toxic pesticide that can be used against almost any harmful critter .
This white powdery substance consists of crushed fossilized shells of diatoms.
What’s more, it has a double-action against many pests by a process of dehydration. Additionally, it has a destructive lacerating effect from the microscopic silicon fragments.
Apart from those listed below, the kind of insects and bugs that diatomaceous earth kills include:
- Leaf miners
- Bed bugs
- Squash bugs
- Scales on plants
- Boxelder bugs
- Harlequin bugs
- Pill bugs
- Sow bugs
- Leaf-footed bugs
- Kissing bugs
- Bad garden worms
DE is also beneficial in preserving useful pollinating insects that do not absorb the product. Also, earthworms that nourish the soil are unaffected.
2. Keeps Away Maggots
A compost heap in the garden is a joy to gardeners for the many uses derived from the rich organic mix of garden/household waste. It is invaluable in enriching garden soil and preserving moisture in hot weather.
However, the downside of the heap is that it may harbor many unwanted maggots and other creatures.
A little diatomaceous earth added to the mix can rid the compost of maggots and unhelpful insects. The product will cut up their soft bodies, killing them.
3. Deters Slugs
Spreading a layer of DE outdoors, around ornamental plants and vegetables will deter these harmful creatures.
Those that attempt to cross over the barrier will meet with the very abrasive earth. As a result, the sharp silicone edges will cut into the protections of their exoskeletons, causing fluid loss.
DE particles entering their bodies results in further dehydration which kills the slugs.
4. Ant Control
Well-organized tracks of ants across the garden can rapidly expand into vast highways of tiny transporters carrying pests and diseases straight to healthy plants.
Although most ants have a useful role to play in the vegetable garden, improving the soil and protecting plants from various insects, swarms are a nuisance.
Ant hills damage lawns and red fire ants can bite or sting so a dusting with DE will rapidly destroy ant nests and trails.
Adding diatomaceous earth in potting soil and around garden beds will help keep ants off plants. Additionally, sprinkling it around the house will help prevent them from entering your home.
5. Repels Flies
Flies, especially tiny blackflies, can quickly cover plants and damage them, particularly the young growth in spring.
DE will kill flies. It deals with this problem by dehydrating them as they absorb the powder puffed onto and around plants.
6. Eliminates Aphids
Another pest familiar to gardeners in the spring and early summer, aphids feed on the sap in plants causing them to wilt. Besides, they carry viruses too and can rapidly spread diseases to many plants.
Coating affected plants with diatomaceous earth spray will help with aphids tremendously.
7. Gnat Control
There are several types of gnats but each group gathers and swarms in ‘clouds’ around moist areas, rotting fruit, or decaying vegetation.
Some bite, some don’t, but you can consider all a nuisance, especially as they often migrate into the house and onto houseplants.
Dusting DE over the topsoil of potted plants will kill fungus gnat larvae and prevent or limit re-infestation. You can also make some DE spray to repel the adults.
8. Ticks, fleas, and Red Mites
As every pet owner knows, fleas and ticks are a constant problem, the more so as these parasites become resistant to certain treatments.
These bloodsucking pests pose many serious health problems. Moreover, they can attach themselves to humans as well as pets and farm animals.
Grasses in the spring harbor them and a program of prevention is the best way of dealing with that.
A solution of DE and water spread around the house and garden will when dry, prevent eggs from developing and kill the adult pests.
You can also apply the powder directly onto pests to kill the parasites and prevent a new infestation .
9. Wasps and Hornets
These insects have an eco-friendly role in the garden; however, large numbers can become a nuisance.
Their stings are especially troublesome to children and pets as well as the gardener at work.
DE applied near swarms will deter and even kill wasps and hornets that come in contact with it. They may also take the powder back to their nests.
10. Vermin Deterrent
Rodents like mice and rats can do much damage in the garden. Moles are notorious for digging tunnels in lawns. Besides, rabbits will just eat through the carefully nurtured vegetable patch in no time.
Catching them may be difficult and trapping distasteful to some gardeners. Diatomaceous powder can do the job effectively by deterring them.
Some gardening experts suggest adding strongly smelling oils like peppermint or lemon that DE can easily absorb. This should further discourage vermin.
11. Pot and Greenhouse Plants
DE is a highly porous substance which, when added to fertilizer and soil, can help aerate and nourish the plants.
It is also beneficial here in improving drainage.
Flower gardens may be delightfully fragrant places but all gardens have some smelly corners that need attention.
Spraying DE around the compost heap, trash cans, or the favorite toilet patch of the household pet will deodorize these areas.
13. Preserves Flowers
A dusting of DE has another use in saving short-lived spring/summer flowers by helping to dry and preserve them.
How to Use Diatomaceous Earth in the Garden
One of the greatest benefits of using diatomaceous earth on plants is that the product is non-toxic. However, still take precautions when mixing, spreading, or spraying.
Here are some tips on how to apply diatomaceous earth in the garden:
- Face masks and protective clothing is advisable and keep children and pets away from the substance when making an application.
- Spread DE, dry or with water, around growing plants, soil, or grass throughout the winter to destroy eggs.
- Further applications and spraying in the spring will kill off many of the emerging larvae. Moreover, the remaining adults can be treated by puffing the powder directly onto them.
- Diatomaceous earth spray recipes vary, but a general guide is to use 4 tablespoons of DE for every gallon of water. Shake well before using it.
- You will need to repeat applications after watering or rainfall.
The powder works just as well as Sevin for pest control — only non-toxic and safer.
Where to Buy
DE can be bought online or at your local gardening center.
However, purchase food-grade quality if the purpose is for spraying leafy vegetables or for applying indoors. Otherwise, the regular type is fine.
In an era of renewed environmental concerns, diatomaceous earth is one age-old natural remedy against pests and bugs. It is most effective against pests that crawl over it.