What is Diatomaceous Earth and How to use Diatomaceous Earth in your Garden?

In today’s video we look at a very effective method of pest control which is diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous Earth can easily be used in your home garden to control a wide variety of pests like:

Arthropods

  • Aphids
  • Corn Earworm
  • Mealybugs
  • Spider Mites
  • Tomato / Tobacco Hornworm
  • Whiteflies

Gastropods

  • Snails
  • Slugs
Pests that are effectively controlled by DE
Pests that are effectively controlled by DE

Diatomaceous earth is a broad-spectrum organic insecticide which is so safe that you can eat it. So, what is Diatomaceous earth? Diatomaceous earth or in short, DE is a very fine powder which is made up by crushed freshwater diatoms. While there are different variants of diatomaceous earth used for various purposes, you want to make sure that for gardening purposes, you use the food grade Diatomaceous earth like the one pictured below.

Food grade DE
Food grade DE

You want to buy a product which also comes with an applicator as it’s easy to apply. Although it looks like a fine powder, under the microscope, diatomaceous earth looks like many barbs or shards. This is what makes diatomaceous earth very effective. Its highly recommended that you wear a mask during application. Although diatomaceous earth is safe to humans, it does irritate the nasal passages. And ideally you shouldn’t be breathing in any form of dust anyways. So, wear a mask!

Dusting DE on plants growing in raised beds
Dusting DE on plants growing in raised beds

Using the applicator makes easy work of spreading the diatomaceous earth on the plants. In our vegetable garden, we use diatomaceous earth to control aphids and spider mites very effectively. We also use DE on our container plants, is great for plants like okra and eggplants which are commonly infested by aphids. The way diatomaceous earth controls arthropods is that it removes lipids or fats from their exoskeleton and the arthropod eventually sheds it, causing it to dry out and die or become easy prey to its predators like birds, etc. So, does it work on ants? Well technically yes but there are better methods to control ants. And ants usually don’t cause any damage to plants except that they protect aphids but generally do not cause any harm to the plants.

Dusting DE on container plants
Dusting DE on container plants

If you have a lot of rain or a water your plants frequently, diatomaceous earth will not be very effective. You need a dry environment for diatomaceous earth to be effective. While you can mix diatomaceous earth in water and spray, it will only be effective when the water completely dries out. Diatomaceous earth takes about 36 to 48 hours to take effect. You want the insects to crawl on it for it to be effective, so you need to liberally apply DE to cover all the plant foliage/underside of the leaves etc. Now you may be asking does diatomaceous earth affect beneficial insects like bees and ladybugs? Yes, it does but to some extent. Apply the product early in the morning or late night when bees are less active, later in the day they will try to avoid the dusted plants.

To find out more watch What is Diatomaceous Earth & How to use Diatomaceous Earth in your Garden?

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