Growing your own produce is one of the most fulfilling things you can do with your yard. But when pests start getting involved, they can quickly turn a useful hobby into a frustrating disaster.
To battle these garden pests, many homeowners turn to toxic pesticides and other chemicals. What they don’t know is that diatomaceous earth is an effective and inexpensive solution to many garden problems. And this product is 100% natural and safe to use around food, family, and pets.
In this article, we’ll show you 9 uses for diatomaceous earth in the vegetable garden and around the yard. Plus, we’ll tell you how to safely apply DE to keep your garden thriving.
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Uses For Diatomaceous Earth In the Garden
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a safe, natural powder made from the fossilized shells of microscopic algae. The high silica content makes it deadly to insects whose waxy exoskeletons are punctured and sucked dry by this naturally dehydrating substance.
Controlling garden pests is just one of many uses for DE around the yard and garden.
Here are nine of our favorite ways to put this valuable powder to use.
1. Control Aphids
By the time you notice your favorite flower or veggie plant has an aphid problem, it’s usually already infested with thousands of these sap-sucking pests.
Soapy washes can be effective, but they take a lot of work and repeat applications. One much simpler method is to dust the plant in question with a layer of DE.
This fine powder will stick to the plant where the aphids have been drawing out sap and quickly kill every bug that comes in contact with it.
2. Keep Bugs Off Produce
Growing strawberries, squash, and other tasty produce that makes contact with the ground can be tricky. Pill bugs, weevils, slugs, and other insects can easily reach and damage these fruits before they’re ripe enough to pick.
By applying DE to the ground under and around these fruits and vegetables, you can prevent bugs from getting anywhere near them.
Note: You can also use DE to cover the produce and plants themselves to protect them from all sorts of garden pests.
3. Treat Compost
Green and overly moist compost attract insects like flies who love to lay their eggs in stinky soil. When you spread this compost in the garden you spread these pests along with it.
If you notice maggots and other undesirable bugs making a home in your compost, sprinkle it with DE to get rid of them. You can also mix DE into your compost to up its moisture-retaining power and help aerate your soil.
Not only does diatomaceous earth kill fly larvae and flying insects on contact, but it is completely harmless to earthworms.
4. Get Rid of Ants
Ants generally aren’t a problem in the garden unless they’re farming aphids or setting up camp where you need to walk. In either of these cases, putting down DE can quickly convince ants to find another place to call home.
Dust the top of each ant mound you see. Any ants that come out and walk over the DE will die. As the colony gets wise to the danger, they’ll reengineer their tunnel system to create a new entrance elsewhere.
Note: If you put down enough DE or continue to dust new entrances, eventually the colony will move altogether. You can read more about using DE to get rid of ants in this article.
5. Control Ticks and Fleas
Ticks and fleas don’t typically take up residence in the vegetable garden, but they can find their way there if the surrounding yard is thick with vegetation or borders on wildlands.
Luckily, keeping these biting pests out of your yard is as easy as dusting your lawn and flower beds with DE.
Note: Remember to reapply after each rainfall and keep at it until the weather begins to cool. For more information on how to use DE to control fleas and ticks, check out this article.
6. General Pest Control
Any bug with an exoskeleton will be affected by DE. This includes spiders, most beetles, cockroaches, larvae, and insect pests. This broad application means that you can use DE in your garden beds to rid them of a number of different troublesome bugs.
Dusting both the soil and the plants themselves can be an effective means to protect your garden from insects.
Note: But keep in mind, friendly insects like bees and spiders can also be harmed by DE. One way to help protect pollinators is to avoid dusting flower heads. This is especially true of deep flowers like squash blossoms that require bees to crawl inside.
DE can also be used for pest control inside the home. Find out how, here.
7. Create Homemade Potting Soil
Since DE is highly absorbent, it makes a great addition to homemade potting soil. Not only does it help trap water but it also aerates the soil for healthier roots.
Mix 2 parts DE with 4 parts soil. Your soil should be a mixture of peat moss, compost, and perlite, as outlined in the video below.
8. Make Homemade Rodent Repellents
Another way to take advantage of DE’s absorbency is to use it to make rodent repellent.
Food-grade diatomaceous earth is completely harmless to mammals. But when mixed with certain essential oils, it can be very effective at repelling rodents from the home and garden.
To make your own DE repellent:
- Simply mix 1 cup DE, ⅛ cup sugar, and 3 drops of essential oil
- Mix well and distribute around plants being targeted by mice, voles, and other rodents.
These essential oils are the most effective against rodents in the garden:
9. Control Odors
In addition to essential oils and water, DE can also absorb odors. This can be helpful in the garden to deal with cat urine.
If your cat or your neighbor’s cats like to use your garden beds as their personal toilet, dusting the area with DE can help neutralize the odor.
Once you’ve taken care of the smell, you can use lemon oil and DE, as outlined above, to help repel the cats.
How to Apply Diatomaceous Earth to Vegetable Gardens
What you’re using the DE for will determine exactly how to apply it. But for a general guideline on how to apply DE on plants and soil to kill pests, you can follow the steps outlined below.
- Purchase only food-grade DE to apply around the home and garden. This type is safer to handle and breathe than filter-grade DE.
- Wear gloves and a dust mask. While food-grade DE is relatively safe to handle, it can dry out the skin and irritate the lungs, so it’s best to use these safety measures.
- Use a puffer or scoop to dust your soil and plants with DE. Alternatively, you can wet apply DE using ⅛ cup DE mixed with 2 cups of water. Put this mixture in a spray bottle and apply. This will help the DE stick to your plants better, but it won’t become effective until it dries.
- Repeat the application process as needed. Rain, sprinklers, and wind can all disturb your DE coat. Be sure to reapply often to keep your garden safe.
Diatomaceous earth is highly effective against garden pests and many other garden issues, but you’ll need to be studious about applying it.
Luckily, this process isn’t difficult and DE is fairly affordable.
Have questions about applying DE in your garden? Comment below and we’ll help you find the answers.