We’re always looking for creative pest control solutions in the garden, and all the better if they’re organic. Responsible pest control methods and organic DIY solutions are more critical than ever; it’s worth learning about diatomaceous earth. Discover how to use organic diatomaceous earth for plants suffering from or vulnerable to insect infestation.
Diatomaceous earth is a chalky, sedimentary rock made of thousands of microscopic sea-dwelling plants called diatoms. A type of algae plant, a diatom is the only microorganism on the planet with silica-lined cell walls.
These silica cell walls don’t decompose when the diatom dies, allowing us to mine the silica from sites 10 million years old. If you want to know more, this article contains the best tips and tricks to get started with diatomaceous earth. Non-toxic, worry-free protection against aggressive insect invaders is at your fingertips.
Is Diatomaceous Earth Good for Plants?
You may wonder, is diatomaceous earth good for plants? Many home gardeners have questions about diatomaceous earth and how it might benefit their pest-fighting strategies.
We’ve made organic pest control easy, and now you can, too. Discover how to use diatomaceous earth for plants indoors and out, and learn some helpful facts along the way.
Let’s Start with Safety
Diatomaceous earth is abrasive, but only on a microscopic level. If you rub some between your fingertips, they feel dry and chalky. The FDA has reviewed the studies on mammalian toxicity levels of DE, and it’s considered safe for aquatic animals, mammals in the wild, and the environment.
Personal safety is still important. Always buy food grade diatomaceous earth, garden grade, or house grade quality when using DE on plants to ensure it’s safe for consumption and doesn’t contain unwanted additives.
While DE isn’t poisonous, it may irritate your nose, lungs, and eyes after prolonged exposure. Always wear a dust mask when handling large quantities of diatomaceous earth.
Is Diatomaceous Earth a Chemical Pesticide?
No, diatomaceous earth is not a chemical pesticide. We mine diatomaceous earth from dried-up riverbeds; it’s technically a soil or substrate. If you were to examine diatomaceous earth under a microscope, it resembles tiny shards of glass. The sharp edge of the silica particle works its way into the joints and exoskeleton of pests.
You might be familiar with silica from those little packets that come in new shoes or backpacks; they’re meant to keep things dry. That’s sort of what the silica from DE does to insects; it disrupts the bug’s waxy coating, causing hydration and death in about 24 hours.
Diatomaceous earth is effective against fungus gnats, aphids, ants, slugs, spider mites, and more. However, diatomaceous earth doesn’t discriminate between pests and beneficial insects. Using DE for soil gnats in houseplants is the quickest way to get rid of the small bugs.
Although DE is intended for use on crawling insect infestations, our beneficial flying pollinators must be a consideration in your pest management strategy. Do not use diatomaceous earth on flowering plants, and keep an eye on the insect activity in your yard for signs of any negative impact on your biodiversity.
Using DE on Plants: What Kinds of Plants Benefit from DE?
Is diatomaceous earth safe for plants? Yes, food grade diatomaceous earth is considered safe for use in organic gardening and won’t harm your plants. Diatomaceous earth is a non-toxic spot treatment to keep localized insect infestations down. Pest-prone vegetables like potatoes, squash, and tomatoes will benefit from diatomaceous earth by removing pests that destroy their leaves and vines.
DE powder is particularly effective against garden pests that crawl. For example, flea beetles and soft bodied insects love to eat garden greens, and if left unchecked, they fill the leaves with holes. If you notice the tell-tale holes in your green vegetable leaves, try diatomaceous earth powder.
How to Use Diatomaceous Earth for Plants
Find out how to use diatomaceous earth for plants in the garden. Many gardeners use the dry method to apply diatomaceous earth powder. A dust applicator works best.
The applicator doesn’t have to be fancy; you can use a plastic container with small holes punched in the lid or try a manufactured applicator; they’re inexpensive and work like a squeeze bottle.
Using DE on plants is straightforward. All you need is a light sprinkling of DE powder straight onto the plant. Lightly coat the leaves and give the plant a shake to ensure more even distribution.
Many home gardeners apply DE directly to the plant soil and skip the leaves altogether. Use diatomaceous earth powder to treat your garden plants weekly during peak pest season.
How to Make Diatomaceous Earth Spray
When using DE on plants, many home gardeners prefer the wet method, also called the spray method. Pre-mixed DE spray is super-convenient and means you don’t have to worry about loose powder blowing back in your face during application.
Diatomaceous earth is ineffective when wet, but once the DE spray dries, it provides insect control against insect pests.
Mix clean water and one tablespoon of food grade diatomaceous earth and give it a thorough stirring. A simple 1-quart soda bottle with a spray nozzle is all you need. Consider an inverted spray nozzle; they’re inexpensive and allow you to quickly turn the bottle upside down to spray the undersides of your leaves.
The DE spray doesn’t need to be dripping from the leaves to be effective. A light weekly coating during peak insect reproduction season is all you need to do the job. Avoid spraying flowers or areas where beneficial pollinators hang out, and keep the bottle safely stored away from children.
How to Treat Ants in Potted Plants with DE
A couple of ants around your tomato plants are no big deal. However, if you start to see large mounds and colonies popping up, it’s time to take action. Does diatomaceous earth kill ant colonies? DE works amazingly well against ants in potted plants and could resolve your problem in as little as 24 hours.
Begin by treating the mounds with a generous coating of dry diatomaceous earth, allowing most of the ant colony members to be exposed. If you can’t find the mounds, start with the potting soil for your outdoor plants.
Spread a layer on top of the potting soil and lightly work it into the subsurface. It’s also okay to mix diatomaceous earth with potting soil for extra protection.
How to Use Diatomaceous Earth for Indoor Plants
Fungus gnats and even the odd bed bug aren’t uncommon indoors and are a pain to get rid of. Fortunately, food grade or home grade diatomaceous earth is safe to use on indoor plants.
It’s okay to coat the leaves and flowers because using DE on plants inside your home poses no risk to beneficial pollinators. Many indoor plant pests live in the soil, too. Don’t forget to mix the diatomaceous earth deeply into the dirt, or add a sprinkling directly to your potting mix.
Once applied to the plant, DE resembles a fine talcum powder and may attract curious kids or pets. While DE isn’t toxic to pets or kids if accidentally ingested, applying it out of reach is still a good idea until you resolve the insect infestation.
Most forms of chemical pesticide build up and leave a lingering impact on fish, wildlife, and water sources. Is diatomaceous earth good for plants? DE powder is a helpful addition to your pest-fighting plan and provides a non-toxic alternative to traditional chemical pesticides.
We hope this informative article has answered all your questions about how to use diatomaceous earth for plants and that the tips help you in the garden this season.
Environmentally friendly options are essential for vegetable gardening and organic farming initiatives. It’s easy to try your hand at organic pest-fighting – diatomaceous earth is a great place to start.
If you enjoyed learning these fascinating facts about how to use diatomaceous earth for plants, share this article with your garden-savvy friends on Pinterest or Facebook who enjoy creative pest-fighting solutions.