Balancing your garden’s needs with the humans who want to consume its bounty can be difficult. On one hand, you don’t want to contaminate future food with pesticides and on the other hand you don’t want pests to infest and consume the fruits of your labor.
There are many different types of green pesticides meant to control pests in garden, but they work using the same principles that pesticides use.
Most repel the insect by using some distasteful smell or taste. Some try to control insects with toxic substances. Most pesticides, green or not, do not work well against garden pests.
What is diatomaceous earth?
Diatomaceous earth is a dust comprised of diatom fossils. Diatoms, or hard shelled algae, typically live in the water. Their life cycle is about six days, and they reproduce rapidly. Overtime, these fossils have collected in large numbers.
Some green junkies claim taking Diatomaceous earth daily will cleanse the colon and intestines. Interestingly, the same quality that makes Diatomaceous earth good for humans makes it deadly for insects.
These microscopic fossils have hard edges and act as sandpaper against a pest’s exoskeleton. With the exoskeleton disrupted, the pest will become dehydrated leading to death.
Unlike pesticides, diatomaceous earth can eradicate 100% of pests. Even pests that are resistant to pesticides cannot withstand diatomaceous earth.
Diatomaceous earth kills spiders and bed bugs
Spiders and bedbugs are typically the most difficult pest to control. Spiders do not groom themselves, and therefore don’t take in enough pesticide to eradicate them. Bedbugs have become resistant to pesticides. In Ohio, they are nearly 100% resistant to pesticide.
Diatomaceous earth controls Spiders effectively because they do not have to eat the substance for it to work. A spider receives a lethal does by touching the dust.
Diatomaceous earth controls bed bugs in the same manner. In one instance, diatomaceous earth was the only substance introduced to a nursing home to treat a bed bug infestation. The applicators applied heat to infested furniture outside of the building. They also applied Diatomaceous earth inside of the units to control bed bugs and prevent them from spreading. The treatment was successful.
Protecting your garden with diatomaceous earth
Use food-grade diatomaceous earth for gardening. Food grade is safer if any is consumed by accident.
Create a protective barrier
Diatomaceous earth will act like a repellant against most pests including ants, beetles, and garden pests. Pests will not typically cross through the substance unless they are highly motivated. If they walk past your protective barrier, they should not survive long.
Sprinkle diatomaceous earth around your garden. Create a band of protection, being careful not to miss any areas.
Use a dust blower
When you buy diatomaceous earth, you may want to invest in a bulb or power duster. Dusters are the easiest way to spread dust in a garden.
Coat your plants with a thin layer of dust using the duster. Focus on areas where pests are likely to feed, like the foliage of a tomato plant, and the tomatoes themselves.
You will need to reapply to your foliage if you have heavy rains. Diatomaceous earth that washed into the dirt will still control crawling pests.
Tony Carder is the owner of Active Pest Control. More information about diatomaceous earth is available on his blog.
- Franklin Community Garden: Diatomaceous earth (franklinmatters.org)