Diatomaceous earth (DE), a soft sedimentary rock that is found in the form of an ancient lake and river deposits, is extracted around the globe.
The fine powder is made up of diatoms, which lived and died in a variety of bodies of water throughout the ages. It is made up of the fossilized remains of ancient algae and phytoplankton.
As single-celled creatures accumulated over millions of years, they compressed and produced deposits of the porous, sand-like particles we call diatomaceous earth or diatomite, which were made up of silica.
Diatomite deposits have been found in Scotland, the Czech Republic, the Sahara Desert, Germany, Denmark, and the western United States, and each deposit has qualities that are specific to its location. DE is sometimes white, grey, or brown due to this.
Diatomaceous earth, on the other hand, is mostly made up of silica, a valuable substance that may be found in everything from the ground’s crust to rocks and sand as well as inside plant and animal cells. Calcium, iron, sodium, and a variety of other trace minerals are also present in varying concentrations.
Diatomaceous earth is a non-toxic and environmentally friendly method to solve a variety of issues that come up in the garden. Using food-grade diatomaceous earth from freshwater sources is safe enough to eat and will not harm people or animals if consumed, though you should avoid breathing it in.
Read on to learn how diatomaceous earth may be used in your garden in a variety of ways.
1. All-Purpose Mechanical Insecticide
Diatoms from freshwater sources are typically cylindrical in shape and have a glass-like texture when viewed under a microscope, with ribs, spines, pores, and ridges covering their jagged surface area.
Diatomaceous earth is used in pest management in two ways. The notched surface of diatomaceous earth’s tiny glassy cylinders cuts into an insect’s body, causing punctures and wounds, which lead to the bug losing fluids. DE also absorbs these fluids because it is porous, drying the insect out. Buggies will typically die from their injuries in 24 to 48 hours, despite the fact that death is not immediate. It takes five days for large infestations to show symptoms.
Diatomaceous earth is effective against a wide range of insect species, but it doesn’t differentiate between beneficial and harmful insects. As a result, do not indiscriminately distribute diatomaceous earth in your yard.
It is best to use diatomaceous earth in the garden only when necessary to maintain a healthy ecosystem and protect your crops, and avoid applying it where it may harm ladybugs, bees, butterflies, and green lacewings, wasps, and other beneficial bug populations. Apply it close to the ground and never apply it to flowering plants. Use it only on severely impacted crops. When the wind isn’t blowing, spread it around your garden and lawn on calm days. You can alternatively cover treated plants in burlap bags for a day or two, rinse the DE off with a hose, and then remove the burlap.
2. Repel Slugs
Slugs are voracious eaters that will prey on almost any organic material they come across, with soft bodies composed mostly of water. They’ll devour your plants and seedlings, gorging on leaves, flowers, lichens, mushrooms, and even earthworms and carrion. They’re generalists who’ll make a fast feast of them all.
Slugs are particularly susceptible to the drying effects of diatomaceous earth because they live in slimy mucus. Sprinkle your plants around the edges of your garden bed or beneath the roots of individual plants to keep them safe. After each watering and rainfall, be sure to reapply diatomaceous earth since it easily washes away.
3. Treat An Ant Invasion
Ants in the garden can be beneficial, aerating the soil, feasting on other insects, and scurrying about, but they can be a headache when they come into your home.
Take note of where you’ve seen ants and investigate places they might be entering before attempting to treat them indoors. In floorboards, baseboards, window sills, and any doorways with edges and cracks sprinkle diatomaceous earth.
Make a spray by mixing 4 tablespoons of diatomaceous earth with 1 gallon of water to apply it to walls and other vertical surfaces. When the water evaporates, wet applications of DE will be effective.
See whether they have changed their routes or applied fresh powder to new locations for the next day or two. After one month, if necessary, clean the diatomaceous earth and reapply.
If your indoor ant problem is being exacerbated by large anthills on your property, you may want to deal with it directly. Digging into the anthill will reveal the queen, which is protected by a shovel. Add some diatomaceous earth to your shovel, mix it around, and reapply. A 1-foot radius around the anthill should be liberally sprinkled with DE.
4. Soil Conditioner
Although it contains some minerals, diatomaceous earth is much more effective as a soil conditioner in gardens or potting soil mixes. The growing medium holds on to nutrients and moisture because it is porous. Your soil will drain better if you add a little DE. It protects against soil-dwelling insects like fungus gnats and root aphids while harming beneficial microbes in the soil.
Combine 50% soil and compost, 25% coconut coir, and 25% diatomaceous earth to create a stellar water-retaining potting soil blend.
5. Preserve Cut Flowers
- Dry your freshly cut flowers with diatomaceous earth to preserve their freshness longer.
- After that, for three days, suspend them in a dry location.
- Sprinkle a layer of DE across the bottom of an airtight container.
- Make sure none of your flowers or leaves touch each other when you’re placing them.
- Secure the lid with another layer of DE.
- Turn the blooms upside down and seal the container after three days.
Before removing them, allow them to sit for three more days.
To remove the DE from your cuttings, gently shake them in a vase for your viewing pleasure.
How to Use Diatomaceous Earth Safely
Food-grade diatomaceous earth is preferred when shopping. DE is non-toxic and has a variety of uses in the food industry.
Diatomaceous earth that has been pool grade, on the other hand, is heated to high temperatures, resulting in a change of composition. This kind is harmful to animals and humans, and it is ineffective in pest management. It is employed for water purification.
During the application of diatomaceous earth, avoid inhaling the tiny dust particles. Despite the fact that DE is generally safe, it may irritate the nasal passages and lungs if it is breathed in for a long period. Those who have asthma or persistent bronchitis should use extra caution and wear a respirator.
Diatomaceous earth is absorbent, so it can be dry to the touch. When working directly with it, protect your hands with a pair of gloves to avoid the dehydrating effects. You can use a spoon, a small duster, or a shaker bottle to disperse DE for other uses.