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Have you ever tried using diatomaceous earth in the garden? This weekend I spent hours out in the backyard planting seeds and plants from the nursery. Then, I came inside and ordered a bag of it so I can start using it in the garden as soon as possible. You know why? Because every year I lose my zucchini plants to squash bugs! Keep reading to learn how to use diatomaceous earth in a vegetable garden. (and if you want more tips on gardening, check out my post about The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible).
Using Diatomaceous Earth In A Vegetable Garden
I generally stick to organic gardening and use absolutely nothing on my garden plants. However, that often means that my hard work is ruined by squash bugs and tomato hornworm caterpillars.
This year, I am going to try to find a balance between organic gardening and actually getting to eat the fruits of my labor. Since diatomaceous earth is a very effective natural pest control method, I decided to give that a try first.
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What is Diatomaceous Earth?
First off, what is diatomaceous earth? I’m going to get all science geeky here for a minute. Diatomaceous earth is an ultra-fine white powder made from the fossilized remains of algae-like plants called diatoms.
It works as an effective, natural pest control because the powder is razor-sharp on a microscopic level. It will only feel like chalky powder to your hands but it slices into the outer layer of the insect and kills them. What insects are killed with diatomaceous earth? pretty much all bugs. So, use cautiously and only when necessary.
Tips for Using Diatomaceous Earth in the Garden
Diatomaceous earth is not a chemical but there are some considerations to take into account when handling it. I will address a few of those concerns below but read the package before you begin using diatomaceous earth in the garden.
If you want to keep snails out of the garden or get rid of squash bugs, it may be a good solution. Growing lettuce (for me anyhow) is challenging because of slugs and earwigs in the garden so I use it sparingly around those plants when needed.
The best diatomaceous earth for gardens
Remember, these are garden plants that will be providing you with food. Everything you use on your garden should be safe and non-toxic. This is especially important if you have kids and pets running around in the backyard. Here is the food grade diatomaceous earth that I bought for my own garden.
Is diatomaceous earth safe for bees?
My biggest concern in using diatomaceous earth in the garden is that it will kill honeybees. The research I did shows that it isn’t GREAT for them but doesn’t kill them outright either because of the protective hairs they have on their body. However, in order to minimize their exposure, apply the diatomaceous earth only to the soil and avoid the blossoms completely.
Since honeybees spend most of their time in the flowers, using diatomaceous earth only on the soil should protect them from most of the exposure. Also, try using diatomaceous earth in the garden when bees are not around to minimize exposure.
Early evening once the sun starts going down is the perfect time because many garden pests are just starting to wake up and get hungry but bees generally are back in the hive. Diatomaceous earth is safe for bees when used properly!
Is diatomaceous earth toxic to humans?
Is diatomaceous earth dangerous for humans? No. However, it can be an irritant. Try to avoid making clouds of diatomaceous earth powder. Wear a mask when using it to protect your lungs. Wear gardening gloves if using your hands to apply it to your garden. You can also buy a shaker container and avoid getting it on your hands completely.
How often should you apply diatomaceous earth?
Because diatomaceous earth has to actually contact the bugs in your garden, it needs to be present to work. That means after a rain or after you water the garden, you need to reapply.
Use only where you need it:
Don’t use diatomaceous earth in the garden by throwing it liberally all over the place. Use it only on the plants that have a problem. I know that my zucchini are going to attract squash bugs so I will sprinkle it on those areas.
However, my hot peppers are resistant to just about everything but the giant bunny in the backyard so I won’t use diatomaceous earth on the peppers. I will, however, buy myself some rabbit repellent because I lost all 6 jalapeno plants to one rabbit last year! Treat your garden plants sparingly and keep a close eye on them!
Should you use diatomaceous earth in vegetable gardens?
Using diatomaceous earth in the garden has it’s pluses and minuses. Yes, it is natural and non-toxic but it also kills beneficial insects as well as garden pests. I am hoping that it will help me protect my garden from pests and reap the reward of all my hard work without using toxic chemicals and killing beneficial insects as well. Have you ever tried using diatomaceous earth in the garden?
Learn how to attract beneficial insects to your garden! Just click the photo below!
Diane is a professional blogger and nationally certified pharmacy technician at Good Pill Pharmacy. She earned her BS in Microbiology at the University of New Hampshire and has worked in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging and freelance writing to share this knowledge with others. Learn more about her HERE.