Diatomaceous Earth For The Eco Conscious Gardener
Spring is here and it is time to begin taking on a few preventative measures to guard against pests you know visit the garden every year.
This must be done very carefully because the Ladybugs, the Butterflies, the Bees and the Earthworms are already in place to do their work, so we must be very careful and not interfere.
Diatomaceous Earth is also know as DE. According to the Agricultural Resource Science Departments of Texas A&M and The Oklahoma State Universities, DE is composed of finely ground skeletons of fossil diatoms that have extremely sharp edges and will scratch the waxy or oily outer layer of hard-bodied insects.
Basically any crawling insect that moves over or into the the fine white powder of DE picks up the dust and it kills the insect by damaging its outer shell and drying out the moisture inside.
It is a completely natural source that works mechanically as an insect walks into it, but can have its disadvantages if not used properly. This means only using it where it will do the best job, but sparingly.
You don't want to dust the entire plant like many others may tell you. If you are eco conscious in the garden you will be caution of your beneficial insects.
I begin by putting on my think like a bug hat as I look over each tomato plant and its surroundings.
As I observe I see there are no bugs on the plant. I also take notice of several clusters of tomatoes and some with blossoms towards the top of the plant.
I spot a Ladybug walking along the bottom board in the bed about a foot away. I don't want to bring harm to her as she is busy scouting for aphids.
I certainly don't want to get any DE near the flower blossoms either. This would endanger the chance of a pollinator that may stop by.
I am only concerned about the pests who like to get on my fruit and suck the juice out of them. That would be the stink bugs and the leaf footed bugs. They always hide up in the clusters of fruit and underneath them. That is where I will apply the DE.
The DE is fine like baby powder and I just dip my fingers in some and pat it on the tomatoes bottoms and in the centers of the clusters.
DE is not a cure all one time fix the problem. I will still need to monitor the plants on a daily basis.
It will not be long before the horn worms come out and those I will need to handpick.
Also once you have a hard rain or just every so often, you will need to re-dust the fruit and and hand squish a bug or two.
This method can also be applied to your other vegetables as well. Things like Squash bugs and Borers can do a lot of damage and kill your squash plants.
Simply think like a bug and just sprinkle around the base of the plant where they want to hide, being careful not to get any in the blooms.
The blooms on the squash will depend on Bumble Bees and Carpenter Bees to pollinate them.
- NEVER use pool filter grade or any Diatomaceous Earth other than those labeled “food grade”. Pool filter and some DE sold as insecticides contains additives that are harmful to you and your animals.
- Because DE acts as a drying agent, avoid contact with eyes and lungs.
- Do NOT use heavily on carpets to avoid vacuum problems.
- Use wisely around pollinating and beneficial insects