Natural Pest Control, Part 1: Diatomaceous Earth (D.E.)

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Natural Pest Control, Part 1: Diatomaceous Earth (D.E.)

Pest control doesn't have to mean dousing our gardens with synthetic chemicals that affect our health and well being. There are many safe and inexpensive alternatives that are widely available for all types of pests. In this blog series, we will be highlighting some of the most popular, and effective, natural pest control methods! We use many of these in our own home and gardens and will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Diatomaceous Earth or "D.E." is a very simple, natural product that has many uses. From filtration media to hydroponic applications, D.E. can be found in various products all around us. It also happens to be an incredibly effective insecticide!

Diatomaceous earth is basically just made up of the shells of fossilized, single cell diatoms (a type of hard-shelled algae). Over millions of years, these diatoms have been forming large layers of diatomaceous earth all around the globe, some of which are over a hundred meters in thickness.

Diatomite (diatomaceous earth) (6.8 cm across) from the Miocene-aged Monterey Formation at a diatomite quarry just south of Lompoc, Santa Barbara County, southern California, USA.  - photo by James St. John [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 

Diatomaceous earth forms layers of sedimentary rock. These rocks are very fragile and will easily crumble. This is readily made into the powdered version we use in our homes and gardens. The fine powder, which is harmless to us larger creatures, is made up of razor sharp particles that can pierce a bugs exoskeleton, sucking the lipids from their bodies and causing dehydration.

Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth can be used in your home to get rid of fleas, bed bugs, cockroaches and dust mites - in fact, that is how I first discovered it myself. We were dealing with a flea problem in our home, and a good friend, who also happens to be a vet tech at the local University, suggested that we sprinkle some D.E. on our carpets and furniture to kill the fleas. It can also be sprinkled around your bedroom if you are dealing with bed bugs, and in the garden, you can sprinkle the powder directly on your plants to save them from a wide variety of pests, including mites, snails, slugs, aphids, ants, earwigs, beetles and more.

Sprinkling Diatomaceous Earth on sage plants
Sprinkling Diatomaceous Earth on sage plants.

Early this spring, we had some wonderful, healthy herbs started indoors for transplant into our garden. Within the first week of them being outside, our basil was completely demolished, and the sage was full of holes. I retrieved my shaker of diatomaceous earth, and sprinkled our herbs with a fine dusting, and lo and behold, within a couple of days they started to perk back up! Now we have beautiful, bushy herbs thriving in our garden.

While this natural insecticide quickly and effectively kills insects, the fine powder is completely harmless to humans and other large animals. In fact, food grade D.E. is used in a broad spectrum of applications, including as an additive in toothpaste (as a scrubbing agent) as well as in animal feed (to prevent clumping/caking). Make sure to get "Food Grade" Diatomaceous Earth when purchasing for home and garden use, and give your plants a good rinse after harvesting.

D.E. is pretty easy to come by, you can find it at most tractor supply stores and probably in your local garden center, or you can order it online - http://www.diatomaceousearth.com/


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