Diatomaceous Earth, or DE as it’s also called, is a naturally occurring compound that is derived from fossilized diatoms. It’s an excellent tool to have in your arsenal whether you’re a gardener, animal lover or homesteader. DE can help rid your garden of squash bugs, keep fleas from making your pets’ lives miserable and can act as a dewormer for your barnyard friends. Sounds too good to be true, huh?
Diatomaceous Earth works by cutting the exoskeleton of insects so that they dry out and die. Sounds painful. The great news for humans is that DE is completely safe for us…it doesn’t cut us or irritate our skin in any way. If you inhale too much, it can certainly make you cough but that’s about it. There are two types of DE: pool grade diatomaceous earth and food grade diatomaceous earth. You want FOOD GRADE DE. The pool grade DE has other stuff mixed in and I would much rather be safe than sorry, especially since you’ll be using it in your garden or on your pets.
So what parameters should you use when applying diatomaceous earth? If you’re using it in the garden, you need to apply it when the foliage is dry. DE is rendered ineffective when water touches it…the sharp edges of DE disappear as it mixes with water but once it dries DE is effective again. Try not to apply it first thing in the morning when the foliage is still dewy or before you water. If you have issues with insects in the garden, apply it directly to them making sure to coat the undersides of the leaves as well. DE will also kill beneficials in the garden so make sure that you are targeting a specific pest and not just blanketing your garden as a preventative.
What about fleas? We have an indoor/outdoor cat that thoroughly enjoys her job as protector of our property. Whether it be birds, squirrels, rabbits, moles, voles or snakes, she has successfully removed at least one of them from our yard. But as is the case with most cats, she doesn’t just kill them and leave them be…no, she has to play with them. As a result, she has fleas; not tons of them but there are still fleas. One flea is enough to make me miserable so we use DE on her. The results vary depending on how often I apply it. We just sprinkle it on her coat and massage it down to her skin. The adult fleas are killed within a couple of hours but the eggs and larvae are still there long after the DE has faded. The effectiveness of the DE is only as good as the frequency of the application.
Now the part of the intro that mentioned using DE as a wormer in animals is not something that I’ve done personally but many folks, especially old-timers, swear by it. There are also quite a few websites that tout their products as being effective in controlling worms and other internal parasites. There are many people who ingest DE daily as well. That’s between you, the man upstairs and the DE if you decide to go that route. It can’t be much worse than the GMO laced food we ingest on a daily basis can it? Sorry for the tangent…
So, have you used diatomaceous earth to treat for pests in your garden or on your animals? What kind of results did you have? Leave me a comment below or e-mail me. If you enjoy being part of the Mid-Atlantic Gardening community, join our e-mail list (upper right hand corner of this page), become a fan on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. Happy gardening!