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Diatomaceous Earth Garden Uses

If you’re wondering how to use diatomaceous earth in the garden, this post will go over some of the best uses such as killing pests on your plants, removing odor from your compost pile, and more!

Diatomaceous earth sprinkled on brussels sprouts in the garden bed

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One of the most frustrating problems in the garden is pests.

One day your plants will all be beautiful and pest free and practically overnight they can become infested with bugs.

Then when you start trying to find solutions it can get overwhelming. Most home gardeners prefer to not use chemical pesticides on their vegetable plants and so you’re limited to finding an effective organic solution.

Well, thankfully that is where diatomaceous earth comes in! It is all-natural and works amazing wonders in the garden!

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What is Diatomaceous Earth (DE)

DE is a chalk-like powder made up of the fossilized remains of tiny aquatic organisms called diatoms. Their skeletons are made of a natural substance called silica.

The DE kills bugs by drying them out and the microscopic sharp edges of the DE particles are abrasive which helps speed up the process.

Diatomaceous Earth Garden Uses

The number one use for diatomaceous earth in the garden is for pest control. But it can also help in other ways such as deterring rodents, increasing drainage in potting soil, and deodorizing bad smells.

But let’s start with insect control because it is such a huge problem for so many gardeners.

Diatomaceous earth will kill just about all insects, but here are some common garden pests that it will kill.

  • aphids
  • maggots
  • beetles
  • ants
  • slugs
  • mites
  • cutworms
  • squash bugs
  • tomato hornworms

At some point or another, your plants have likely been affected by at least one of those pests. In my garden, I have the most trouble with aphids, ants, and slugs and I know firsthand that DE has helped tremendously.

How to Apply Diatomaceous Earth to Plants

Diatomaceous earth needs to be in direct contact with the pest to be effective. So wherever you see the bugs is where you need to apply the DE.

If you see bugs on the leaves of your plants you should sprinkle the DE directly on the pests and all over the rest of the plant leaves to be sure all bugs come in contact with it.

A trick to making it stick is to spray your plants down with water first and then sprinkle on the DE.

Diatomaceous earth sprinkled on cabbage plants

Make sure that you don’t wash off the diatomaceous earth after application though. If it rains or if you water your plants from above and wash off the diatomaceous earth you will need to reapply.

You should also spread the diatomaceous earth around the base of your plants. This is especially useful for killing slugs.

As the slugs crawl through the DE to get to your plants they will come in contact and then quickly die before eating your plants.

A hack for making sprinkling the DE easier is to use a large shaker like this handheld spreader, which will help distribute it more evenly.

Diatomaceous earth sprinkled in the garden bed around brussels sprouts

How Often to Apply Diatomaceous Earth

The great thing about DE is that it is completely safe and so you can apply it as often as needed.

But it has to be present to be effective, so if it gets washed off of your plants you need to reapply it so the insects will come in contact with it.

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What Type of Diatomaceous Earth to Buy

You should always use food-grade diatomaceous earth. You can typically find it in stores like Home Depot and Tractor Supply but if not, it is available on Amazon.

Using food-grade De will ensure that you are completely safe if you happen to consume any of it, which is why I love using it on my vegetable plants for pest control.

It takes away all of the worries of having to wash it all off or having to wait after application before harvesting and safely eating your vegetables.

Diatomaceous Earth On Lettuce Plants

Other Diatomaceous Earth Garden Uses

As mentioned earlier, DE is most commonly used for killing insects but there are so many other great uses for it.

1.) Use DE as a Deodorizer

Diatomaceous earth will mask and remove odors and so you can spread it anywhere that you want to remove odors.

Such places may include areas where your pet takes their potty breaks, in the horse, cattle, goat, and pig pens, or maybe even a compost pile that’s starting to smell.

No matter what odor you’re trying to get rid of, DE can be a great solution.

2.) Use it in Your Compost Pile

As mentioned above, DE is great at helping to eliminate odors. So sprinkling it all over your compost pile will help with the smell.

Another great reason to use it in your compost pile is that it will kill maggots. Maggots are disgusting little creatures and so keeping them out of your compost pile is definitely a plus!

3.) Use Diatomaceous Earth to Deter Rodents

One way I’ve heard of deterring rodents such as mice and rabbits is with lemon and peppermint essential oils. While I’ve never personally tried it, I believe it’s definitely worth trying.

Instead of sprinkling the oils right into the garden, mix a few drops of the oils into a bowl of diatomaceous earth which will help retain the scent for a longer period of time.

Then set the bowls around your garden and since rodents don’t like the smell it should help deter them.

4.) Use it as a Soil Additive

Diatomaceous earth helps to increase drainage and air circulation within the soil and so it is commonly added to succulent and cactus mixes which are suited for plants that prefer well-draining soil.

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Is Diatomaceous Earth Safe for Humans?

Food-Grade diatomaceous earth is not harmful to humans and so you really don’t have much to worry about. But there are a few safety measures you can take for caution.

  • Wear gloves while applying
  • Wear a mask if you think you might breathe in large amounts
  • Don’t spread it all over your skin

I have personally never had any issues with DE and I don’t usually wear gloves or a mask. But if you have breathing problems or have sensitive skin, being on the more cautious side is always best.

Is Diatomaceous Earth Safe for Plants?

Yes, diatomaceous earth is completely safe for all plants but there are a few things to keep in mind when you are applying it.

The one thing you need to keep in mind as you spread DE all over your garden is that there are a few insects that you DO want around. Like bees, ladybugs, and butterflies. We depend on these great insects for pollination.

So you should try your best to be strategic about where and when you apply diatomaceous earth. Since insects will only die from coming into direct contact with DE, insects will not die unless they land in it.

Bees, butterflies, and ladybugs all tend to be out during the day and so the first thing you can do to protect the pollinators is to apply DE in the early morning and evening when those insects are not flying around.

The next cautious step you can take is to only apply it to the bottom part of the plants and on top of the soil around the base of the plants. But keep in mind that this will not kill any insects on the leaves of the plants but it will help with pests such as slugs that crawl across the soil.

Another good practice is to never apply it to flowering parts of the plants where insects are pollinating.

All in all, as long as you’re cautious with where you spread the diatomaceous earth, you shouldn’t have any problems killing the good beneficial insects.

Summary

Diatomaceous earth garden uses are pretty much endless. It’s the cure-all for so many garden problems and that’s why I always keep it on hand.

Whether it’s killing pests, taking away odors, deterring rodents, or helping your potting soil, diatomaceous earth is a simple and effective product.

If you have chickens it is also a great product to use around the chicken coop. You can learn more in this article here, 3 Benefits of Using Diatomaceous Earth for Chickens.

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Diatomaceous earth sprinkled on vegetable plants in the garden

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8 Comments

  1. Will the diatomaceous kill snails? With all the rain we’ve had this year they are out in force. My Iris are just starting to bloom and they are covered with spots and holes where the snail are eating. Since this are started from Mama’s plants there on the ranch I don’t want to lose them.

    1. Yes it will kill the snails! You can spread it all around the iris’s to make a border around them and then when the snails go through the DE it will kill them. Then you can also sprinkle it on the iris plants just avoid sprinkling it directly on the flower. You can also get some slug bait and make a border around your plants so the snails go through it on their way to your plants. I’ve had snails really bad this year too!

  2. I have tiny white worm looking bugs eating my green beans and snap peas, will this work on them as well ?

    1. Hi Rhonda, it should be perfectly okay. It won’t hurt anything if it isn’t food grade, it just means it’s even safer if it is. Being that it didn’t say it’s food grade, just be sure to wash your veggies off before eating them and you’re good 🙂

  3. I can’t wait to give this a try. I’m hoping that it will work on tomato worms (caterpillars). I despise those things with a passion.

  4. I’m a little confused about using DE.. I thought that it only kills bugs with exoskeletons, which means it won’t work on aphids. Soap spray or neem oil is all I’ve found to co interact aphids all over my kale and brassicas. Is there just varying opinions?Thanks!!.

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