Diatomaceous Earth 101: Effective Pest Control

As a gardener, you know how much energy, time, money, and love you put into growing your plants. But, unfortunately, plant pests do not care for these sacrifices; and as such they are one of the worst nightmares of gardeners and farmers.

Even worse, some of the chemicals used to deal with these annoying critters can leave pesticide residues in your veggies and fruits, causing harm to you and everyone who eats the food you produce. Luckily, there is a non-toxic mineral that you can use to eliminate all pests from your garden.

This “miracle mineral” is known as Diatomaceous Earth. In this article, you will be learning all you need to know about diatomaceous earth and why you should get some to protect your garden.

What is Diatomaceous Earth? 

Diatomaceous earth (also called DE or Diatomite) is a mineral made from the fossilized remains of tiny aquatic organisms or algae. These organisms are known as diatoms. Natural substances called silica make up the skeletons of these diatoms.

After a long time, diatoms accumulated in the sediments of rivers, streams, lakes, and oceans. You can find these deposits all around the world. There are various forms of silica, including sand, emerald, quartz, mica, clay, asbestos, glass, etc.

You can use diatomaceous earth products to fight against bugs like bed bugs, cockroaches, and many others. You should know that several non-pesticide products also contain diatomaceous earth. These products include toothpaste, beverages, medicines, water filters, etc.

There are two types of diatomaceous earth. We have the food-grade diatomaceous earth, and then pool or filter-grade diatomaceous earth. First of all, you can use the pool or filter grade diatomaceous earth to filter water. In other words, you can use this type of DE to remove any unwanted material from drinking water.

On the other hand, companies use the food-grade diatomaceous earth in pesticides. The Food and Drug Administration classifies diatomaceous earth as a generally safe product, especially when children and pets are concerned.

What is Diatomaceous Earth

How Does it Work?

Diatomaceous Earth is a powder that contains about 80% to 90% of silica. When used as a pesticide, it disrupts the insects’ outer body function by dehydrating them and drying them out. So when these insects crawl over the soil you have treated with diatomaceous earth, they get tiny cuts on their bodies.

These cuts are a result of the sharp edges of the substance. When their body fluids leak out from these cuts, the insects die from dehydration. Also, the tiny particles of the powder get into the insects’ joints and irritate them. Additionally, DE absorbs fat from the outer layers of the pests’ exoskeletons, leading to dehydration.

Also, if the pest you are trying to fend off is quite big, for instance, rodents, diatomaceous earth can damage their internal organs if they swallow the particles.

Unfortunately, Diatomaceous Earth does not distinguish between garden pests and beneficial insects such as honeybees, butterflies, ladybugs, etc. This means the DE powder can also kill these “good” insects.

When shopping for Diatomaceous Earth, you should look for the food-grade type of the substance. This is because the filter or pool grade is ineffective in dealing with garden pests. In addition to this, the pool-grade DE is more harmful than the food-grade DE.

Furthermore, the DE powder allows liquids to flow while easily capturing unwanted materials. This is what happens when you use Diatomaceous Earth to filter your water.

diatomaceous earth: how it works?

Why You Should Use Diatomaceous Earth in Your Garden

When you use Diatomaceous Earth in your garden, you will be attracting several benefits to yourself and your garden. Here are some of the significant reasons you should use Diatomaceous Earth in treating your garden or plants.

  • You can use it as a mechanical pesticide 

Diatomaceous Earth is a non-toxic method of controlling and getting rid of all the pests in your garden. As mentioned earlier, once these pests crawl over or come in contact with the powder, they become dehydrated and die. Also, when the substance sticks to the coat of the insect, it can affect their ability to breathe.

  • It keeps slugs off your plants

Slugs are nocturnal, meaning they feed on your plants in the night, under the cloak of darkness. In addition to slug baits, you can use Diatomaceous Earth to protect your tender plants from slugs.

You can add the powdery substances around your plants to keep the slugs from coming in contact with them. When the soft bodies of the slugs get cut by the DE, they lose fluid and die of dehydration.

  • Gets rid of maggots in compost or manure

Manure and compost, although very invaluable to farmers, can house the larvae of different types of flies that come to perch on them. These maggots or larvae could bite or carry diseases, which may be harmful to your plants or even human beings.

Because of this, you need to get rid of them as soon as possible. One great way to do that is by using Diatomaceous Earth. Simply sprinkle the powder all over the pile of manure or compost.

  • Eliminates flies

Flies, mainly black flies, are an absolute menace in gardens during the spring fly season. But when you use DE in your garden, you can be sure to be rid of them. First, sprinkle the powder abundantly on the plants and ground of your garden; this will control these flies.

Also, flies covered with DE will die of hydration, and more importantly, these flies will avoid the treated areas.

  • It gets rid of ants

Although ants may not directly cause harm to the plants in your garden, they can be a nuisance if they are in swarms. The well-organized tracks that ants make across your garden can expand into “highways,” transporting pests and diseases directly to your healthy plants.

Furthermore, ant hills can damage your lawns, while red fire ants bite or sting. So, to avoid this, you can add DE to potting soil and around garden beds to keep ants off your plants. It will also help prevent them from entering your home.

  • Prevents rodents from visiting your garden

Rodents are some of the worst pests to hit any garden. Rodents like rats, moles, rabbits, and mice can significantly damage the garden by eating the crops, uprooting vegetables, etc. You can discourage rodents from coming close to your plants by adding a few drops of lemon or peppermint essential oils to the powder.

After applying the drops of oil, you will then sprinkle the mixture around the perimeter of your garden. Rodents hate the scents of these oils, and because the powder is highly porous, it absorbs the oil well. Additionally, it retains the oil’s smell for several weeks, keeping your garden safe from rodents.

How to Apply Diatomaceous Earth

How to Apply Diatomaceous Earth to Vegetable Gardens

Although Diatomaceous Earth is non-toxic and commonly used in organic farming, that does not mean you throw all caution to the wind when applying it. You have to apply caution when using it, but with the proper application it can be effective in dealing with destructive garden pests.

You should know that Diatomaceous Earth is best used when the soil or area you want to apply is dry. When the soil is wet, or rain gets to the ground, it will dissolve the powder. This will then lead to the powder soaking into the soil instead of sitting on the top where the insects will have contact with it.

  • Apply the powder during a dry day, and then reapply it after rainfall or relatively heavy dew.
  • Squeeze a puff of the substance into crevices, walls, walkways, and other openings where bugs are hiding around your garden. You could also spread the powder along the base of your plants to target pests like slugs, snails, and others.
  • Sprinkle the DE powder anywhere on the soil where these insects may have access to it, for instance, the entrances to garden beds. Another way you can apply the powder is by sprinkling it on the leaves and stems that have been affected by the insects.
  • You can also directly apply a puff of diatomaceous earth on the bugs once you see them. When applying this method, you need to use enough powder to cover them entirely.


You will agree that after you have successfully planted all the vegetables and fruits that you want to in your garden, it can be highly frustrating and annoying to see pests feeding on the fruits of your labor. Thankfully, a substance like Diatomaceous Earth saves the day.

This article focused on several aspects and uses of Diatomaceous Earth. These include its nature, how it works, and its many benefits to your garden. So, if you love your garden then grab this safe pesticide and rescue your plants from those harmful pests.


What Does Diatomaceous Earth Do? 

Diatomaceous earth does a lot of things within and outside of your garden. This whitish powder is effective in eliminating pests among your plants. Diatomaceous earth absorbs the oils and other fluids from the insect’s exoskeleton. This process leaves the insect dehydrated, and finally, they die. It’s also harmful to rodents when they ingest it.

What Pests Does Diatomaceous Earth Kill?

Diatomaceous earth kills many pests that are hazardous to your garden plants or home, in general. The bugs DE kills include, but are not limited to the following:
Squash bugs
Leaf miners
Leaf-footed bugs

Is Diatomaceous Earth Good for Plants?

Yes, it is safe for them. Diatomaceous Earth, especially the food-grade type, is not harmful to plants. Instead, it is a safe and efficient way to ensure you produce strong and healthy plants from your garden or farm.
Also, when you successfully get rid of pests that harm your plants, you can be sure to get plants, fruits, and flowers that are free from diseases, leaf holes, and many other problems. So even if your plants are indoors, Diatomaceous Earth will not cause harm to them.

Does Diatomaceous Earth Keep Bugs Away?

Absolutely! This fossilized algae dust called diatomaceous earth not only keeps the harmful bugs away from your home and garden but also eliminates them. Do you have cockroaches, slugs, snails, ants, larvae, etc., disturbing you? Then, get yourself diatomaceous earth and chase these bugs away.

How Often Do I Apply Diatomaceous Earth?

Because Diatomaceous Earth is most effective when the soil is dry, it is advisable to reapply after every rainfall and high humidity period. This means if you wake up the day after you apply the diatomaceous earth substance to your plants, and you discover that there was rain or heavy dew, you might need to treat your plants again.
How Often to Apply Diatomaceous Earth

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