Diatomaceous Earth in veggie garden?

ckbozeman(7b/8a)May 20, 2009

Hi all,

I'm a first time poster to this forum. Just recently joined gardenweb.

I use DE in my hosta beds to keep the dreaded slugs at bay. I also braodcast it in the yard for fleas.

I have planted my first vegetable garden this year (I know nothing about veggie or organic gardening. Getting lots of good info from this site.) I was thinking of spreading DE in the garden because fire ants are becoming noticible. Will the DE harm the beneficial critters? On another thread I saw mention of molasses to control fire ants. Where would I find this product, and under what name?

Thanks for your wisdom :)

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DE is great in the garden to control slugs. I have never had fire ants here in NY so I don't know if it's effective against those. My experience has been that it work well for large bodyed insects, because it is like microscopic razor blades that cut them apart and cause them to bleed out. As fas as the molasses . . . use the stuff from the supermarket!

The Garden Guy
May Article: "Sucession Planting" plus
ongoing garden journal & interactive message boards!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 4:04PM
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The best place to learn about Imported Fire Ant control is at the Texas A & M web site from which everyone else I have seen with anything about them copies from. While I have seen some reports that Diamotaceous Earth has helped I have seen just as many that it does nothing to control those buggers. The molasses is a bait, by itself it does nothing except feed the ants, you need to add something else to the molasses if you are to use it to control them.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fire Ant Control

    Bookmark   May 21, 2009 at 7:11AM
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By Pat Ploegsma, reprinted from Native Plant Society of Texas News
Summer 1999

Have you ever started planting in your raised beds and found fire ant highrises? Are you tired of being covered with welts after gardening? Put down that blowtorch and check out these excellent organic and non-toxic solutions.

Malcolm Beck1, organic farmer extraordinaire and owner of Garden-Ville Inc., did some experiments that showed that molasses is a good addition to organic fertilizer (more on fertilizer in the next issue). When using molasses in the fertilizer spray for his fruit trees he noticed that the fire ants moved out from under the trees. "I got an opportunity to see if molasses really moved fire ants. In my vineyard, I had a 500 foot row of root stock vines cut back to a stump that needed grafting. The fire ants had made themselves at home along that row. The mounds averaged three feet apart. There was no way a person could work there without being eaten alive! I dissolved 4 tablespoons of molasses in each gallon of water and sprayed along the drip pipe. By the next day the fire ants had moved four feet in each direction. We were able to graft the vines without a single ant bothering us."

This gave him the idea for developing an organic fire ant killer that is 30% orange oil and 70% liquid compost made from manure and molasses. The orange oil softens and dissolves the ants exoskeleton, making them susceptible to attack by the microbes in the compost, while the molasses feeds the microbes and also smothers the ants. After the insects are dead, everything becomes energy-rich soil conditioner and will not harm any plant it touches. It can be used on any insect including mosquitoes and their larvae.

Break a small hole in the crust in the center of the mound then quickly!!! pour the solution into the hole to flood the mound and then drench the ants on top. Large mounds may need a second application. Available at Garden-Ville Square in Stafford, it has a pleasant lemonade smell.

According to Mark Bowen2, local landscaper and Houston habitat gardening expert, fire ants thrive on disturbed land and sunny grassy areas. "Organic matter provides a good habitat for fire ant predators such as beneficial nematodes, fungi, etc.

Other conditions favoring fire ant predators include shading the ground with plantings, good soil construction practices and use of plants taller than turfgrasses." He recommends pouring boiling soapy water over shallow mounds or using AscendTM. "Ascend is a fire ant bait which contains a fungal by-product called avermectin and a corn and soybean-based grit bait to attract fire ants. Ascend works slowly enough to get the queen or queens and it controls ants by sterilizing and/or killing them outright."

Malcolm Beck also did some experiments with Diatomaceous Earth - DE - (skeletal remains of algae which is ground into an abrasive dust) which confirmed that DE also kills fire ants. He mixes 4 oz. of DE into the top of the mound with lethal results. According to Beck, DE only works during dry weather on dry ant mounds. Pet food kept outdoors will stay ant free if placed on top of a tray with several inches of DE

1Beck, Malcolm. The Garden-Ville Method: Lessons in Nature. Third Edition. San Antonio, TX: Garden-Ville, Inc., 1998.
2Bowen, Mark, with Mary Bowen. Habitat Gardening for Houston and Southeast Texas. Houston, TX: River Bend Publishing Company, 1998.

**** I remebered this post and copied it for U. I have heard a lot of refernces to the orange oil - so it is worth a try. Maybe try white vinegar too I think that may work as well. ****

Please post if any of it helps!


    Bookmark   May 21, 2009 at 4:40PM
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Once Diamotaceous Earth gets wet, ala mixing it into soil, it is ineffective. Also there is DE mixed in many of the foods you eat to aid in controlling thingys such as the grain moths.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2009 at 8:11AM
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You've never experienced the joy of fire ants??? I'd be happy to send you mine! ;-p

Thank you all for the info.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2009 at 4:02PM
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Thanks, but I will pass on the ants! Would you like a few dozen squirrels? :-)

The Garden Guy
May Article: "Sucession Planting" plus
ongoing garden journal & interactive message boards!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2009 at 5:05PM
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Is Diatomaceous earth that is sold for swimming pool filters the same as is used in the vegetable garden? Thanks, Ena Louise.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 10:32PM
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Ena, no. Pool grade Diamotaceaous Earth is not the same as food grade which is what you want.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2009 at 6:23AM
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After applying DE on the soil of my veggie garden what will happen after I water or if it rains? I live in Arizona and water is a must but I also need protection from the pesky- creepy-crawly-critters.


    Bookmark   December 19, 2010 at 8:51AM
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One benefit of Diatomaceous Earth is it is passive, the wee critters that it is meant to control must make contact with it so their bodies can be ripped to shreds. However, one of the drawbacks to DE is that any crawling critter that makes contact with it could have its bodie ripped to shreds, whether that critter is a beneficial or a pest.
Each person needs to evaluate their own circumstance to determine if any method of insect control is both necessary and appropriate. There was some evidence that once wet DE was rendered harmless but lately I have seen some research that indicates that DE can become just as hard once it dries out. Mixed in soil DE may be harmful to beneficial insects, arthopods, etc, in your soil if it does dry out.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2010 at 7:15AM
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I was told by Home Depot that DE for pool filters wouldn't hurt my vegetable garden. After I put it out I discovered that it wasn't the same. What are the detriments? Is it harmful to the vegies and fruits? Can it be harmful to the people who eat them?

    Bookmark   March 16, 2011 at 9:28AM
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shebear(z8 NCentralTex)

It's not harmful after it's on the ground. It's harmful to breath and get in your eyes. It's pretty safe for the pool guy because it's wet or he's not broadcasting the dry stuff but if I was him, I'd wear a mask. Of course that would freak out the customers.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2011 at 7:03PM
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I use coffee grounds & tea grounds to stop slugs & snail.
The DE will hurt good & bad bugs until it is wet.
y hosta bed?

The following are all safe around kids and pets, etc.

Product Name on Label: Escar-go! slug and snail bait The EPA Registered Name for this product is: Neu 1165m slug and snail bait Distributor Names...... Complete list of names under which this product is sold. Often a company will register a single product and then sell the same product under many different brand names. The 'Distributor Name' list is a complete list of these names.

Bayer advanced dual snail & slug killer bait ready-to-use W. neudorff gmbh kg Distributor Product Bonide slug magic makes slugs disappear W. neudorff gmbh kg Distributor Product Escar-go! slug and snail bait W. neudorff gmbh kg Distributor Product First choice sluggo snail and slug bait W. neudorff gmbh kg Distributor Product Garden safe slug & snail bait W. neudorff gmbh kg Distributor Product Neu 1165m slug and snail bait W. neudorff gmbh kg Parent Product Sluggo W. neudorff gmbh kg Distributor Product Sluggo - ag W. neudorff gmbh kg Distributor Product Whitney farms unhappy trails W. neudorff gmbh kg Distributor Product Worry free (r) brand by lilly miller ferramol (tm) slug & snail bait W. neudorff gmbh kg

Another effective method is to mix a solution of 1 part household ammonia or vinegar to 9 parts water. Put the mixture in a spray bottle and go slug hunting in the moonlight. A quick spray will quickly kill the slimy creatures.

Be persistent in hoeing weeds and breaking up the clods of soil that slugs like to hide under. If you expose their eggs, smash them.

Keep the mulch pulled back from the base of your plants. Apply the mulch after the soil temperatures have warmed to above 75 degrees F.

Keep all old leaves and decaying matter cleaned out of your garden beds on a regular basis. Keep the matter in a compost area, which is far away from the garden.

Used coffee grounds and sharp builder's sand spread around susceptible plants may also work.

Pine needle or wood chip mulch often works well around hostas.

(Adapted from Liz & BigGuy5 on the Hosta Forum)

Entered by caliloo

FAQ Page

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 12:35PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

tim, you cannot use pool filter DE for insecticidal purposes. Not only is it very hazardous to apply, but it is manufactured in such a way that makes it totally ineffective against pests. Home Depot is NOT a good place to get good advice. It's too bad, because they sure do dish out a lot of bad advice!

Food grade/horticultural grade DE does not lose its effectiveness when wet, at least not entirely. It doesn't dissolve, after all. If it can be used to control fly maggots in manure, it should be pretty useful for other moist environments, right? ;-)

By the way, DE's effectiveness against slugs is questionable, at best. Earthworms and probably slugs are protected by their slime.

I would never recommend the use of DE in the garden for practically any use. There are many thousands of important beneficial species that can be harmed, as well. It is not worth it to use such broad spectrum control measures against the handful of pests you might be concerned about. Decreasing the numbers of the good guys almost always results in a population explosion of the pests. I'll bet that most of the 'creepy crawly critters' observed in our gardens are highly beneficial predator species.

I'll use DE in our garage against the unnerving population of black widow spiders upon occasion. I will also use it in containerized plants in which fire ants have built a 'vacation house' away from the main colony. I recommend it for the control of fungus gnat larvae, too.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 3:36PM
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Do not be so hard on Home Depot, 90% of what they say is good stuff.
I would not ask a a hardware man how to make pancakes.
Just as I would not as a cook to work on my car.
If you are a Organic Gardener or a gardener of any kind.
Go to your Extension agent, other gardeners & web site like this. Buyer beware.
Trust no one, question everything.
I have got some lashings on this site, because I will not fall for / fall in line with what ever some one believes.
If it is right, show me!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 10:12PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Nope, I stand by my suggestion that Home Depot (and its ilk) are not the place to obtain accurate horticultural advice. One can sometimes get lucky, mind you, but it would be rare.

These aren't bad people, but are simply put into the position of diagnostician or designer or plant doctor...when they should be. The advice regarding the pool filter DE is a perfect example. There have been countless such situations mentioned here in the gardenweb.

I have two other examples that I have heard with my own ears. A Lowe's 'associate' pointed out some bedraggled, pre-cut fir trees to a customer and said that they could be PLANTED IN THE GROUND after the holidays. I was not the right person to overhear that, believe me.

I also overheard, one aisle over, a customer ask where she might find some scented hurricane lamp oil. The clerk tried to sell her some Coleman lantern fuel.

We need to be prepared to educate ourselves when we go to these places. Good advice regarding plant care, pest control, and other horticultural issues need to be sought elsewhere.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 9:08AM
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rhizo 1, I agree, not garden advice from them, but everything other than garden, is ok.
But with so many good/great web sites why would anyone ask stranger in stores anything?!!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 7:05PM
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