by Jeanette Oesterlin
Spring is here and Here Come the Bugs! Or at least that is what many of you are thinking. Ijust watched the story of Rachael Carson’s life. Carson was the author ofSilent Spring. She was one of the first to declare garden chemicals unsafe and to remind her readers that we need to live with nature not attempt to alter it. Wasn’t there an ad on TV that began “You can’t fool MotherNature.”Now nearly 50 years after her death, we still think we can outsmart nature. As I look at all the mosquito spraying done last summer,I know that the after effects will be greater than we are being told. No pesticide is species-specific—it kills more than mosquitos.I remember when the scientists discovered that earthworms carried DDT from crops being sprayed and then robins died after eating the worm.
What does this have to do with us? I have been reading about using Diatomaceous Earth as an alternate to chemical pesticides in my garden. Diatomaceous Earth (sometimes sold as DE powder) is the fossilized remains of aquatic organisms. So that you don’t need to pull that dusty microscope out of the attic, I assure you the edges of the powder are sharp and those little aphids don’t like sharp edges cutting their nasty little sucking bodies. Be sure to buy the food grade powder. It can be mixed with water and a bit of soap and sprayed from a Windex bottle or applied as a powder using a spice shaker with large holes. As with any garden powder, one should wear a mask to avoid breathing the particles. I assure you it is less dangerous than the chemical dusts you have applied in the past such as Seven.
Remember DE is not a chemical pesticide; it does not kill on contact. It may not be 100% effective. If it were there would not be food for lady bugs and other beneficial insects. Aphids are their food. In the spring, my daylilies often have a lot of aphids on the new growth. I just chase them away with a stiff spray of water. However, last year we were plagued with milkweed aphids that I couldn’t control even with “safe” chemicals. This year I am armed with food-safe DE powder.
Four important notes:
- Do not put DE on blossoms because it might damage bees (We know pesticides do harm bees.)
- Consider adding other pest controlling herbs such as ground peppermint leaves
- Use DE as a barrier around a garden or plant to prevent crawling insects. It will not harm pets even if your pet is a chicken.
- Always purchase food grade diatomaceous earth. The kind used for swimming pools is a different product.
Check out the cold weather plants at the nursery. If you haven’t already planted lettuce, broccoli, and cauliflower, it will be too hot very soon. Don’t despair; they can be planted in the fall, and they often produce better then. Tomato time is still six weeks away.
Jeanette Oesterlin is a resident of Sun City Carolina Lakes and a regular contributor on all things gardening to Living @ Sun City Carolina Lakes magazine. Jeanette says, “I am a product of a grandmother who loved to grow things.” She is a Master Gardener trained in Kansas, still learning about the Carolinas, and an active member of York/Lancaster County Master Gardeners.