Indoor gardening allows you to exercise your green thumb all year long, whatever the weather. Gardening inside poses unique hurdles, however.
You have less natural sunlight to work with and can’t rely on rainfall for water, while humidity is more challenging to control due to factors like indoor heating.
Finally, one of the biggest challenges faced by indoor gardeners is soil fertility. The soil can’t gather nutrients from natural processes, like composting and the decomposition of grass cuttings and leaves, as it would outdoors. This makes plants more susceptible to pests.
Hoping to redress this issue, some well-intentioned gardeners may over-fertilize when working with pots and planters’ constrictions. However, this only results in problems like soil burn and further weakens plants – giving pests even more leeway.
Diatomaceous earth is the answer. This guide gives you a primer to diatomaceous earth, explaining what it is, its benefits for indoor growing, and how to implement it.
What Is Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth is a type of soft sedimentary rock that can be easily crumbled into a fine powder. It’s made from the fossilized remains of diatoms, tiny aquatic organisms with hard skeletons made of silica.
Over centuries, these diatoms accumulated in the sediment of lakes, streams, oceans, and rivers, creating silica deposits, which were subsequently mined.
The History of Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth, also referred to as kieselguhr or diatomite, is a versatile material that serves many purposes. Throughout history, it’s been used in diverse materials from metal polishes to cat litter.
It’s still commonly used in products designed to kill pests like ticks, spiders, fleas, cockroaches, bed bugs, and crickets.
The Use of Diatomaceous Earth for Gardening
In gardening, diatomaceous earth has long been used as a natural additive in diatomaceous earth in potted plants’ soil. Researchers have been touting this product’s benefits for biological pest control in indoor gardening since the 1990s.
Why Do You Need Diatomaceous Earth for Your Indoor Garden?
The major component of diatomaceous earth is silicon, which is also the second most abundant natural soil material. Silicon is found naturally in plants and contributes to strong growth, including developing a healthy root network and lush greenery.
Additionally, diatomaceous earth effectively kills and prevents many indoor garden pests. You can use diatomaceous earth for fungus gnats, ants, maggots, slugs, flies, and aphids. You can also use diatomaceous earth for spider mites.
The non-toxic, all-natural material kills insects by simply absorbing fats and oils from the bug’s exoskeleton, essentially drying the creature out.
This multifaceted product further enhances the porosity of the soil. When soil gets too compact, plants nearly “suffocate” because nutrients and oxygen can’t penetrate beneath the surface.
Increasing porosity ensures that the plant roots beneath the surface get the nutrients they need and grow healthy and dense.
The Benefits of Diatomaceous Earth
In addition to fostering healthy indoor plant growth, diatomaceous earth has other advantages.
For one thing, it has a deodorizing effect. Indoor houseplants often develop a musty, sweet smell, usually a combination of excessive watering and fertilizers. Add some diatomaceous earth to the soil to de-stink your indoor garden.
Diatomaceous earth is an extremely cost-effective product. Thanks to its silicon-heavy chemical makeup, it can’t be degraded by sunlight or microbes, and also won’t dissolve efficiently in water.
Since the product easily remains in the soil, you don’t have to replenish it continually, and plants can benefit from the addition for a long time.
Finally, staving off pests like ticks and mites with diatomaceous earth is also a health issue — not just for your houseplants but for you, too! Pests like ticks carry dangerous illnesses like Lyme disease, and you don’t want them in the house.
Where To Get Diatomaceous Earth
You can buy diatomaceous earth at a local gardening store or online. Look for products that are certified organic to ensure that no chemical additives are present. You should opt for food-grade diatomaceous earth.
As you shop, make sure you have the materials you’ll need to use the product safely. It would be best if you had gloves and a breathing mask to apply the product comfortably.
You will also want to invest in a sturdy Tupperware container to store the bag and keep the dust-like material from sifting out.
If you opt for a dry application method, a small plastic scoop is needed. If you opt for a wet application method, you may want to get a turkey baster so you can apply the product effectively beneath the topsoil. The next section explains how to utilize either technique.
How To Apply of Diatomaceous Earth?
Food grade Diatomaceous earth is a common ingredient in toothpaste and skincare products, so you can be sure it’s safe.
Although diatomaceous earth isn’t toxic, you should take precautions when applying it. The fine dust can irritate if it gets into your mouth, eyes, ears, or nose.
Wear a mask over your mouth and nose to avoid breathing it in, and cover your ears and hair with a hat. Take measures to protect your hands as well.
Gardening gloves will keep the dust-like material from settling on your skin and causing dryness, and a long-sleeved shirt will protect your wrists and arms.
Once you have your safety supplies on, take a pinch of the diatomaceous earth powder and sprinkle it on the soil. Some products come with a small plastic scoop you can use to measure out the amount. Then, stir the ground slightly.
Mixing diatomaceous earth with soil allows the dust-like material to settle beneath the top layer.
You also have the option to apply diatomaceous earth wet. Mix a ratio of four tablespoons of diatomaceous earth to one gallon of water. Apply a thick coat to the areas you want to pinpoint.
The Final Word
Diatomaceous earth has numerous benefits for indoor gardening. It promotes plant growth, keeps pests at bay, and enhances soil quality. On top of that, it can help deodorize your indoor gardening space — and, to top it all off, it’s cheap.
When you review the advantages, it’s a no-brainer. Diatomaceous earth is a clear must-have for every indoor gardener.