If you're like us, or any other gardener or crop farmer, you've most certainly ran into pests that can and probably have ruined a crop or two. For us, our biggest issue here in east Texas is ants. They can do caustic damage to crops such as okra, on top of being a painful nuisance while working in our garden beds. Sure, there are tons of pesticides out there that could kill them deader than a doornail, but most (if not all) aren't safe for gardens, pets, or the people that will be eating the produce from that garden. Finding a more natural or organic method of ridding yourself of these pests isn't as easy as walking down your local pesticide aisle for sure, but our answer may not be that much farther away - and we're not talking about lemon scented dish soap!
First, let's explore a little more about why ants are drawn to your plants like okra, cucumber, squash, or zucchini. Living under the leaves of tender, new plant growth are colonies of tiny little sap-sucking insects called aphids. If left to take over, these tiny terrorists can zap too much sap causing leaves to yellow, shoots to stunt, and even whole plants to shrivel up and die. As a result of taking in the plant's sap, aphids excrete a substance called honeydew that is high in sugar, and this is where the ants come in. Ants, being honeydew junkies and all, will be an aphid's sworn protector against it's natural predators, allowing the aphids to live and thrive in a protected environment; all the while the ants are also causing damage to growing blooms and vegetables. Remove the ants, and you've made the aphids more vulnerable to beneficial insects like ladybugs and green lacewings, who love to feast on them! If your area doesn't seem to be crawling with beneficial insects, then try incorporating plants into your garden area that will attract them, like Dandelion, Tansy, Dill, or Coriander.
Now, here's where I'm about to introduce you to one of your new best friends: Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth. DE is a natural, fine powdery substance made up of fossilized diatoms; which is a death sentence to any insect sporting an exoskeleton, like ants. The microscopic fossil shells found in diatomite are razor sharp, and once the powder gets into the insect's joints, the rest is history, y'all. Not only does this stuff work well in ridding your garden of ants, but mites in your chicken coops as well! We periodically sprinkle some DE out in our yard where our flocks usually scratch, or dust bathe, and also in the chicken coop's hay bedding. Just be aware that DE is extremely fine, and can irritate a chicken's very sensitive respiratory system, so your best bet is to pour it when they aren't close enough in proximity to breathe in any of the floating powder that tends to fly off while pouring it.
Diatomaceous earth should seriously be a staple in every home, whether you homestead or not. While eliminating so many problems in and out of the home, it's also completely human, food, and animal safe; making it a great natural method to use. Plus it's so inexpensive - we bought a 40 lb. bag of food grade DE from our local Tractor Supply for less than $20! Protect a mattress from bed bugs, help guard your pets from fleas and internal parasites, use to make homemade toothpaste, and literally so much more. Just check out this article over on Morning Chores for 39 Awesome Diatomaceous Earth Uses That You Will Want to Try Daily for more ideas. Happy sprinkling!