I’ve been hearing that many gardeners are having trouble with earwigs, sowbugs, slugs and snails eating their seedlings, and wondering how to keep them from munching the plants the first night after they are planted.
I’ve found that the most effective solution to this problem is to use Diatomaceous Earth (get agricultural grade DE, not the swimming pool filter material), available in large bags for $30 from Farm Supply. You need to wear a dust mask when working with this material. Diatomaceous earth consists of fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae, mined and ground into a fine dust. The surfaces are very sharp, and it works as a repellent because the pests don’t like crossing it to get to the plants. It also acts as a desiccant, eventually dehydrating the insect’s waxy coating and killing it.
A wide, thick band, applied in a 6″ wide circle around each plant, as well as a good dose around the trunk of each plant, and even a light dusting on the leaves, keeps the creatures at bay . . . until it gets soaked with water. The water packs it down into a mass, and then it is easier for the pests to cross. So, if you hand water, place a wide band well outside your watering area, but also apply it directly around the base of the plants. If you water using a drip tape, apply it both on top and underneath the tape, as otherwise the tape will act as a freeway for the chomping pests. Check every day or so and reapply if needed. DE is not toxic to humans if only touched, but do NOT inhale! Due to it’s sharp edges you do NOT want it in your lungs!
Happy gardening! – Serena