Kaolin clay for gardening

What Is Kaolin Clay: Tips On Using Kaolin Clay In The Garden

Do you have a problem with birds eating your tender fruit such as grapes, berries, apples, peaches, pears or citrus? A solution may be an application of Kaolin clay. So, you inquire, “What is Kaolin clay?” Keep reading to learn more about using Kaolin clay on fruit trees and other plants.

What Is Kaolin Clay?

A clue to answer the question “What is Kaolin clay?” is that it is also referred to as “China clay.” Kaolin clay is used in the manufacture of fine porcelain and china and also instrumental in the production of paper, paint, rubber and heat resistant materials.

Arising from the Chinese for Kau-ling or “high ridge” in reference to a hill in China where the pure clay was first mined by Jesuit missionaries around 1700, Kaolin clay’s uses today extend to Kaolin clay in the garden.

Kaolin Clay in the Garden

The use of Kaolin clay in the garden has been found to control insect pests and disease as well as protecting against sunburn or heat stress and may enhance fruit color too.

A natural mineral, Kaolin clay insect control works by creating a barrier film by covering the leaves and fruit with a white powdery film, which adheres and irritates insects, thereby eliminating their scavenging on fruit or leaves. Using Kaolin clay on fruit trees and plants helps repel many types of insects such as grasshoppers, leafrollers, mites, thrips, some moth varieties, psylla, flea beetles and Japanese beetles.

Using Kaolin clay insect control will also reduce the number of damaging birds by leaving them no delicious bugs to munch on and, hopefully, cancelling out the use of bird nets.

Kaolin clay for plants can either be obtained from a pottery clay supplier or as a product called Surround WP, which is then mixed with liquid soap and water prior to application.

How to Use Kaolin Clay for Plants

To use Kaolin clay for plants, it must be mixed thoroughly and applied via a sprayer with continuous agitation, spraying the plants liberally. Fruit must be washed prior to eating and Kaolin clay insect control must be applied before the pests arrive. Kaolin clay in the garden can be used up to the day of harvest.

The following information will help with mixing Kaolin clay for plants (or follow manufacturer’s instructions):

  • Mix 1 quart of Kaolin clay (Surround) and 1 tablespoon liquid soap with 2 gallons of water.
  • Reapply Kaolin clay for plants every 7 to 21 days for at least four weeks.
  • Kaolin clay insect control should occur within three applications as long as sufficient and uniform spray has been achieved.

A nontoxic material, application of Kaolin clay in the garden does not seem to impact honeybee activity or other beneficial insects integral to healthy fruit trees or other food plants.

Kaolin clay: Pest control the old-fashioned way

Yew Dell Botanical Gardens Updated 7:58 AM EDT Jul 18, 2014

Pest control in the Kentucky vegetable garden sometimes seems like a Cold War-era arms race. Just when you get ahead of one problem, another ruby-throated ninja stem annihilator (don’t worry … this is a made-up pest!) emerges on the horizon.

Sometimes it seems that it would be easier to just chuck the whole thing and take up tennis for the remainder of the summer. But other times there emerges a reminder that simple and low tech can provide some answers. Such is the case with kaolin clay.

Use of kaolin clay and other mineral elements has been practiced for more than 2,000 years. Taking a nod from observations of animals taking dust baths to rid themselves of insect pests, both the ancient Chinese and Egyptians used various minerals and dusts as crop protectants.

Kaolin clay is a naturally occurring soil mineral that is harvested, pulverized and packaged for application to fruit and vegetable crops. It repels, irritates, discourages and annoys a wide range of insects and also reduces fungal disease.

In some instances it has been shown to help reduce sunburn on crops and in areas of intense sun (particularly in the Southwest) has been shown to result in a net increase in crop photosynthesis. Sounds kinda like aspirin for the garden. And it just may be that good.

For the last several weeks, Maggie Dana, a Middlebury College student participating in Louisville’s FoodWorks internship program, has been working at Yew Dell Botanical Gardens. She is interested in food production and organic gardening and has been working with kaolin clay this summer with excellent results.

When asked about the benefits of the clay, Dana responded, “One of the great things about using the kaolin clay is that you don’t have to use nasty chemicals and spray suits to apply the material.”

Indeed, the clay, mixed with a little detergent to help it flow and stick to the leaves, is no more toxic than a handful of clean soil.

“The other nice thing is that it’s easy to see when you have to reapply the clay,” Dana added. The dried clay leaves a white film on the leaves. And since it is easily washed off by rain and needs to be applied to new leaves as plants grow, constant application is required.

Application of the kaolin spray requires strict attention to detail. One leaf missed, even the lower surface, leaves an open window for pests. And considering the long list of voracious pests that attack some veggies in the garden, you have to plan to be out there regularly (Dana recommends every two weeks without rain washing off the clay) and immediately after a heavy rain so as not to leave that window open even a crack.

Of course, the clay sprays don’t mix well with overhead irrigation. Drip irrigation avoids having your overhead irrigation water washing the clay off the leaves.

Yew Dell’s garden manager, Ann Mattingly, says that this has been a banner year in Yew Dell’s vegetable plantings. She assigns the lack of pest problems this year primarily to use of the kaolin clay.

Knocking on a nearby wooden garden bench, she said, “This has been the best year we’ve had in the vegetable garden since I’ve been here,” as she looked over her shoulder for one of those ruby-throated ninja stem annihilators.

Kaolin clay is available from a variety of garden centers and farm supply sources locally and online.

Yew Dell Botanical Gardens is at 6220 Old La Grange Road, Crestwood, Ky. Information: www.yewdellgardens.org.

Updated 7:58 AM EDT Jul 18, 2014

There aren’t many things that we spray at LaFarm. But in the wake of the storm it is more important than usual for us to do everything we can to protect our plants from any further damage. That’s why right now, when the worst of the pests are around, we’re protecting our most vulnerable crops with Kaolin Clay.

Kaolin Clay is a completely organic substance, it is in fact a finely ground clay powder. When mixed with water, Kaolin Clay can be sprayed on plants to coat them in this powder, which (with an effectiveness that surprised me) confuses pests, who confusedly find that instead of a tasty eggplant leaf, they’ve landed on a weird clay bush. This way, it doesn’t actually kill anything or disrupt the ecosystem, it just protects the plants you spray it on.

Kaolin Clay is not completely effective for all plants against all pests, but it’s definitely effective enough that we spray our squash (especially young transplants) to protect against cucumber beetles or squash bugs, our eggplant to protect against flea beetles, Colorado potato beetles or anything else that might want a munch on them, and on a few others like Brussels Sprouts.

Stirring Kaolin Clay solution with the broken handle of an old digging fork.

To use Kaolin Clay, you first need to mix it with water. We go for the Surround brand Kaolin Clay, which calls for 3 cups of Clay to be mixed with every 1 gallon of water. We put the Clay in a bucket and then add water and stir until the Clay is mixed enough that it doesn’t stick to the bucket or whatever we use to stir. Also at this step it’s safest to wear something over your nose and mouth; although the clay is not toxic, you still don’t want powdered clay getting in your lungs.

It is most advisable to spray on days without direct sunlight. When the liquid pools on a plant, it can magnify sunlight, which can burn the plant, making it less healthy, defeating the purpose of spraying. At the same time, you do not want to spray if it’s going to rain soon. Rain can wash off the clay, especially if it’s been applied only recently.

We use a hand-pumped backpack sprayer, dumping in the mixture from the bucket once it’s ready. It’s theoretically possible to spray it from a smaller spray bottle if you only needed enough for a plant or two. Some farmers will mix fish emulsion into the clay (fish emulsion can soak into the leaves of mature plants, giving them additional nutrients) but this is not advised by the USDA. It’s important to spray every leaf of any plant you’re trying to protect, and both the tops and bottoms of each leaf. Otherwise it would be like building a wall around half of a town to protect against invasion: it won’t help when they come from the other side.

Sarah diligently spraying Surround on our eggplantEach leaf should be coated with the white clayOnce it drys, the clay just makes a plant look a few shades lighter than it used to be.

After spraying, most pests will be confused by the clay and not eat your plants. That is especially important if you have hail- and flea beetle-damaged crops like our eggplant, or if you’re about to transplant 50 zucchini when you’ve noticed some cucumber beetles around the farm.

Happy Farming!

-Joe Ingrao, Summer 2015 EXCEL Scholar

Kaolin Clay Sprays for Fruit Trees

Kaolin clay sprays are an important organic orchard strategy used after petal fall to repel many types of pest insects and protect trees from sunburn and high temperatures. Kaolin clay repels pests by making the fruit tree an unsuitable environment for certain insects to land, feed and lay eggs. The tiny clay particles serve to disguise the target fruit and can clog the eyes, ears and reproductive organs of many common pest insects including apple maggot, plum curculio, codling moth, european apple sawfly, oriental fruit moth, tufted apple bud moth, white apple leafhopper, and pear psylla.

It is important to build up a proper covering of clay on your trees or it will not be effective. Spraying at least 3 times, each application a week apart, after initial petal fall is recommended. A sprayed tree will be coated my a thin white film of clay particles. Be careful not to overspray, as too much clay can negatively effect mite predator insects and possibly trigger a red mite infestation. Repeat applications after any major rain event are also recommended to provide ongoing protection from pests.

Highly refined Kaolin clay products are copyrighted and are referred to as “Surround”. Pottery grade Kaolin clay will not work like the highly refined kaolin in Surround products. Pottery Grade kaolin clay particles are too large, do not effectively deter insects, and can negatively effect your plant’s health.

While Kaolin clay is a natural product, it is still important to protect yourself while spraying. Long sleeves, long pants, and closed toed shoes are recommended. A mask or respirator is also necessary to prevent inhalation of clay particles.

Instructions for using a backpack or handheld sprayer:

• Mix 1/4 to 1/2 lb (approximately 3 cups) of Surround WP or Surround At Home per one gallon of water. If your sprayer is not easy to shake, premix in a container and pour the mixture into your sprayer

• Add the powder slowly to approximately 1/4 of the water you will be using, stir and mix well by shaking vigorously for 30 seconds.

• Add the remaining water and shake for an additional 30 seconds.

• Shake the sprayer occasionally during application.

• Thoroughly coat all leaf and fruit surfaces until they appear white.

• When finished, spray until the sprayer is empty and flush the system. Leftover mix can be used within 2 weeks to avoid spoilage.

Surround can be purchased in 5lb or 25lb packages. The 5lb packages average around 25 dollars while the 25lb commercial variety average around 50. Because the clay will not spoil for many years, you can buy in bulk, save money and use it for multiple years.

Surround at Home (5 lbs)

Surround WP (25 lbs)

These products are also available at many garden centers and farm supply stores.

For more information of Kaolin:

ATTRA’s Guide to Organic and Low Spray Apple Production

Grow Organic Apples’ Guide to Kaolin Clay

This edition of POP TIPS prepared with help from 2015 POP orchard intern Sophia Taylor.

SUPPORT US! If you found this entry useful, informative, or inspiring, please consider a donation of any size to help POP in planting and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia: phillyorchards.org/donate.

10 Recipes to Make With Kaolin Clay

Kaolin clay is easily the most versatile clay I own, and if you were only going to own one clay, I’d recommend white kaolin without hesitation. Kaolin is a lightweight, soft, silky clay that’s available in a variety of colours—pink, white, and red are most common, but I find white to be my top choice for pretty much everything. It’s inexpensive and useful in everything from soap to cosmetics to dusting powders, so I thought I’d collect a list of ten great recipes to make with it. After all, chances are if you have any, you probably have quite a lot—given how light and fluffy it is, it’s easy to buy 500g or so and get a surprisingly large amount of clay in the mail!

I find kaolin and bentonite to be the two clays I’m asked about (especially about swapping them for one another) most often, and they couldn’t be more different. It’s such a common question I actually made a video to show just how different they are from one another! Bentonite is definitely the outlier; kaolin is very similar to other silky, lightweight clays like the French clays and the Australian clays (except for Australian black clay—that stuff is also a serious clay outlier! It’s magnetic!). All those clays mix easily with water to create creamy, frosting-like pastes that make lovely face masks and super creamy bars of soap. Because of their similarities, you can typically swap one for another without much difficulty, other than any obvious things like colour changes (so perhaps don’t use green clay as a swap in a blush recipe!).

Kaolin (or kaolinite) is an aluminum silicate mineral, with a skin-friendly pH of 4.2–5.2 (confirm with your supplier as this can vary). It is sometimes referred to as “china clay” due to its long history of use in making porcelain or china. As with all fine, insoluble powders, care should be taken not to inhale large amounts of aerosolized kaolin. You need to inhale a lot of the stuff to cause lung damage, but wearing a dust mask is still a good idea if you’re going to be whirling it around in a coffee grinder while making something. In final products it’s combined with water or oils and weighed down, diluted, or used in small enough quantities that it’s not a concern.

So, why do we include kaolin clay in our DIYs? Its primary roles are absorbing moisture (both water and oil), thickening, mild exfoliating, cleansing, bulking, and contributing its lovely, silky feel. In a face mask it makes for a relatively gentle mask—it absorbs moisture and contracts as it dries, helping pull gunk out of your pores, stimulate circulation, and you’ll get a touch of exfoliation when you wash it off. That exfoliation also comes into play for gentler facial scrubs. In body butters and deodorants it can help reduce greasiness and improve moisture management (especially good for sweaty pits). In dusting powders it helps manage moisture as well (prevent skiddy summer thighs!), and it’s also a good, inexpensive bulking powder. Kaolin clay contributes some adhesion, its silky feel, and bulking to powdered cosmetics. In soap it makes for a wonderfully creamy bar that’s downright luxurious, and I’ll use it in cleansers to boost their cleansing power. Basically, it’s crazy versatile, and you should definitely have some!

Alright, enough about the clay—let’s get to the recipes!

Forest Facial Cleanser

This lovely, gentle foaming facial cleanser calls for French green clay, but you can easily use kaolin instead—the final product just won’t be green, but it will still work just as well!

Bandits Mattress & Carpet Freshening Powder

Try this quick and easy recipe for a simple way to help deodorize tough-to-clean things like mattresses, carpets, and car seats. Just sprinkle, leave, and vacuum!

After Bath Silk Powder

This simple, silky powder is like baby powder for grownups. Use it after a bath for soft, matte skin, or use it in the summer under skirts or with shorts to conquer sweaty thighs!

Lots & Lots of Clay Soap

This soap started as an experiment and quickly became one of the best bars of soap I’ve ever made. I was wondering what would happen if I used 10x the recommended amount of clay in a bar of soap, and the answer is “AWESOMENESS”!

Silky Smooth Baby Powder

A quick and easy recipe for making your very own talc-free baby powder—this one is also awesome for stopping sweating summer thighs!

Blackhead Banishing Powder

This stuff is pretty much a three-ingredient magic trick for your pores. You can make the calcium carbonate from egg shells or buy it—I’ve made it both ways and making it from purchased calcium carbonate is much nicer, giving an infinitely smoother final product.

Gentle Foaming Clay Scrub

This was one of (if not the) first thing I ever made using a foaming surfactant, and it was love at first foam! This gentle facial cleanser is mostly kaolin clay with some other good-for-skin treats and a touch of lather—I think you’ll love it!

Creamy Clay Cleansing Balm

This easy to make soap-free cleansing balm gets a boost in the cleansing department from some added kaolin clay.

Honey Bee Face Mask

The silky awesomeness of kaolin clay married with all kinds of bee goodness—honey, propolis, and pollen!

Translucent Anti-Shine Powder

This translucent setting and oily-face-fighting powder features astringent powdered cucumber extract to help with oil control.

Want more awesome recipes?

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SURROUND® Crop Protectant

Product Information
Registered uses Pome fruit, stone fruit, citrus fruit, grapes, olives, tropical tree fruit, vegetables and pineapples
Pack size 12.5 kg
Formulation WP
Active ingredient 950 g/kg KAOLIN

SURROUND® forms a white barrier coating on crops, which helps to protect them from sunburn and heat stress. The particle barrier is specially designed to allow usable light through while blocking harmful infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV) light.

The technology behind Surround crop protectant was co-developed by Engelhard Corporation (now NovaSource) and the US Department of Agriculture and is referred to as ‘particle film’ technology. Comprised of specially modified particles of kaolin, a naturally occurring material, Surround is mixed in water and sprayed onto crops. Upon drying, a fine white film results. If Surround is applied to an edible part of the plant the film can be washed off at harvest, or spraying can cease early in the season and the deposit weathers off naturally.

For more information on Surround, please visit the .

®Registered Trademark of Tessenderlo Kerley, Inc.

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by Jessica Walliser January 24, 2013

Photo by Jessica Walliser
Plant crops in your garden to attract birds and beneficial insects that prey on pests.

In last week’s post, I discussed a couple of excellent pest-prevention techniques you can easily employ in your own garden. Here are a few more of my favorites:

1. Kaolin Clay
A white, powdery clay, kaolin is mixed with water and sprayed onto plants. When dry, it forms a dusty coating on plant leaves and fruits. Insects don’t like landing on the powder, nor do they like how it clings to their legs and wings. In the veggie patch, it works to deter flea beetles on eggplants and radishes, as well as leafhoppers on other crops. These products are very effective in the organic orchard, where they prevent both codling moth and plum curculio.

Kaolin clay needs to be reapplied every 14 to 21 days to remain effective, and the plants will be covered with a white powder. It’s easy to wash off of harvested crops and is completely safe. (In fact, it’s an ingredient in many toothpastes and Kaopectate.) One commonly found brand of kaolin clay is Surround WP.

2. Predators
Beneficial insects and birds consume copious amounts of garden pests, and encouraging them to call your garden home prevents a lot of damage. Situate a bird bath and feeder in the center of the garden. Plant sunflowers, amaranth and other favorite seed sources among the vegetables. To attract beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, lacewings, parasitic wasps (don’t worry, they’re tiny and they can’t sting) and hoverflies, plant plenty of herbs in the veggie patch and allow them to bloom. The adults will feed on the nectar of these small flowers while the larvae (and sometimes the adults, too) feast on aphids, hornworms, mites, mealy bugs and other assorted nasties.

3. You
It’s not the nicest thought, but sometimes your actions may be the cause of a pest problem. Perhaps you applied too much nitrogen fertilizer and now your tomato has put out a lot of tender growth that is particularly appealing to aphids. Maybe you walked through the garden when the soil was wet, compacting it, thereby reducing the overall vigor of your plants and making them more prone to insect attacks. Did you leave debris in the garden, providing a safe hiding place for slugs and earwigs? Perhaps you neglected to pull out your spent plants last season, helping over-wintering pests to return. Take a look at what you do in your garden and make sure you are maintaining proper cultural practices. This is an easy, and often overlooked, method of preventing pest problems.

” More Dirt on Gardening ”

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