Oil from the seeds of the neem tree (Azadirachta indica) contains an incredibly powerful ingredient called azadirachtin, an organic super tool. This tree is native to India and its superpowers are an organic gardener’s dream.
Neem oil can be used to treat a wide variety of garden problems from insect infestations to fungus and disease. As an insecticide, it has a few different mechanisms by which it works. If applied as a soil drench (follow the package direction very carefully!), it enters the plant’s vascular system, becoming part of the plant.
When pests eat the plant they also consume the neem oil, which then makes them reduce feeding or even stop feeding altogether. It can also keep larvae from maturing and reduce or eliminate mating. It may even coat the insects’ breathing holes causing death.
The highest concentration of neem oil in any commercially available source is 3%, which is safe according to the EPA. Any trace amounts on your fruits and veggies is acceptable, though you should still wash any produce in clean water before eating. According to studies, it has no effect on bees and other beneficial insects. It’s important to remember that it works on insects that chew on leaves and most “friendly bugs” don’t do that.
Uses for Neem Oil
It can be used to treat many garden problems, such as:
- Insects: kills or repels insects and mites, like aphids, whiteflies, snails, nematodes, mealybugs, cabbage worms, gnats, moths, cockroaches, flies, termites, mosquitoes, and scale. Some pests die right away and others are prevented from maturing from their larval state. Plus, neem oil tastes horribly bitter and repels some pests.
- Fungus: helps prevent fungal diseases like black spot, anthracnose, rust, and mildew.
- Disease: attacks harmful plant viruses.
Advantages of Neem Oil
Neem oil is the perfect choice for organic gardens because it is:
- Nontoxic: Unless you spray it on beneficial insects, such as honeybees, predatory wasps, earthworms, ladybugs, ants, spiders and adult butterflies, neem oil won’t hurt your helpers. It is non-toxic to birds, other animals and humans if used properly.
- Organic: Neem oil is plant-based and can be purchased from businesses that deal in organically-grown neem trees.
- Biodegradable: It breaks down quickly and doesn’t leave a lasting residue.
How To Apply Neem Oil
It is sold in concentrated form and must be mixed with water. Spray it on both sides of your plants’ leaves. Careful attention must be paid to keeping the neem oil and water well-mixed as oil and water typically separate. You can mix it with an organic insecticidal soap for a one-two punch that is sure to get rid of garden pests.
NOTE: Neem oil is available in different concentrations (the maximum being 3%) so it is crucial that you follow package instructions to get the right mix.
Visit your local Hydro-Scape to get some neem oil today!