One of the biggest reasons backyard gardeners list for growing their own food is the desire to limit chemicals in their diet. After a season or two of growing your own fruits & veggies, it can be easy to see why big commercial farmers might resort to spraying and sprinkling their crops with chemicals. There is nothing worse than putting in all the hard work & money to grow vegetables only to have them completely destroyed by insects or disease!
Luckily there is a natural option that is quite effective in battling many common garden woes – neem oil!
What is neem oil?
Neem oil is extracted from the seeds of the neem tree, a tropical plant native to India & Asia. The oil has long history of being used in beauty products for it’s anti acne properties and for hair care to regrow & restore hair health. But gardeners prize it for it’s anti fungal & pesticide properties.
Non toxic option
Neem oil is a great option for organic gardeners. Because the pesticide properties work by killing or repelling insects that chew on the leaves of your plants, it is not harmful to garden helpers like birds, honeybees, ladybugs, earthworms, and spiders. It is also safe to use around children & pets. Neem oil is plant based so is completely biodegradable, leaving no residue behind.
Garden uses for neem oil
Use neem oil in the garden on your flowers, vegetable & fruit bearing plants.
As an insecticide neem oil can combat over 200 insect species including:
As an anti-fungal treatment, neem oil can be helpful in preventing & treating:
How to apply Neem Oil
Neem oil is safe for virtually all plants when applied in proper amounts, but it’s always a good idea to do a small test. Spray a single leaf and then check on it about 24 hours later to make sure it still looks healthy. I haven’t personally found any types of plants that didn’t tolerate neem oil.
Spray leaves so they are evenly covered. To avoid foliage burning, don’t apply neem oil to leaves in the heat of the day. Spray in the evening, allowing it to seep into the leaves overnight. Retreat weekly if insects persist, or as a preventative measure. If you goal is preventative, spray until leaves are lightly coated. If you are trying to treat a current infestation or infection, spray until thoroughly coated. Don’t forget the undersides of leaves!
Where to buy
Your local garden center or online stores like Amazon are sure to have plenty of neem oil options. You can buy pre-diluted solutions or buy straight or concentrated neem oil and mix it yourself. The advantages of pre-diluted solutions is they are easy & ready to go, but they are more expensive & could contain ingredients you don’t want. Just be sure to read the ingredient list to be sure it doesn’t include anything chemical. Follow any manufacturer instructions for dosing & usage.
If you would rather mix up your own, look for 100% pure, cold pressed neem oil. Follow manufacturer instructions, but for general use, most will recommend a 0.5%-1% dilution. For extra pesticide protection you can also mix in a little insecticidal soap. The mixture will only be good for about 8 hours so don’t mix up more than you will use that day. Because you are mixing together oils & water, they will want to separate, so shake well and often while spraying. Using warm water will help disperse the oil better.
To mix up a 32 oz batch, mix vigorously & put in a spray bottle:
32 oz warm water
1 teaspoon neem oil
1/3 teaspoon liquid insecticidal soap (optional)
If you are battling a severe infestation or infection, you can increase the neem oil to 2 teaspoons.