Neem Oil Uses In The Garden and Beyond
Every gardener is always looking for an edge – something that will keep pests, diseases, and disease-causing plants at bay and make gardening easier.
Many growers, both beginner and experienced, love the smell and benefits of neem oil. But what exactly is it? Is it safe? Can you use it for something else?
Throughout this article, we answer all of these questions (and more) about the uses of neem oil, both inside the house and outside.
What Is Neem Oil?
This vegetable oil, also known as neem oil, is pressed from seeds and fruits of Azadirachta indica, a plant native to the Indian subcontinent. A variety of tropical climatic regions cultivate the Azadirachta indica due to its demand for neem oil and its versatility.
Composition wise, it contains mostly triglycerides. It smells like a mixture of peanuts and garlic. if you suffer from sensitive senses, this might bother you. Due to the fact that it’s an oil, it doesn’t mix well with water and must be mixed with a surfactant before it can be used in a garden.
Azadirachtin: The “Secret Weapon” In Neem Oil
Although neem oil includes many compounds, azadirachtin has been one that has been studied extensively. Neem oil can contain between 300-2500 ppm of azadirachtin, depending on the extraction method, making it important to know the extraction process.
In the first study of azadirachtin, researchers noticed it impaired desert locusts’ appetite, resulting in reduced damage to crops and plants. Further investigation revealed that more than 200 types of insects are affected in a similar way, mainly by suppressing their desire to eat, or stunting their growth in some way. This makes it extremely useful for us gardeners!
Is Neem Oil Safe?
If you’re using any type of pest and disease prevention, it’s a good idea to understand whether it will be toxic to things you don’t want to kill.
When neem oil is applied to the eyes or skin, many people experience slight irritation. If the oil is ingested, however, the azadirachtin can be quite irritating to the stomach. Neem oil, along with its other compounds, is considered safe by the UDSA and other regulatory bodies.
Neem oil may cause allergies in children, since pesticides are usually more harmful to them in general.
Isn’t it possible that neem oil, which is so effective at killing off pests, might do the same to beneficial insects? In small amounts, it won’t harm these bugs:
- Many other beneficial bugs
The reason is that neem oil inhibits feeding for bugs that munch on your leaves, not any of the above! So long as you don’t overapply neem oil to your plants, you shouldn’t harm your beneficial insects.
If you’re wondering how neem impacts the soil beneath your feet, you might be surprised to learn that it actually supports earthworms.
In contrast to traditional chemical pesticides, Neem oil has the opposite effect, encouraging earthworm activity. So go ahead and spray!
Neem oil can be purchased in a pre-made spray form or you can make your own. Fortunately, both can be done easily!
The following ingredients are needed to make a 0.5% neem and insecticidal soap spray:
- 1 teaspoon (5 millileters) of pure, cold-pressed neem oil
- 1/3 teaspoon (1-2 millileters) of insecticidal soap
- 1 quart (1 liter) of warm water
You can adjust this recipe according to the quantity you need.
If you wish, you can also make a more concentrated solution of neem soap and insecticide. Here’s the recipe:
- 6.5 ounces (200 millileters) of pure, cold-pressed neem oil
- 5 teaspoons (30 millileters) of insecticidal soap
- 4 gallons (20 liters) of warm water
To prepare your mixture:
- Mix insecticidal soap with warm water
- Add neem oil in slowly, mixing well
- Fill your garden sprayer with the mixture
- To ensure even application, shake your sprayer while you apply
Ensure that you cover both the base and top of the leaves of your plants. An irritating insect prefers to hide under your leaves or within the nooks and crannies of the stems and nodes of your leaves. As it prevents nematodes and improves soil quality, you can spray it on your soil as well.
After making neem oil, you should use it as soon as possible as the active compounds begin to break down within eight hours. Each time you spray the oil, you should make a new batch. If this is the case, you can refill your bottle whenever you want.
Neem spray provides pest control in both a preventative and a eradication manner. You can use a 0.5% solution every two weeks for pest prevention, and a 1% solution every week for eradication.
Benefits of Neem Oil for Plants
The benefits of neem oil for gardens are limitless, but these five stand out among the many reasons why you should add it to your gardening arsenal.
It’s Completely Biodegradable
Besides being biodegradable, neem oil, which comes from the neem tree, is also a very simple compound. It usually contains only water and neem oil, along with a surfactant to help them mix.
It Doesn’t Poison Your Water
Some synthetic pesticides are preferred over natural ones due to their impact on groundwater. Toxic runoff can occur when pesticides are over-applied, as can fertilizer over-application. Because neem oil is so readily degradable and non-toxic, you can use it without fear of pollution.
It’s Not Harmful to Beneficial Insects
It is essential to protect pollinators like bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects like ladybugs. Will neem kill them as well?
Neem oil is most effective against insects that feed on plants by inhibiting their feeding, causing them to die off. If you don’t overapply it, they won’t eat the leaves of your plants.
Earthworms Will Thrive
Typical pesticides kill off earthworms, which is detrimental to soil ecology. In fact, neem doesn’t harm them, and even thrives in neem gardens! You need earthworms in your soil in order to maintain its pH levels and aerate it.
Neem Doesn’t Create Dead Zones
There will be dead zones where synthetic insecticides are sprayed. These are places where no beneficial or otherwise important insects survive, which is not good for the biodiversity of your garden and soil. Due to the fact that neem targets a specific insect type, it will only kill the pests you don’t want in your garden.
It Kills Pests Throughout Their Lifecycle
Many insecticides only kill pests at a certain stage in the lifecycle: eggs, larvae, or adults. Neem has the capability to kill insects at all stages in their lifecycle.
- Prevents feeding (adult stage)
- Disrupts growth (larval stage)
- Smothers out (egg / larval stage)
Blanket Control for 200+ Insects
At first it was developed in order to stop the feeding of desert locusts, but today it is used to repel over 200 species of insects, including many common garden pests:
- Scale insects
Neem Will Kill Nematodes
There are many types of nematodes that cause plants to decay, but new research shows that a specific method of neem extraction can control the root knot nematode by preventing its larvae from hatching and stopping replication.
Natural Mosquito Prevention
Also, neem spray is effective for repelling mosquitoes since the garlic-peanuty scent repels them. Neem’s garlic-peanuty aroma makes mosquitoes stay away from sprayed areas in the garden.
It Kills Japanese Beetle Larvae
This annoying little pest is destructive to garden plants. Neem oil can disrupt their growth cycle, which is an excellent strategy for preventing these buggers. It is best to apply it at night, then reapply after a rain or sprinkling.
Most Pests Don’t Build a Resistance to Neem
As a result of synthetic pesticides, bugs can build up tolerance for certain substances. Thus far, there have been no reports of insects developing a resistance to neem, which makes neem a future-proof solution.
It’s Safe for Cats, Dogs, and Critters
In most cases, contact pesticides will build up in soil and water, which can be harmful for pets and wildlife in the vicinity. Even if pets or wildlife do ingest neem oil, it won’t harm them. The oil breaks down so quickly that it won’t cause any problems.
It Can Be Applied In Many Ways
You can use neem as a foliar spray, use it in the winter, or soak it in a tub as a soak. Because it kills insects anywhere in their lifespan, you can use it in a variety of ways. Several pests (caterpillars, aphids, mites) survive the winter or go dormant, so if you can control them during winter you will save yourself a lot of headaches in the spring.
It’s Great for Houseplants
My houseplants are very important to me, so I am careful to make sure they are healthy and not overrun with insects like mealybugs or aphids. In addition to working well indoors to combat these irritating bugs, neem spray is completely safe to spray inside your home or on your houseplants to eliminate them.
It’s Safe in Greenhouses
Greenhouses are great places to extend the growing season and to grow plants in a perfect environment, but unfortunately are also great breeding grounds for pests. It is dangerous for pesticides to be used in enclosed environments, such as greenhouses; however, neem is safe to use in a variety of ways.
Acts as a Powerful Fungicide
A variety of common fungal infections can be smothered by neem oil:
- Tip blight Rust
- Black spot and leaf spot
Spraying weekly for several weeks will allow you to see a significant reduction in the fungus, then spraying twice a month will prevent future occurrences.
It Can Kill Some Bacteria
Among the most annoying bacterial infections is fire blight, which makes plants appear like they’ve been burned to death. Neem oil can prevent and control fire blight, but you have to apply it during the dormant season.
It’s Available In Many Formulations
Besides pure neem oil, neem oil can also be found in mixtures with other types of pesticides. One common combination is neem oil mixed with insecticidal soap. You can also purchase it in the following forms:
Can Use Even Immediately Before Harvesting
It is non-toxic and quickly decomposes, so you can use it for your plants even after you harvest them. All you have to do is give them a quick washing to get any neem residue off. Neem does not pose any danger, so you shouldn’t even worry about this rinsing step. Ingesting an appropriate dose of the plant will have no adverse effect.
“Neem Cakes” Are a Gardening Double-Whammy
In case you’ve never heard of neem cakes, they’re simply the byproduct of extracting neem oil. Neem fruit and seeds are crushed, then molded into cakes. However, they will also break down in time in your soil and add more nutritional value to the oil. Besides only retaining the neem oil’s pesticide qualities, they are also organic materials.