Pest control is one of the toughest challenges facing the home gardener. Commercial chemicals and pesticides may be effective, but these days it’s common knowledge that they can have unwanted side effects on both your plants and your family. A hands-off approach to pest control doesn’t work either — not if you want your garden to produce a bumper crop of tasty fruits and vegetables.
The good news is that neem oil is a safe, all-natural option available to you for keeping harmful insects at bay. The “harmful” distinction is important: remember that there are many “friendly” bugs that have a positive impact on your garden.
About Neem Oil
Neem oil is derived from the seeds of the Azadirachta Indica tree, which is a broadleaf evergreen indigenous to India and surrounding areas. The oil has a range of effective uses beyond being a natural pesticide. It fights eczema, moisturizes dry skin, and helps treat acne among other applications. But, be cautious before you jump in. There are some products that have additional inert ingredients intended specifically for gardening, which would not be suitable for application on human skin.
How Does It Work?
Once applied, neem oil is absorbed into a plant and spreads throughout its system. The oil kills some pests that eat the plant and repels others with its strong smell. It acts as both a pesticide and fungicide and works on pests that eat vegetables such as hornworms, aphids and whiteflies. And it also controls fungi such as root rot and mildew.
Neem oil breaks down relatively quickly after application. It won’t harm you, your pets or beneficial insects such as bees.
Applying Neem Oil
Apply around the base of the plant or spray it on directly. However, the oil is much more effective when applied to the soil and allowed to reach the roots, so it will spread organically throughout the plant’s system. One application of the oil at the soil level can last several weeks, while a direct application may only last a few days. Since too much oil can burn your plants, applying to the soil is the preferred and safer method.
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Be Cautious At First
Most plants are highly tolerant of neem oil, but it’s best to test first on a small plant before applying it to all similar plants. Apply a small amount of the oil to a sample and inspect it carefully after 24 hours. If you see any damage, do not use it on any other plants of that species. You don’t want to wipe out a whole group of plants by omitting this safety step!
Choosing A Good Neem Oil
Neem oil is sold for pesticide use under many different brands. Look for a dedicated product that contains only the oil without any extra ingredients, or if you want one already diluted, make sure it has been approved for organic gardening. There are some products on the market that combine natural neem oil with more harmful pesticides, so be sure to check the bottle for this approval.
Safer Neem Oil is ready-diluted and comes in a spray bottle. It’s inexpensive and approved for organic gardening.
Plantonix Organic Neem Bliss 100% Pure Cold-Pressed Neem Oil is an excellent brand that features nothing but pure, cold-pressed oil. It comes in concentrated form and needs to be mixed with water and mild liquid dish soap before spraying on the plant leaves or the soil around them. This product can be used for personal care, too. Adding a few drops of pure oil to a bottle of shampoo will result in shinier hair! You can use it on your pets too!
Verdana Organic Cold-Pressed Neem Oil is another pure, trustworthy brand with no additional ingredients. It also needs to be mixed with water and mild liquid dish soap before use. This, too, can be added to hair and skin products, and it’s also safe for use with your pets.
A good garden is a source of pride — and a product of lots of hard work! Don’t let harmful insects like mites rob you of the produce you’ve worked so hard to grow! A safe, all-natural pesticide like neem oil will give your plants the protection they need all year round.