Neem is what we use:
Finding safe, non-toxic pesticides for the garden that actually work can be a challenge. Neem oil insecticide is everything a gardener could want. It can safely be used on food, leaves no dangerous residue in the soil and effectively reduces or kills over 200 kinds of pests, as well as prevents powdery mildew on plants. Yippee!
Grow your own:
If you live in a warm region of the country, grow it! It’s a beautiful, fast growing tree that helps repel mosquitoes, and provides great shade.
What is Neem Oil?
Neem oil comes from the tree Azadirachta indica, a South Asian and Indian plant common as an ornamental shade tree. It has many traditional uses outside of the insecticidal traits. For over 3000 years, the seeds have been used in wax, oil and soap preparations. It is currently an ingredient in many organic cosmetic products too. The effective compound is Azadirachin and it is found in highest amounts in the seeds. “Big box” stores, we won’t name names, sell a version that doesn’t have any Azadirachin, so beware!
Neem Oil Uses in the Garden
Neem oil foliar spray has been shown to be most useful when applied to young plant growth. The oil has a half life of three to 22 days in soil but only 45 minutes to four days in water, so don’t mix up a quart and let it sit in your garage. It is nearly non-toxic to birds, fish, bees and wildlife, and studies have shown no cancer or other disease causing results from its use. This makes neem oil very safe to use if applied properly.
How it works:
Insects intake it during feeding. The compound causes insects to reduce or cease feeding, can prevent larvae from maturing, reduces or interrupts mating behavior and, in some cases, the oil coats the breathing holes of insects and kills them. It is a useful repellent for mites and used to manage over 200 other species of chewing or sucking insects, including Aphids, Mealybugs, Scale, and Whiteflies. WOW! Neem oil fungicide is useful against fungi, mildews and rusts when applied in a 1 percent solution. It is also deemed helpful for other kinds of issues such as: Root rot, Black spot, and Sooty mold. Think Happy Tomatoes.
How to Apply Neem Oil Foliar Spray
Some plants can be killed by neem oil, especially if it is applied to heavily. Before spraying an entire plant, test a small area on the plant and wait 24 hours to check to see if the leaf has any damage. If there is no damage, then the plant will not be harmed by the neem oil. Apply neem oil only in indirect light or in the evening to avoid the product burning foliage and allow the preparation to seep into the plant. Also, do not use neem oil in extreme temperatures, either too hot (direct sun) or too cold. Using neem oil insecticide about once a week will help kill pests and keep fungal issues at bay. Apply as you would other oil-based sprays, making sure the leaves are completely coated, especially where the pest or fungal problem is the worst.
Is Neem Oil Safe?
When used properly, it is non-toxic. Never drink the stuff and be sensible if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant – out of all the neem oil uses, one that is currently being studied is its ability to block conception. The EPA says the product is generally recognized as safe, so any residual amount left on food is acceptable; however, always wash your produce in clean, potable water with a little vinegar before chomping.
Neem and Bees
There has been concern about the use of neem oil and bees. Bees, don’t worry! Most studies specify that if neem oil is used inappropriately, and in massive quantities, it can cause harm to small hives, but has no effect on medium to large hives. Additionally, since neem oil insecticide does not target bugs that do not chew on leaves, most beneficial insects, like butterflies and ladybugs, are considered safe.