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This oil-based miracle ingredient is one of the best-kept secrets of organic gardening. If you haven’t convinced yourself to try neem oil, by the end of this article, you’ll be running for your own bottle!
History and Native Habitat
Before we jump into the best uses for this magical oil, let’s cover the history of the Neem Tree. The Neem tree (Azadirachta indica) is a subtropical plant that is native to the deciduous country of India.
The Neem Tree grows up to 60 feet tall and was historically used in rituals, celebrations, and even as a source of food. In recent years though, the extract of this tree is now used as a form of pesticide management.
Where exactly does Neem Oil come from? Interestingly enough, a bulk of the tree’s oil is concentrated in its seeds, where Azadirachtin is found.
Azadirachtin: The Secret Ingredient
The reason Neem Oil has gained so much acclaim in recent years because of its active ingredient, Azadirachtin. This compound is made up of several naturally occurring insect-fighting properties.
This powerful compound is extracted from neem tree seeds, which are crushed and distilled into a dark, non-toxic brown oil that’s safe to use for garden purposes.
In scientific studies, the Azadirachtin found in Neem is shown to be effective against over 200 species of pests. The best part? Neem oil is a completely natural chemical that is safe for indoor plants!
How Neem Oil Kills Pests
The reason Neem extract is so effective is that it works to suffocate insects and pests. As a natural insecticide, spraying this oil or applying a solution of it can control pest populations.
This natural pesticide interferes with insects and their growth cycles. You can apply neem oil at the larvae stage so that it effectively kills any future bugs, or you can apply it at the height of a plant infestation to reduce pest damage and sterilize adult insects.
One of the best ways to use neem oil is really as a preventive measure. The old adage goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry: you can apply a neem spray solution at least once a week to prevent insects from coming to your garden in the first place.
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Using Neem Oil for Plants: Best Methods
DIY Neem Oil Foliar Spray Recipe
One of the most well-recognized uses of neem oil is an oil spray. This multipurpose spray is often the first line of defense when garden pests make an appearance around your plants.
While nobody really knows where pests come from, if you’re growing plants, they will come. Arm yourself with this oil spray recipe for the best results.
- Neem Oil (1 tablespoon)
- Water (1 gallon)
- Insecticidal Soap or Dishwashing Soap (1 tablespoon)
Mix all the ingredients above for a non-toxic, all-natural pesticide. This oil spray is best used within a week before losing potency.
For specific pests, you can choose to adjust this solution by adding more neem oil. Here are a few recipes for your garden.
Neem Oil for Aphids
Aphids are one of the more common garden pests that affect even the toughest plants. If you’ve got an infestation of aphids, you’ll notice that these bugs resemble dark brown or red lice.
To control aphids, mix 2 tablespoons of neem oil to a gallon of water in a spray bottle. Spray this liberally around your plants. As an add-on, you might also want to mix in insecticidal soap (1 tbsp) to strengthen this solution.
This foliar spray has a double purpose: it dislodges aphids from your plants and kills them on the spot. Fortunately, aphids are pretty easy to kill and they’ll be gone in under a month with a weekly oil spray.
Neem Oil Recipe for Spider Mites
Spider mites are one of the most persistent garden insects. You’ll be able to recognize this pest because of its small brown body. When spider mite populations get out of control, these pests become more obvious: You’ll notice that your plant has webs around it.
It’s best to use neem extract on your plant as a preventive pest control measure, but if spider mites begin attacking your plant, you’ll want to use this recipe: Mix 1 tsp of Neem Oil, 1 tsp of Insecticidal soap, and 1 quart of water.
Apply this organic neem-based solution to your plant every 3-5 days, and make sure you’re spraying around the small corners of the leaves, as well as between the bushy parts of your plant.
It won’t take long until the spider mites begin to run. This oil-based recipe should be used consistently to control pest populations, so remember to apply it often.
If you own any of these plants in your garden, you may be more susceptible to spider mite insects than most:
- Scheffleras (Umbrella Plant)
Neem Oil For Fungal Diseases
Neem extract can be used as a natural method to treat fungal infections in your plants. These infections are most characterized by their color: rusty orange or red spots on your plant leaves may indicate a fungal problem.
To remedy this with Neem oil, take a cotton swab with a few drops of neem oil and apply it to your plant’s leaves liberally. Feel free to keep using neem oil once a week on the affected areas until the leaves of your plant show some progress.
Powdery Mildew, a specific type of fungus, appears on plant leaves in splashes of white powder. If you’re starting to see this on your plant, you’ll want to use a spray solution of 3 tablespoons of neem oil per gallon of water.
Apply this spray on the leaves of your plant, including the stems, for better gardening protection. This spray will begin to work if applied at least once a week to deter the disease.
If your plant suffers from black spot, you’ll be able to notice it immediately: Black, grey, or dark brown splotchy areas of the leaves will begin to appear.
While neem oil can’t take away black spots, it’s safe to use as a preventive measure for your garden in case it happens again. First, pluck or cut off the infected leaves and isolate the plant from your garden.
Next, directly apply neem oil or a neem oil spray mixed with water on the remaining leaves of your plant.
If you’re prone to overwatering, neem oil might be your new best friend. Root rot happens quickly when there are fungi in the soil, which neem oil can get rid of pretty easily.
To delay root rot, spraying neem around the soil will help slow it down. This organic method works best as a preventive method, though. Always practice proper gardening habits to avoid having to use this method.
Use Neem Oil For Preventive Pest Control
If you’re keen on an insecticide, pesticide, and fertilizer all in one, Neem Cakes are one of the most effective methods to try in the garden. This solution is cost-effective and has just two ingredients!
Neem cake mixtures are made up of pressed manure and neem oil, which, when applied to the soil, doubles as an active pesticide and nutritional boost for your plants.
To make this, mix up 30mL of neem oil (or half a handful of neem seeds) to 2 kilograms of manure. Chicken, cow, or rabbit manure will work fine. Leave this mix in a cool, dry area to incorporate properly.
Neem cakes are extremely beneficial when applied to soil: it prevents soil-borne nematodes and fungus gnats due to its nematocidal properties. It also benefits trees and other indoor plants to get a head start at pest protection.
Neem Seed Starter
If you want to give your seeds a head start in growing, add a teaspoon of neem oil to a gallon of water and place your seeds there for 24 hours before planting.
Neem oil contains insecticidal properties that strengthen seeds when they germinate. At the same time, the oil coats seeds to prevent disease.
When you’ve reached the seedling stage, neem oil can also be applied to plants as a foliar spray.
Neem Insect Repellent
Neem Oil Pantry Spray
Neem oil isn’t limited to gardening; in fact, you can use this as an insecticide at home, too! This organic method will keep bugs away from stored food and other precious items.
To keep bugs from raiding your pantry, add small drops of neem oil to some cotton balls and place these by the area. This solution kills bugs when touched, but also deters insects from rummaging around, to begin with.
Spraying works just as well: you can mix water and neem oil and spray the solution in areas that are susceptible to bugs. When done properly, most insects will stay away for good.
Neem Insect Repellent
If you’re susceptible to mosquito bites, neem oil is a wonderful and non-toxic way to keep mosquitos from attacking. Mix 1 teaspoon of cold-pressed neem oil to a quart of warm water and spray around your skin.
When applied to your skin, the pungent scent of this oil repels mosquitos. Be careful not to apply it on sensitive areas, and avoid using this spray on children.
Neem And Beneficial Insects
If you’d like to keep your garden as safe as possible, neem oil can be paired with beneficial insects to heighten pest control.
Beneficial insects, including ladybugs, honeybees, and lacewings, can be kept in the garden and used in conjunction with Neem oil as a non-toxic and holistic solution to pests.
DIY Neem Extract
If you happen to live in an area where neem trees grow naturally, you can actually make your own extract! Neem leaves can definitely be used as sprays: soak one bunch of leaves in a quart of water for a week.
When used, this spray has a similar effect to oil extracts. You can use this spray twice a week to repel pests and keep them away from your precious plants.
Neem Oil Conditioner
Neem oil isn’t just one of the best natural pesticides; it’s an organic method for the hair, too! After a long day out in the garden, you might want to try including a neem oil conditioner when you shower.
To use neem oil as a conditioner, take 2-3 drops of the oil and mix it in your regular conditioner. Leave it on for 20 minutes.
Neem oil has a moisturizing effect on hair and is safe for weekly use. According to some Indian texts, neem oil can also aid with lice and dandruff!
Frequently Asked Questions
When Do You Apply Neem Oil?
Neem oil is best applied as a preventive measure for the garden. Feel free to apply it on all your plants once a week to prevent pests. For infestations, a weekly application is safe and ideal, too.
Take note, however, that neem oil is best applied during an overcast or cloudy day. Neem pesticides are sensitive to sunlight; avoid spraying this oil during a sunny day because it may burn your plants.
Can you put neem oil directly on plants?
Definitely! While sprays are usually effective against pests, bugs like scale and thrips can be managed with direct neem oil application. Make sure to add a few drops on a cotton swab or cotton ball for better application.
Again, neem oil pesticides are best applied on a cloudy day. If you plan to use neem oil directly, keep your plants away from direct sunlight for at least one day as the neem may burn the leaves.