What are the best ways to use neem oil for the garden? Besides acting as a pesticide, can it cure plant diseases? And are there any side effects?
Sarah Beaner, Cleveland, Ohio
There are many ways to use neem oil on vegetables and plants and around your garden. In general, it’s a safe and effective pesticide that can also treat health concerns in humans. Moreover, it won’t poison pets, either.
Let’s begin with a quick summary of what diseases it treats in plants. The full description of what neem oil can do is in this article: https://www.tipsbulletin.com/neem-oil-for-plants/
First, neem oil gets rid of bacterial and fungal problems like Anthracnose as well as verticillium wilt and fire blight. It controls mold, mildew, Black Spot, and rust, too.
Next, if you’re battling aphids, whiteflies, scale, cabbage worms, spider mites, and other unwanted garden pests, you need neem oil. Use neem oil for Japanese beetles and cucumber beetles. This “magical” oil is ideal for natural squash bug control. It’s effective against a wide range of insects and arthropods that cause damage in the garden and it doesn’t harm the plant or people and animals. Either a soil drench or a neem oil spray works against these bugs and it’s completely organic.
Now that you’ve had a taste of what neem oil can do, I’ll discuss how to use it. To begin, you need to know that there are different kinds of neem. There are products with neem as oil, powder, or granule form.
There are also different brands that might combine neem with other ingredients. But I’m going to stick to pure, organic neem oil made from the Azadirachta indica plant. Usually, when using neem oil for squash bugs, or the way to use neem oil for cabbage worms is to mix up a solution with neem oil, water, and a few drops of dish soap in a spray bottle.
The soap emulsifies the neem oil to help it work better and stick to stems and leaves when sprayed on plants. It’s one of the best ways to stop squash bugs and other pesky insects that want your plants as much as you do.
After you combine these ingredients, spray the plants with it. Be sure to spray early in the morning or in the evening to avoid burning the foliage with the mixture in bright sun. And be sure to coat both the tops and bottom sides of the leaves as well as the stems and soil on each plant. Make a large batch if you have lots of the bugs and keep the bottle handy for when you notice a few reappear. Be sure not to spray any flowers, as this solution will harm bees and butterflies that feed on flowers.
Instead of using a spray, make a soil drench instead. Apply to the base of the plants every couple of weeks. The bugs and worms will find the plant distasteful after absorbing neem. They will leave the plants alone after a taste and seek other plants that have better flavor. This is an ideal way to handle harmful bugs as it does not affect beneficial insects.
Although you’ll need to repeat the treatment every week for up to five weeks, you’ll see results sooner than that. Keeping some neem oil on hand during the growing season will really pay off with its beneficial insect repellent and killing properties.