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Neem Oil – A Safe, Organic (and Amazing) Product for Gardeners

If you’ve gardened for a while odds are good you’ve heard of neem oil. Turns out it’s one of a handful of products that belongs in every successful gardener’s tool shed.

Natural History

Neem oil is derived from the fruits and seeds of the neem tree (Azadirachta indica) which is native to India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. This fast growing relative of the mahogany tree produces fruits which look similar to olives. These fruits contain seed kernels with very high oil levels of 25-45%, which is extracted through pressing. Like olive oil, neem oil is then filtered and used for a wide array of products.


Health Benefits for People

In India, the leaves of the neem tree are steeped in boiling water; the liquid is cooled and used to treat children’s’ skin ailments and adults’ high blood pressure. Dried neem leaves are burned to drive away mosquitoes, and are placed in clothes closets and food cupboards as natural insecticides.  Young shoots and flowers are eaten as vegetables and used to make a traditional thin soup. Blossoms are a key ingredient in a popular type of curry popular in this part of the world.

Neem oil is also used worldwide in a broad array of cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, creams, toothpastes as well as pet soaps and shampoos.


Neem Oil Garden Use: Insecticide

Neem oil sprays are effective garden insecticides and work differently from poison-based products. Acting like an insect hormone, neem oil enters the system of chewing and sucking bugs, disrupting their feeding and reproductive cycles. The adults stop eating and hormonal action causes the next generation not to develop. Populations are first reduced and then eliminated.

Many experts recommend initially using neem oil early in the season to eliminate destructive insects before they have time to establish. Then, use neem oil sprays as the growing season progresses to control any new outbreaks.

In the garden, neem oil controls aphids, caterpillars, mites, mealybugs, scale, Japanese beetles, webworms, billbugs, army worms, white grubs, leafminers and many other insects that feed on plant sap or chew leaves and roots.

Neem Oil Garden Use: Disease Prevention

The antifungal and antibacterial properties of neem oil were first documented in the 1940s. Since then huge amounts of research projects have been undertaken to learn more. In the garden, neem oil is used to control fungus-based diseases such as botrytis, powdery mildew, rust, black spot, scab and blight.


Neem Oil Garden Use: Organic and Safe

The primary active ingredient in neem oil is Azadirachtin. This component breaks down quickly in soil, water and on plants through the action of microbes and light. Applied according to package directions, garden use of neem oil is safe for the earthworms, beneficial insects, bees, songbirds and small mammals that frequent backyard spaces.

Take a tip from seasoned gardeners and make this the year you discover the wonders of neem oil!


7/23/2013    Gardening Know-How, Insects, Snails & Slugs