Neem Oil for Plants: Synthetic fertilizers and pesticides were the quintessential elements of the “green revolution” taking over the planet in the 20th century. Owing to their high efficiency in annihilating pests, they’d become a household staple when it came to anything plants – from huge agricultural fields to backyard home gardens.
However, recent studies in the past few decades have effectively proven the disadvantages and harms of using synthetic products on greens. Due to their chemical structure, it turned into a potentially destructive agent for the natural ecosystem, as well as other living things. Many such regularly used pesticides, like DDT have been passed off as dangerous carcinogens. The others work towards declining bee population. Neither of them is an ideal scenario. Under these circumstances, people reverted to mother nature to take care of their plants.
Organic gardening and natural pesticides and fertilizers have started gaining popularity quickly. As many insects are herbivores or omnivores, many of them have developed defense systems against those harmful ingredients through a complex chemical mechanism.
From these very plants, we can extract extremely efficient insecticides that get the work done without damaging the environment.
It’s neem! Here’s how neem oil for plants is what the 21st century truly needs.
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What is Neem Oil?
Neem tree is one of the plants that exhibit amazingly versatile traits in fighting plant pests.
Going by the scientific name Azadirachta indica, these wonder plants are native to the Indian subcontinent. In its ancestral land, neem reserves the status of a sacred tree as it’s a crucial ingredient in multiple traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicines.
Neem oil has been a valued ingredient in concocting both traditional and modern remedies – from cosmetics to pesticides. In this case, the latter is exactly what we want to talk about right now.
Neem oil’s insecticidal properties make it a natural ally in gardens. It’s a gift from mother nature, so to speak – from one plant to another.
What Is Neem Oil Made of?
Neem oil is extracted from the seeds’ kernels. Neem leaves contain the highest amount of neem oil
After the oil extraction, a by-product is formed which is termed as a neem-cake, basically constituting of the remaining kernels. It can be used in agriculture and gardening as fertilizer and pesticide. Plus, this cake can also be used as an antibiotic alternative in organic livestock farming. By being mixed into the feed of the animals, these neem cakes treat bacterial, parasitic, and fungal diseases.
How Does Neem Oil Kill Insects?
Fortunately, neem oil can be the dangerous force for more than 200 species of insects feeding on plants, and it’s claimed that the actual number may be as high as 600! These include aphids, whiteflies, mealy bugs, cabbage worms, fungus gnats, thrips, mites, locusts, mushroom flies, the Japanese beetle, beet armyworms, and many other leaf-feeding insects.
How does neem oil for plants actually work?
It contains Azadirachtin, a component known to be a natural insect repellent and insecticide which functions like a feeding and growth preventer.
This basically means that once consumed, Azadirachtin will stop insects from eating, reducing their growth, and halting the larvae from developing into an instar or adult form. After a while, the colony of pesky insects will die.
Besides tweaking their metabolism, neem oil does a great job in repelling insects with its powerful aroma, covering the plant in an “unpleasant” smell that the bug will be too disgusted to approach.
Uses of Neem Oil in the Garden
Apart from insecticidal properties, neem oi has much to offer to the gardener.
Besides insects, nematode worms are also killed by neem oil or other neem-oil based products. Additional, it fights many other annoying fungal diseases like rust fungi, powdery mildew, and black spot. There’s a theory that neem oil can resist viral infections in plants.
How to Use Neem Oil Properly?
There are two choices if you want to try neem oil for your plants.
Number 1: You can buy commercial neem oil based gardening products. These store-bought versions are marked safe to used and well-tested. Also, it’s much more convenient to just reach for a ready-made product that sitting and manually finding and mixing ingredients by yourself.
However, store-bought products might contain a decreased amount of azadirachtin in comparison to the ones that can be crafted from pure oil, automatically making them less inefficient. On top of that, these could contain excessive compounds which you wouldn’t want in your garden.
One last thing, due to a few legal limitations, brand name neem oil products may be unavailable to buy in your region.
Number 2: You make your own neem oil spray. As with the other option, there are the obvious pros and cons to this DIY approach.
When you choose to make a DIY neem oil spray, you have a choice over the list of ingredients and concentration for the perfect formula for your garden – and you’re free to alter the “recipe” according to your experience. For instance, you can try out with varying doses of neem oil and explore the different effects it will have on common pests.
Regardless, you need to be more cautious with these DIY sprays. Different plants can have different reactions to this home-made mixture and the ingredients, and the reactions might be the total opposite of what you were hoping for at times.
There is one rule of thumb when it comes to mixing your own pesticide: don’t put blind faith on the efficiency and safety of these DIY recipes that you took from the web without putting them to the test first.
Always test the created formula on smaller patches of the plants first and observe the reactions for the next 24 hours.
Neem oil for plants is the change you should bring today for the sake of your plants, and for that of the world. If you’re going to attempt to make your formulation, we suggest you gather enough info on the topic before attempting anything.