By Heather Rhoades
With today’s push for more organic gardening in the home garden, it can be hard to balance using natural cures for common problems and still getting a pretty display or a good harvest. While most organic pesticides are not as effective as their chemical counterparts, there is one exception, and this is neem oil. Neem oil can not only effectively kill the pests on your plants (without hurting beneficial bugs like bees) but it can also eliminate most fungus problems as well. If you are wondering what is neem used for and how can I use a neem oil foliar spray, keep reading to learn the answer.
What is Neem Used For?
A neem oil foliar spray is used in the garden one of two ways. One way is as an insecticide and the other is as a fungicide.
Neem Oil as an Insecticide
Neem oil is an effective insecticide against many insects that can hurt your plants. These include:
An additional bonus for neem oil insecticide is that it does not kill bugs that do not chew on leaves. All beneficial bugs fall into this category, so you can spray your plants with this organic spray and be sure that you will kill the undesirable bugs while keeping the bugs that help you plants, like bees, butterflies and spiders.
Neem oil insecticide is unique in that it does not immediately kill the insects it affects. Instead, for reasons not yet understood by scientists, neem oil insecticide causes a pest to be unable to maintain hydration, which in turn kills it. Some pests are also repelled by neem oil insecticide, which means that they stay away from the plant that neem oil is sprayed on.
Neem Oil as a Fungicide
Neem oil is also an effective fungicide. Applying it to plants can kill harmful and unsightly funguses such as:
Is Neem Oil Safe for Humans?
Neem oil is safe for humans and is a common ingredient in things like toothpaste, shampoo and cosmetics. It is found to be safe in smaller amounts for human consumption and since insecticidal mixtures of neem oil contain only a very diluted amount of the oil, you can eat fruits and vegetables that are treated with neem oil without any problems. It is commonly used in organic farming.
How to Apply Neem Oil Foliar Spray
Neem oil is normally applied as a spray to the leaves of the plant. While neem oil is a good insecticide, there are some things to keep in mind when using it.
First, some plants can be killed by neem oil, especially if it is applied heavily. Before spraying a whole plant, spray a leaf on the plant and wait 24 hours to check to see if the leaf has any damage. If there is no damage, than the plant will not be harmed by the neem oil.
Second, neem oil should not be applied to a plant in direct sun. If the plant you want to treat is in full sun, apply the neem oil foliar spray in the evening so that it has time to be absorbed overnight.
Also, do not use neem oil in extreme temperatures, either very hot or very cold. Do not apply neem oil or plants that are stressed, either due to drought or over watering.
Apply your neem oil insecticide about once a week to kill pests and keep them away. Apply neem oil like you would other oil based sprays in that you should make sure that the leaves of the plant are coated, especially where the pest problem is the worst.
Where to Buy Neem Oil
Most nurseries and garden centers sell neem oil. Even some of the big box stores are starting to carry this increasingly popular pesticide. If all else fails, there are many websites on the internet that sell horticultural neem oil.