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Wave Good-Bye to Harsh Chemicals: Neem Oil as an Insecticide

By Ed Ball | Published on February 08, 2023 | 3 min read

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We all have such idealistic, almost romantic visions of our garden and landscapes as a whole.

We imagine we will plant the perfectly designed plantings, and they will flourish year after year with barely any maintenance – maybe trim the roses for our dinner table. Easy-peasy.

Of course, in truth, the aphids are out of control, the tomatoes have fungus, and blight is threatening the berry bushes. It’s a war out there!

There is a chemical for every issue, but aren’t we trying to live in harmony with nature and not decimate every nuisance? Yet organic products are wimpy and require more quantity – right? Not so fast. Some of the very best organic treatments are the ones that have been around the longest. The ones we once used, then shelved in favor of fancy chemicals, are now making a comeback. (And some of us never stopped using them.)

Our favorite hard-working classics, which we like to use on our client projects, is neem oil – from the Azadirachta indica tree.

It protects, it fertilizes, it even keeps the mosquitos away (seriously!). Best of all, it’s a natural byproduct of the neem tree. The oil is harvested from the nee tree’s seeds and leaves, so it’s also sustainable.

Neem has been used for literally hundreds of years and is found in many everyday products like toothpaste, soap, dog shampoos, and more. Yes, it’s that amazing.

Neem as an Insecticide

Gardeners have long turned to neem oil for pest control as it targets only insects and does not interfere with the plants.

It’s not a poison, rather it disrupts the hormones of many insects ending their ability to reproduce, eventually causing them to die off. For other insects, it works as a repellent. Regardless of how it targets them, pests don’t build resistance, so it will always work for you when you need it.

It repels hundreds of insects, yet some you might care about, include: aphids, mites, scale, leafhoppers, whiteflies, caterpillars, mealybugs, thrips, grubs, and even mosquitoes. It works at all stages – egg, larvae, and adult – so there is no waiting for the perfect time to protect your plants. You can even use it during dormancy as a preventative.

Neem as a Fungicide and Bactericide

If insects aren’t your problem, neem also treats powdery mildew and other fungi, including blackspot, scab, rust, leaf spot, anthracnose, and tip blight. In the bacteria category, neem can take on fire blight and win. What’s even better is neem can be used on everything in your garden, especially fruits, vegetables, herbs, and berries.

Neem as a Safe Option

Because it’s organic and biodegradable, neem doesn’t build up on the surrounding environment, which makes it safe for livestock, pets, birds, and even fish. It also doesn’t create “death zones,” or extended beyond the treatment area to harm beneficial insects.

Neem won’t harm earthworms, butterflies, ladybugs, or other beneficial insects. It’s safe to use indoors, and it’s perfect for greenhouse use. The EPA has found it to have “… no unreasonable adverse effects,” it doesn’t pollute the water, and can even be used the day of harvest for fruits and vegetables. It’s a great product, especially when you consider its effectiveness and centuries-old track record.

In our region (and most of the United States), neem can be grown indoors, but it won’t withstand our winters. So consider adding it as a container or patio plant and treating it as an annual. By having some of neem plants around, you will get some of the insect repellant properties, just not as concentrated.

Neem oil is often a key ingredient in other organic and even conventional products.

If you’d like to buy the same neem product that we use, here’s our source, which we believe is the best quality product.

Let’s wave good-bye to harsh chemicals for good.