How to Make Neem Oil Spray for Plants

neem tree

Up until the 20th century, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides were the preferred product of the “green revolution”. 

They became a go-to product for all plant operations due to their pest killing efficiency. Their use ranged from small home gardens to large agricultural fields. 

But over time, we’ve come to learn about the dangers and downsides of synthetic pesticide use. Due to their chemical structure, many of these cause significant damage to natural ecosystems. 

Take DDT for instance. This element, commonly used in pesticides, is now labeled as a dangerous carcinogen. Moreover, other synthetic pesticides are a threat to bee populations around the world. 

Luckily, all is not lost – cue in neem oil

What is Neem Oil?

The oil pressed from neem tree leaves and seeds is a powerful organic solution. It works well at controlling disease and pests such as spider mites and aphids in your lawn or garden.

The neem tree’s scientific name is Azadirachta indica and it is native to India and South Asia. Here, the neem tree has become regarded as being sacred. That’s because it’s one of the key ingredients in traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine.

Neem leaf

You’ll find neem in many other products you use in your home such as:

  • Toothpaste
  • Soaps
  • Cosmetics
  • Dog shampoo

Can I Make Neem Oil Spray at Home? 

Yes, you can! It’s a simple formula that doesn’t require much. What’s amazing about using neem oil is that your homemade spray is bound to be more potent than a commercial one. 

This is because you are in charge of carefully selecting good quality, pure neem oil. Doing so allows you to get a high amount of azadirachtin in your solution. This active compound is what kills pests. By mixing in the contents yourself, you can add in more of it as compared to a store-bought spray. 

Look for ”raw” or “crude” neem oil that is 100% pure and cold-pressed. It needs to be cold-pressed because heat destroys azadirachtin. This means that heat-derived oils lack an adequate amount of this active compound in them.

neem tree

Another advantage of buying purely organic neem oil is preventing contamination. 

During production, processed neem oil may end up containing solvents or chemicals. These may be harmful when they come into contact with your plants. 

To make neem oil spray at home, the ingredients you need are:

  • Neem oil
  • Water
  • Emulsifier

Don’t be stunned at the last one, the deal is pretty simple. Seeing as oil and water don’t mix, you will need a way around this when formulating the spray. Mild liquid soap can serve as an emulsifier to ensure both the water and the neem oil mix.

Step by Step Process of Making Your Neem Oil Spray

To make 1 liter of a mild 0.5% basic neem oil spray, you will need:

  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) of neem oil
  • 1 liter of warm water 
  • 1-2 ml (⅓ tsp) of mild liquid soap or another mild detergent

Step 1 – mix soap and water in a bottle or container and shake well to ensure the soap is completely dissolved. 

Step 2 – add in the neem oil and shake again. 

It is that simple. 

The most common concentration for regular and general garden use is 0.5-1%. You can still experiment with higher doses such as 2%, Do this if your garden seems to need a stronger solution. Just be sure to add water if you up the stakes.

How Do You Use Neem Oil to Kill Bugs on Plants?

Always run a test on a limited area before applying the neem spray to your entire garden. Map out a section of plant leaves that are badly affected to start with. Spray this area to monitor any adverse effects in a day. 

If your plant responds well to the spray after 24 hours, that’s the green light you need to use it on your garden. The neem oil spray can be used once a week for good measure.

It works best as a preventive solution and can be sprayed regularly if your plants have an upcoming pest infestation. 

Make sure the leaves are fully coated in the spray. This way, the active ingredients have full contact with fungi, pests, and insects. 

Don’t spray your plants in extreme temperatures – both cold and hot. Also, avoid using your neem oil spray in direct sunlight. 

If any of your plants have been stressed with poor growing conditions such as overwatering or drought, don’t treat them until they are in better condition. You don’t want to cause any additional damage by spraying them. 

Even though the EPA recognizes neem oil-based products as safe to use, be sure to wash all produce coming from your garden before use.

What Pests Does Neem Oil Insecticide Kill?

When it comes to oil, neem has many functions for your garden. It works as a bactericide, a fungicide and it kills plant parasitic nematodes. Above all, it is also compatible with beneficial nematodes

Neem oil sprays kill small soft-bodied insects such as:

  • Mealybugs
  • Thrips
  • Aphids
  • Spider mites
  • Whiteflies 

Neem oil insecticide can attack the larvae of some bugs and directly kill others. It also works great against fungal diseases on plants such as powdery mildew, black spot, rust, and anthracnose.

You can spray neem oil as a preliminary measure then follow it up with releases of generalist beneficial insects. This is a great way to reduce pest populations already present in your garden. 

Organic growers love neem oil as it allows spot treatment to happen with little impact on the surrounding environment or “good bugs”.

Neems flower

Chemical pesticides limit a bee’s ability to gather food for itself, which leads to its death in the long run. Their use has seen the number of pollinators reduce in recent decades. 

Neem oil is truly nature’s gift to plants. When used in small quantities, it won’t cause harm to medium or large hives and the bees. This is a win-win for organic gardeners as they keep their pollinators and plants alive. 

Because neem oil aims for bugs that chew on leaves, neem oil insecticides are safe to use around:

  • Ladybugs
  • Butterflies 
  • Other beneficial insects

More Uses for Neem Oil Spray in Your Garden

Neem oil is best recognized for its prowess as an effective insecticide. There’s more to this amazing oil and here’s how you can make the most out of it.

Neem Oil as a Foliar Spray

Neem oil is effective at killing insects at varying stages of their life cycle. This makes it a great solution to use in different seasons. 

You can use it as a foliar spray to control common pests during the growing season. Examples are leafhoppers, aphids, and whiteflies. 

Neem oil can also be used during a dormant season to get rid of overwintering pests and eggs on your plants. Some examples are:

  • Scale mites
  • Leaf curling caused by aphids the following spring
  • Tent caterpillars or their eggs and leaf rollers

Neem Oil as a Fertilizer 

Neem “cake” is a byproduct of cold-pressed neem kernels and fruit and made from organic manure. What makes the cake so special is that it can be used as a fertilizer and pesticide. 

Neem cake can fertilize the soil by extending the availability of nitrogen. It also helps control white ants, nematodes, and grubs.

Learn More About Organic Gardening

At Clean Air Gardening, our sole purpose is to help you create the perfect garden. And do so in the most environmentally friendly way. Read more articles with top-notch advice on how to improve your garden such as:

All our products are made with environmentally conscious gardeners in mind and we’ve been living up to those standards since 1998. Our shop has all the supplies you could ask for to make your gardening journey a breeze.

Featured image: by Forest and Kim Starr

neem plant mealybug and aphids with text overlay neem oil spray how to make neem oil spray for pests

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