Ever heard of neem oil but weren’t sure what it was? Uses for neem oil in the garden are bountiful, and it can be a big help to gardeners everywhere.
Pests, every garden has them, and if I can avoid spraying my garden veggies with poison or toxins, I’ll go that route. One of the benefits of gardening in your own backyard is knowing exactly what touches the food you feed your family. And knowing how to use neem oil is something to keep in your gardening arsenal when pests are trying to take over, but you still want to maintain a natural approach to pest control. (Here are my natural cabbage worm maintenance tips.)
Uses for Neem Oil in the Garden
Neem oil is an effective organic product that has many uses, one of which is safely controlling pests in the garden. This oil has been used for centuries as a natural pesticide, but it’s also found in other products like soap, toothpaste and cosmetics. (I’ll bet you’ll be checking labels after reading this.)
Neem oil is harvested from the seeds and leaves of the neem tree. This tree is native to India, but can be found growing in most tropic and sub-tropic regions. It has many different applications, but let’s look at some of uses neem oil has in the garden, and how learning how to use neem oil in the garden can be a game changer.
Garden pests, we all have them and should learn how to properly identify them. Not all bugs are pests, but if you have identified intruders that are destroying your plants, spray neem oil on garden plants to kill pests at any stage of their life cycle. This organic oil will kill pests in the egg, larva, or adult stage of life. It will smother adults pests and disrupt hormones so developing pests cannot continue through to their next stage of development. This is obviously beneficial for halting a pest infestation in your garden. I’ve been using it lately to clear out a Japanese flea beetle attack. Here’s MIGardener talking about using neem oil in his garden against aphids:
Safe For All Plants and Pollinators
Neem oil kills all pests on all plants. There’s no need to have several different types of insecticides and pesticides; neem oil will do it all and is safe for use on all food producing plants. And if sprayed in the correct concentration (see your bottle), then it’s also safe for pollinators such as honeybees and butterflies. Isn’t it nice to know you have can have something on hand when pests strike?
Above and Below
This organic oil will kill above ground and below ground pests. It’s very effective at killing nematodes, which live in the soil and destroy plant roots. Neem oil works by preventing nematode larvae from hatching. (Not sure if you have nematodes? They’re microscopic, so look for small balls all over the roots of you plants when you remove them from the garden. Most states have a nematode lab where you can have your plants sent for testing. Planting marigolds can also help to deter nematodes.)
Earth Worm Safe
While neem oil kills soil-dwelling nematodes, it won’t harm beneficial earthworms. Neem oil actually encourages earthworm activity, which in turn improves garden soil structure.
When neem fruits, kernels and leaves have been pressed, there is a ‘cake’ left behind known as a neem cake. When used in the garden, these cakes will act as an organic fertilizer and help control nematodes, white ants, and grubs.
Neem oil kills a wide range of fungi that are common to garden plants. Use the oil to control powdery mildew, black spot, rust, tip blight and scabs on your indoor or outdoor garden plants.
It’s safe to use on indoor garden, herb and flowering plants. It’s also safe to use on tender seedlings in greenhouses, so don’t limit its use to only outdoors.
Safe for Pets
Neem oil is non-toxic and bio-degradable. It’s safe for use around pets and wildlife immediately after spraying, and it remains safe after being absorbed into plants and soil. The oil degrades quickly after a rain and won’t cause a toxic build-up in soil or nearby waterways.
How to Use Neem Oil in the Garden
Neem oil is not a traditional, chemical-laden insecticide, thankfully. Because it is an oil, and not poison, it can take neem oil longer to “work.” For those expecting neem oil spray to instantly kill any pests you see, you may be disappointed. The pests ingest the neem oil, and it may cause them to stop eating and/or stop laying eggs, but the results are slower than chemical poison. But knowing how to use neem oil and how long the process takes gives you a safe alternative to chemical-laden poisons that can harm other beneficial insects.
For application, spray your neem oil insecticide before pollinators are out and about. This would be in early morning hours or in the evening, and this reduces the risk of spraying any beneficial insects that visit your garden.
I’d love to know if you’ve used neem oil and how it has worked for you. Have a great week, and happy gardening!
Wednesday 14th of July 2021
what is the ratio of neem oil to water?
Thursday 15th of July 2021
Good question, Karen! My bottle recommends 2-4 tablespoons per gallon of water, but check the bottle you're using to see the mixing instructions. Hope this helps!
Martha Pearse PhD
Sunday 29th of March 2020
what do you think of Green Cure? We're using it on roses in Colorado
Monday 30th of March 2020
Hi Martha! I hadn't heard of Green Cure until your comment, so I looked it up. It seems like a quality product, especially for fungus or mildew. What do you use it for on roses specifically?
Friday 31st of May 2019
How often would you use the neem oil? Is it just a one time thing or more?
Sunday 2nd of June 2019
Good question, you can apply neem oil multiple times. Since it must come in contact with the bugs, you would need to reapply when you see new bugs or after a rain. Hope this helps!
Wednesday 22nd of May 2019
Good morning! I just read your suggested uses for Neem oil. Thanks very much! I'm curious to know, however, if using outside in the garden, should the Neem oil be diluted with a carrier oil or something else? I've used Neem full strength on an indoor plant with success. But it was my first time doing this and wasn't sure if it would kill the plant! Thank you for your help! Christina
Wednesday 22nd of May 2019
Hi Christina! Great question, and the answer is "it depends." If you purchase the neem oil liquid, not in a spray bottle, then it will have instructions on the back for how to dilute in water. (This is what I use outside in the garden.) You can also purchase the pre-mixed sprays that require no dilution. Is what you used on your indoor plants pure neem oil? Or was it an already diluted spray?