Neem Oil Spray

A few years ago, I had a hibiscus plant that I purchased at Metro, which after a year became infested with white fly, while I was over-wintering it inside my house. At first, I noticed that the leaves were yellowing and the overall health of the plant was declining.  I was still in my infancy when it came to growing and caring for plants, so I referred to the internet as my main information resource. There were many options for chemical pesticides, but I was looking for something organic with proven results and that is when I stumbled upon neem oil.

Neem oil is pressed from the fruits and seeds of the neem tree, which is an evergreen tree native to India and found throughout the tropic regions. Indians have been using it as a natural pesticide but, it is also very important in traditional Ayurvedic medicine.

In order to have success with neem oil it is important to understand how it works.  Studies have shown that neem leaves fed to rats for 11 weeks resulted in 100% infertility.  What this means for your garden is that the insect and pests that are plaguing your plants will lose the desire to reproduce after prolonged and continuous applications of a neem spray.  I have also read studies that the neem spray decreases the appetite leading to starvation.
Neem oil has been proven to be effective against the following pests:
  • mealybug
  • beet armyworm
  • aphids
  • cabbage worm
  • thrips
  • whitefly
  • mites
  • fungus gnats
  • beetles
  • moth larvae
  • mushroom flies
  • leaf miners
  • caterpillars,
  • locusts
  • nematodes
  • Japanese beetle
The list goes on.  The majority of the information I found on neem oil comes from this source:
Back to my hibiscus, It eventually lost all of its leaves and was just a bare stick. Before it reached that dreadful stage, I ordered some neem oil from the US because I have found it impossible to source in Bulgaria. If anyone has a clue where to obtain 100% pure neem, please share your information. With repeated application, my hibiscus recovered 100% it flowered and now resides in my garden till I can find a more suitable location. One of my neighbors has a hedgerow of hibiscus plants lining the street, so I feel confident it will survive outside during the mild Kyustendil winters. It is my hope that the plant produces enough leaves, so I can brew some tea or distill some hibiscus water for culinary applications, I am thinking creme brulee or macaroons?

Today, I have a bottle of neem spray at the ready.  I usually mix up a batch a week and keep it on my radiator, so the liquid is warm and the oil is easier to re-emulsify.  Currently, I have a few plants that have taken ill from their proximity to my Mother-in-law’s sick plants.

One of them is my avocado, which has started showing activity from mealy bugs.  It is still very healthy, but I see buds forming and I don’t want to screw up any chance of it fruiting this year!

I attribute the attack from this Bay Leaf (Дафинов лист) also residing in our winter garden.

I have been treating both plants, but I am more aggressive on my avocado.  I used cotton swabs with alcohol to physically remove the white cottony residue, then I drench the plant weekly with my neem spray.  The entire tree usually uses about 500ml’s of spray.  I have used it on the bay leaf as well, but if you can see the detailed photograph, she has twisted the branches and that is a perfect place for the bugs to dig in and reside.  This might sound selfish, but I want to get the plant healthy enough so I can take a new shoot to care for myself.

I am also treating one of my rosemary plants for scale.  I’ve read that they are almost impossible to eradicate entirely, but if I can keep them at bay till the spring/summer where the will be outside, I will be happy.  The plant isn’t suffering terribly, but I don’t want to chance it.  I try to inspect weekly to monthly depending on the circumstances and remove any visible scale, then spray.
1 – 1.5t neem oil
1/2t liquid soap
500 ml of warm water
1 500ml spray bottle, clean
Add the neem oil, if it is not viscous, warm in the microwave or a pot of hot water till fluid, then add the liquid soap. The soap helps the spray to emulsify better and coat the leaves. Let your faucet run till the water is nice and warm, if it is too hot you will melt the bottle or might render the beneficial oils ineffective. Slowly add the water, then shake vigorously to incorporate. Use immediately, if you let it sit too long, it could lose effectiveness.
Drench plants till they are dripping.  Making sure to concentrate on problem areas and not neglecting the undersides of the leaves.  Even spray on the soil to make sure any pests down below are sufficiently soaked.  For a severe problem, repeat every 2 days.  Once it starts to subsides, reduce to every week then periodically. This is the neem that I am using.  It is available on Amazon. I have also found a source of neem in Bulgaria through Sokoni. You can purchase organic or not in a variety of sizes.
The key to using neem oil is patience and diligence. You will not see results instantly, but you must set reminders for yourself to keep at it and applying regularly.  While writing this post, I thought about the carbon imprint of relying on a tropical oil from India to protect your plants.  I feel I need to look into the sustainability of this choice.
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