It can be hard to find an organic pesticide that actually works on your garden invaders. When it comes to dealing with harmful pests, you'll want to turn to neem oil.

What is Neem Oil?

neem leaves and flowers

The Azadirachta indica, more commonly referred to as the Indian lilac, margosa, or neem tree, produces seeds that contain neem oil. After pressing these seeds, people will typically use the extracted oil as either an organic pesticide or medicine. Unlike some more popular pesticides, neem oil does not kill insects on contact. Instead, it disrupts the bugs' hormones and causes them to stop following some of their normal biological processes. For instance, some bugs that are exposed to neem lose the will to eat and experience disrupted fertility.

Neem oil also prevents larval development, meaning you won't have to worry about new generations of pests springing up anytime soon after using it. Plus, neem oil's antifungal properties will prevent unwanted spores from germinating. Nearly all of neem oil's beneficial properties can be attributed to nimbin and azadirachtin, two compounds in its chemical composition.

What to Look For in Your Neem Oil

You may have seen neem oil listed as an ingredient in some of the pesticides at your favorite gardening store. Unfortunately, most of these formulas use clarified hydrophobic extract of neem oil, a cheaper variant with a questionable chemical makeup that might not give you the best results. When selecting your neem oil, you'll want to invest in one that's cold-pressed and pure. Cold-pressed oils are extracted without the use of heat, an especially important quality considering that high temperatures can break most of neem's beneficial compounds down. Purity is a little more self-explanatory. You wouldn't want any chemicals cut into what is supposed to be an organic solution.

What Pests Can You Use Neem Oil On?

garden slug

Neem oil works on a wide variety of problematic garden pests, including over 200 different kinds of insects. These include aphids, fungus gnats, beetles, snails, slugs, ants, leafminers, mosquitoes, locusts, and houseflies.

Make Your Own Neem Oil Spray

You’ll only need a few items to create your very own organic garden spray. The best part is, you won’t be using a lot of neem oil per application, so you'll be able to spread a single batch out over a long period of time. You’ll want to invest in a pump sprayer that can hold at least 32 ounces of liquid. You’ll also need to get your hands on some cold-pressed neem oil, water, and dish soap.

Mix a teaspoon of neem oil and a ¼ teaspoon of dish soap into 32 ounces of water. If you'd like, you can just pour each of the ingredients into the sprayer and gently shake it up to mix them together. Upon first putting them into the sprayer, you’ll notice that the liquids separate into distinct layers. When you can longer see any of these layers, you’ll know you've shaken the bottle enough.

Using Your Spray

neem oil spray

Remember that your neem oil spray won’t just target bothersome insects—it will target them all. To avoid harming any beneficial bugs, you’ll want to spray your garden either early in the morning before they show up or later on at night after they’ve left. Spraying at these times will also help you avoid any potential scorching problems.

Purchasing a sprayer with a "fine mist" setting can also help you in taming your neem oil application. Ideally, you'll want to cover your plants in mist without going overboard and soaking them. Usually, neem oil takes full effect after about three days. Even after that time, you may find yourself having to deal with some leftover pests. In this case, you'll want to spray your plants again as soon as the first three-day waiting period has ended.

When it comes to eliminating pests from your garden, neem oil is the way to go. It’s organic, can be easily mixed into a spray, and will usually last you a very long time. Use neem oil, and it won't be long before those pesky bugs plaguing your garden start to disappear. Who needs man-made chemicals?