Neem Oil - Saints, Seeds and Sprays

Our good friend and local boy old William Morris once said ‘Wealth is what nature gives us and what a reasonable man can make out of the gifts of nature for his reasonable use’.

Aside from his beautiful patterns and designs, he also had a knack for being right.

What nature has given us in Neem oil is a pesticide that is far better than any synthesised chemical and has been tested for thousands of years. What’s better is that it’s natural, can be used on edibles and won’t hurt other wildlife.

You can’t mention anything Neem without speaking of India though, who are far ahead of the rest of the world in using this wonder-plant.

Aside from eating, creating fertilisers and laying down new borns on the leaves, it’s been used medicinally for centuries across India to treat a variety of medical conditions. Ayurvedic (Indian ancient/alternative medicine) texts even gave Neem the Sanskrit name of ‘Sarva Roga Nivarini’ meaning ‘to cure all ails’.

This multi-use has embedded the Neem tree into the culture of the Indian subcontinent. Some parts of Indian/Hindu mythology claim that the tree was given to this world to create a passage to heaven and the 15th century saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is also known as Nimai because he was born under a Neem tree.

The oil is easy to extract from the Neem seeds, enabling it to be used by rural farmers and city dwellers alike. It’s the farmers we’re interested in though, being a garden centre.

Azadirachta indica, as it’s called in the botanical sphere, is part of the mahogany family and can be found in tropical or sub-tropical environments. It’s evergreen, produces white flowers, yellow-green fruits and has been found growing up to 30 meters in height.

The oil is extracted from the seeds of the fruit by separating the kernels and pressing them either by hand or industrially. Within the oil is the active pesticide ingredient of ‘azadirachtin’.

To create the mix at home all you need is a spray bottle or small bowl, water, detergent and the oil itself. 

  • Mix water and a small amount of washing up liquid (3-4 drops) into the spray bottle/bowl. The detergent acts as an emulsifier for the mixture.
  • Add in around half a teaspoon of Neem oil and mix the solution gently.

After this you’re good to go. Spray or wipe leaves early in the morning when the bugs are relatively dormant and to avoid any sunlight scorching your plant before the mixture has dried. Don’t forget the underside of the leaves in case there’re any eggs.

It doesn’t kill any insects right away but puts them off feeding which leads to starvation, repels any new visitors and stops eggs from hatching.

A gift from nature to the reasonable gardener.