Gardeners are constantly on the lookout for natural yet effective pesticides to help remove and manage insect outbreaks. Tomato plants are particularly popular with bugs such as aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies.
But how do you prevent these pests from destroying your homegrown tomatoes?
Neem oil might just be the trick you need to help your tomato plants thrive. This natural pesticide is a safe and effective option for many gardeners around the world to manage a gardener’s worst nightmare – pests!
Let’s take a look at what neem oil actually is and how you can use neem oil on your tomato plants at home.
What is Neem Oil?
Neem oil is a tomato gardener’s best friend. It’s a natural pesticide obtained from Azadirachta indica trees found within South Asia and India. The trees contain Azadirachtin and are highly concentrated within the seeds.
The Azadirachtin is the ingredient most important to gardeners as it can repel or kill pests. Gardeners will use neem oil as a pesticide to help protect their growing plants from being eaten.
Benefits of Using Neem Oil on Tomato Plants
As neem oil is an effective natural pesticide, it can be extremely beneficial to use on your tomato plants.
It is mostly used as a spray to discourage pests and protect the foliage of growing plants. Once neem oil has been sprayed onto a plant, it is absorbed by the plant.
Then, when insects such as aphids or whiteflies consume the plant, they take in neem oil. The neem oil can then:
- Prevent insects from feeding
- Stop larvae from maturing
- Reduce mating behavior
- Sometimes prevent them from breathing.
Is Neem Oil Safe?
Neem oil has been deemed safe almost worldwide. It is extremely effective at removing pests and is claimed to not have a negative impact on the environment, wildlife, or you.
It is considered safe when we are directly exposed to neem oil. Neem oil is an ingredient used in many day-to-day products such as soaps, medicines, and cosmetics. However, it can cause irritation, especially to your eyes and skin, so it is important to use gloves when applying neem oil on your tomato plants.
With regards to other wildlife, neem oil has been deemed practically non-toxic to other living creatures such as mammals, bees, birds, and plants.
However, as it is slightly toxic to aquatic animals, neem oil is banned within the UK and Canada. So if you reside in these countries, you will have to find an effective alternative pesticide.
How to Use Neem Oil?
As neem oil can cause harm to certain plants, it is important to test this pesticide first.
You can add 1 teaspoon of neem oil and 1/3 teaspoon of dish soap to 1 quart of warm water. Spray a small area of soil around your plant and wait 24 hours. Check if any of the plants have been damaged by the spray and if not, it should be fine to use as a pesticide.
Tomato plants tend to not react negatively to neem oil. Using a neem oil soak is a really effective way to protect your tomato plants against pests.
To make your soak, ensure to mix 1 teaspoon of cold-pressed raw neem oil with 1 quart of water and 1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap.
Pour the mixture on the soil around your tomato plants and allow it to soak in.
Your tomato plants then absorb the neem oil via their roots and remain within your plants for up to 22 days.
For the neem oil to remain effective, repeat every 3 weeks.
Alternatively, you can create a foliar spray with 1 quart of water, 1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap, and 1 teaspoon of clarified hydrophobic neem oil.
Place this mixture into a spray bottle and spray your tomato plants thoroughly including underneath each leaf.
When first applying, ensure to repeat this process every other day for the first 14 days. This ensures that any previous infestation is removed.
You can then continue to use the foliar spray once every 14 days after that.
What is an effective alternative to using Neem Oil?
As we have already mentioned, if you reside in the UK or Canada, you cannot use neem oil due to containing Azadirachtin. It is illegal because of its potentially harmful impact on fish and other aquatic animals.
One alternative option that you probably already have within your kitchen, is olive oil. Olive oil, though does not contain the compound Azadirachtin like neem oil does, it has a positive impact on pest control. Olive oil suffocates pests helping to remove them safely, without any negative impact upon the environment, your plants, or yourself.
To use olive oil, mix 1 cup of olive oil with 1 tablespoon of washing soap. Then place 1 teaspoon of this mixture with a cup of water. Place inside a spray bottle and ensure to thoroughly spray your tomato plants.
Where to Purchase Neem Oil?
If you reside in the U.S. you can easily purchase neem oil online in large quantities from sites such as Amazon.
Two good options for purchasing neem oil are from GreenHealth or Pure PetraTools with 100% pure cold-pressed neem oil in 16oz. This is a large quantity so remember to keep out of the reach of children and pets as larger quantities of neem oil may be toxic.
If you reside outside of the UK or Canada, neem oil is a highly effective pesticide you can use on your tomato plants.
As neem oil is a natural resource, it is deemed safe to use on your plants and should not have a negative impact on you, your plants, or animals within your garden.
Neem oil can be a tomato gardener’s best friend and is a cheap but efficient tool to helping you manage unwanted garden pests.
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