You can do everything right—keeping your garden weeded, watered, and fertilized—and end up with little or no crop, because of plant pests and disease.
For years, I used sevin dust. I’ve long since ceased. While it worked well, the stuff is dangerous. Julie and I began searching for a safe alternative. Folks swear by this one or that—soapy water, for example—but I was never happy with the results of everything I tried. Last year, Julie found neem oil. It worked great!
Neem oil is natural. It comes from the fruits and seeds of the neem tree, which originated in India and has now been introduced to other areas.
The stuff is easy to use. I mix it in my watering bottle, then drench my plants in the same manner in which I fertilize. While the directions calls for also wetting the undersides of leaves, my watering-can method makes that extremely difficult. Thankfully, I have found that the oil works well, without the undersides being covered.
As you can imagine, if it rains, or you water your garden, the oil will be washed off. I watered on Sunday, we had no rain in the forecast, and used the neem oil on Monday.
I only use it on certain plants, the ones which I can see have begun to be pestered. Some things never get bothered by pests, and rarely by disease. On my summer squash and vine crops—such as watermelon, cantaloupe, and winter squash—I have rarely had pests or disease. Some years, green beans are not bothered, and some years worms infest them. I simply keep an eye on the telltale signs, whether the leaves look eaten or unhealthy.
This time of year, the Cole crops—broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi—are the object of worms’ appetites, as are some greens—our kale and collard greens—while other greens are left alone—our spinach and Swiss chard are worm-free. A bit later, as the tomatoes begin to bear fruit, worms will be attracted to them.
Neem oil is safe, not too expensive, and easy to use. You should be able to find it at larger store that has a garden center.
Because my bottle is my trusty sidekick, I’ve name it Leonard.
Leonard Neem Oil.