Can You Use Neem Oil On Edible Plants & Herbs?

The buzz around neem oil cannot go unnoticed. This natural extract from the neem tree is renowned for its powerful fungicidal and anti-pest properties.

You can use it to decimate nearly all types of disease-spreading bugs from your garden without harming useful insects such as bees and butterflies. 

The oil also helps prevent and treat various plant diseases such as powdery mildew, orange rust, verticillium wilt, tip blight, and black spots.

Spraying your garden liberally with neem oil every evening will keep pests at bay and guarantee healthy plant growth and higher yields during harvest.

As much as neem oil is safe as a pesticide, you have to wash it off during harvesting. Ingesting the oil orally can cause various health problems and allergic reactions such as kidney failure, metabolic acidosis, and liver damage.

Neem Oil

This brings us to the big question – can you use neem oil on edible plants and herbs? Let’s find out.

Can you use neem oil on edible plants and herbs?

Neem oil is 100 percent safe to use on edible plants and herbs. It is a natural, organic oil extract from the neem tree, meaning it has no negative side effects on other plants. You can spray it on your fruits, vegetables, and even ornamental plants without much fuss.

The oil is also safe to spray on herbs just as other edible plants. However, some herbs are tender, and may not endure the oil.

You must test by spraying a small area of the herb to ensure it can tolerate the oil after application.

Even though neem oil is toxic to pests, it is extremely safe for pollinators such as bees, birds, and butterflies.

This means you can spray neem oil on edible plants and herbs that rely on pollination without worrying about killing pollinators.

The only concern is that neem oil can be dangerous to your health when ingested. For this reason, you should avoid spraying your edibles if you intend to eat them the very next day.

Make sure you wash all edible plants and herbs before eating them.

Benefits of using neem oil on plants

Neem oil is a natural extract that offers so many benefits to plants. It contains active ingredients that work against pests and plant diseases. Here are the top reasons why you should use neem oil on plants.

Benefits of using neem oil on plants
  • Works as a pesticide and a fungicide
  • Natural, organic formula with no side effects on plants
  • Prevents the spread of plant diseases
  • Disrupts the growth of pests at every stage of development
  • Safe on the environment and harmless to pets and wildlife
  • Safe to use on plants until the day of harvest 
  • Does not degrade soil quality after application

Could neem oil harm your edible plants and herbs?

As much as neem oil is safe to use on plants, heavy application of this organic solution can cause more harm than good. Neem oil can burn the foliage of young plants if used inappropriately.

You should not use neem oil on very young seedlings, recently transplanted plants, and tender herbs since the active ingredients in the oil can stress the plant or even cause it to wither.

Some types of edible plants and herbs, especially those that are hairy or fuzzy, cannot tolerate neem oil.

You should spray a small area of the plant and wait for 24 hours to test the tolerance level before deciding whether or not to spray your garden with neem oil.

When should you use neem oil on your plants?

Using neem oil appropriately will ensure your garden is insect-free and disease-free. Nonetheless, timing remains an important factor as far as the application of neem oil is concerned. You should know when to use neem oil on your plants and when to give your garden a break.

The ideal time to spray neem oil on your edible plants and herbs is weeks before they blossom, and after the petals drop.

Then again, you should spray the plants every two weeks (very early in the morning or in the evening) to keep pests at bay. 

Avoid spraying very young plants since they might be intolerant to the solution. Instead, perform a tolerance test on your plants before applying the oil.

Read more about neem oil for houseplant.

What bugs does neem oil kill?

Neem oil is a great natural pesticide. It contains active compounds known as limonoids that work against a wide range of bugs.

However, it does not kill bugs on contact. The pests have to eat through the leaf of the plant to die. 

When an insect eats a neem-coated leaf, the limonoids cause a hormonal imbalance and disrupt normal metabolism.

Neem oil also causes loss of appetite and it interferes with reproduction, thus reducing the population of pests in your garden.

Some of the bugs and pests that neem oil can kill include:

  • Aphids
  • Cabbage loopers
  • Weevils
  • Mites
  • Rose slugs
  • Sawflies
  • Squash bugs
  • Grasshoppers
  • Whiteflies
  • Hornworms
  • Lace Bugs
  • Moth caterpillars

How often should you use neem oil on plants?

No doubt, neem oil is an effective insecticide and fungicide that every gardener could want. However, this doesn’t mean you should spray it on your farm every day.

Heavy application of the oil can damage your plants or cause them to wither. 

Ideally, you should use neem oil on plants every 7-14 days – preferably in the evenings and away from direct sunlight – to prevent leaf burn. However, the frequency of application depends on the type and age of the plant. 

Some plants are more tender than others, meaning they can only tolerate single applications every two weeks.

Young plants and recently-transplanted crops cannot withstand a frequent application of neem oil as well as mature plants.

How quickly does neem oil work?

Neem oil is a slow-acting natural pesticide. This means you should not expect it to deliver instant results upon spraying your plants with the oil. Besides, the oil does not work on contact as other types of pesticides. The bugs have to eat a neem-coated leaf for the oil to work.

If you are using neem oil to treat various fungal diseases, you should expect the solution to work in one or two days.

The oil contains a substance called azadirachtin, which has a half-life of 1-2.5 days. To control pests, you should expect noticeable results in 2-4 days.

How to apply neem oil to your plants safely?

Neem oil is relatively easy to apply. Besides, it is harmless, biodegradable, and safe to use around kids and pets.

But first, you need to dilute it with water and mix it with an emulsifier before spraying it on your plants.

Here are steps on how to apply neem oil to plants safely:

  1. Gather all the ingredients, including a gallon of water, 2 teaspoons of neem oil and liquid, non-detergent soap
  2. Mix 2 teaspoons of neem oil and 1-1/2 teaspoon of liquid soap to emulsify the oil
  3. Mix the emulsified oil in one gallon of water
  4. Transfer the diluted neem oil to a spray bottle
  5. Spray the leaves of your plants, including the undersides generously until wet

Does neem oil need to be washed off?

You do not need to wash off neem oil after application to allow it to provide the necessary protection your plants need.

The oil has a half-life of up to 4 days when mixed with water and sprayed on plants. Furthermore, neem oil can stay on the soil for close to 22 days as it breaks down.

You should only wash it off if you intend to consume your crops the very next day since neem oil can be harmful if ingested.

To avoid taking chances, you should stop spraying your plants about a week before harvesting.

What if You use too much neem oil?

Spraying too much neem oil (more than the specified amount) can be harmful to your crops. The oil may cause your plants to burn or develop black spots on the leaves.

Fortunately, you can reverse the effects of a heavy application by washing the oil away with warm water. You should do this 20 minutes after application.

Does neem oil wash off in rain?

Neem oil washes off in rain or even when irrigating. This means you have to re-apply the treatment after the rain for the oil to provide your plants with the much-needed protection against pests and diseases.

Make sure the plant foliage is completely dry before re-applying the treatment since rainwater tends to degrade the effectiveness of neem oil.

What are the best neem oil to use?

Choosing the best neem oil for your plants can be overwhelming due to the numerous options available.

You have to consider factors like the type of plants in your garden, the purity of the oil, and the ingredients in the oil. 

Whatever your preferences, the best neem oil to use should be cold-pressed to guarantee the quality of the active ingredients. Oil extracted using heat tends to have issues with the quality of the beneficial compounds. The high temperatures can reduce the potency of the oil, making it ineffective.

Examples of neem oil to consider include:

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Final thoughts

If you are searching for an organic pesticide that is safe on edible plants and herbs, then look no further than neem oil. 

This natural oil concentrate doubles as a pesticide and fungicide. You can use it to treat various plant diseases and decimate a variety of bugs. The best part is that it is completely safe to use around kids, pets, and wildlife.

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