Neem oil has been hailed as one of the miracles of nature — more so since it’s a natural pesticide that kills pathogens and protects plants against diseases.
Neem oil is produced in the seeds of neem trees. As such, it’s perfectly safe to use in the garden as it will not pollute the environment or contaminate the soil.
Is neem oil good for apple trees? Neem oil is an excellent natural pesticide for apple trees. Azadirachtin, the active ingredient, repels pests and controls aphids, codling moths, mealworms, caterpillars, spider mites, and more. It’s also effective against apple tree diseases including scabs, powdery mildew, rust, and black spot.
But how do you apply neem oil on apple trees? When should you apply it?
Read more to find answers to these questions along with an easy recipe to make a homemade apple tree spray.
Discover the ultimate guide to nurturing and maintaining healthy apple trees. Explore my in-depth article, Apple Tree Care and Maintenance, today!
Neem Oil for Apple Trees
When pests swarm over apple trees damaging the leaves, flowers, and unripe fruits, you might be tempted to find a quick pesticide to eliminate these infestations.
However, with fruit trees like apples, there’s always a risk that the pesticide residue will end up contaminating the fruits you put on the table.
You need a natural pesticide that targets pests and bacteria without harming you, the tree, or the environment.
That’s where neem oil comes in. It’s a safe and natural pesticide that kills bugs and viruses and treats infections in apple trees.
How Does Neem Oil Work?
The main ingredient in neem oil is azadirachtin. This organic compound dampens the bugs’ ability to devour food, which reduces the damage they cause to leaves, flowers, and fruits.
It also plays another serious role in the insect’s life cycle by preventing it from reaching maturity and laying eggs.
As a result, the pest infestation on the plants dwindles quickly, and the risk of future generations of the same bug infecting the tree diminishes.
What Does Neem Oil Do for Plants?
While neem oil has a devastating impact on the lives of the insects and the pathogens they carry, it has little effect on the plants to which you apply it.
Since it’s a natural product found in the seeds of neem trees, neem oil doesn’t pose any risk to the plants themselves.
Moreover, it doesn’t contaminate the soil, and plants will continue to grow normally even when neem oil is present in the soil.
What Is Neem Oil Effective Against?
Neem oil is quite effective against a wide variety of pests, fungal diseases, viruses, and bacterial infections that most apple trees would struggle with.
That doesn’t mean that neem oil is the silver bullet for anything that goes wrong with the apple tree, but it can be used effectively against the following health problems.
Apple Tree Pests
Some of the pests that target the apple tree include aphids, codling moths, spider mites, and caterpillars among others.
Neem oil is quite effective when treating aphid infestations. The tiny bugs are too small to effectively remove by hand, but neem oil smothers them and kills them almost instantly.
As for the other pests, neem oil disrupts their life cycle, stunts their growth, and prevents adult females from laying eggs.
Companion planting can help ward off harmful pests, but sometimes bugs invade anyway, and neem oil should be your first line of defense.
Apple Tree Fungal Diseases
Fungal diseases like apple canker can damage the tree and impact the harvest considerably, but you can treat the cankers with neem oil to minimize the damage and control the spread of the fungal infection.
Apple Tree Viruses
Of all the viruses that impact the apple tree, apple chlorotic leaf spot virus, apple stem pitting virus, apple mosaic virus, and apple stem grooving virus are probably the ones you’ll deal with the most.
Treat the symptoms with neem oil, and remove the infected branches.
Apple Tree Bacterial Diseases
Apple trees have their fair share of bacterial diseases. You’ve probably encountered apple scabs, fire blight, sooty blotch, and black rot before.
Applying neem oil can help you control these diseases and prevent their spread.
Neem Oil Limitations
Although neem oil is safe to use for plants and humans alike, applying it in concentrated doses might harm pollinators such as bees and butterflies.
When the oil covers the body of the insect, it blocks the breathing holes and leads to suffocation. In general, you should avoid applying it during the bloom season.
Moreover, neem oil doesn’t treat all diseases, and some pests are not affected by it.
Is Neem Oil Safe for Fruit Trees?
Since neem oil is the product of the neem tree and since it contains amino acids and vitamin E among others, the organic compound has no negative effect on fruit trees.
You can apply it at any stage of the tree’s development without having any impact on its growth.
Can You Spray Fruit Trees With Fruit on Them?
You can definitely spray fruit trees with neem oil even when the fruits are hanging from the branches.
Neem oil is only toxic to pests and pathogens but doesn’t harm humans, birds, pets, or other wildlife.
Is Neem Oil Safe for Bees?
One of the drawbacks of applying neem oil is that it might harm bees. Like with other insects, neem oil could block the bee’s breathing holes and kill it.
However, for that to happen, the plants, trees, and flowers need to be practically smothered with the oil, which would then stick to the bee’s body.
If applied in small amounts outside the bloom season, bees can be quite safe from neem oil.
When To Spray Neem Oil on Apple Trees
Due to its limited side effects and negative impact on the trees, you can spray neem oil on apple trees whenever you need to.
Ideally, you’ll want to give the tree a thorough spray of the oil when it’s dormant. This will take care of all the eggs and larvae that hibernate on the tree waiting for the spring.
If you get pest infestations at any other time of the year, you can spray the pests with neem oil to manage their spread.
As for the specific time of day to apply the natural pesticide, you can either spray it in the morning or early evening. Avoid spraying it on windy or rainy days.
How To Use Neem Oil on Apple Trees
Applying neem oil to apple trees is not rocket science. The idea is to get the oil to the infected parts of the tree or where the pests are crawling.
Since pathogens can come from the air as well as from the soil, how to apply neem oil depends on the target and location of the infection or damage.
Spraying the Entire Tree
When you’re dealing with bugs, fungal infections, and viral or bacterial diseases that affect the branches, leaves, flowers, or fruits of the apple tree, the best way to use neem oil is to spray the whole tree.
You don’t want to miss any part of the tree, including the small twigs and under the leaves.
Be sure to give the trunk a good drenching of neem oil to cut the escape route for the bugs.
Neem Oil Soil Drench
Bugs, larvae, and pathogens can also reside in the soil where they attack the roots. To kill them, you’ll need to spray neem oil directly on the soil around the base of the tree.
Make sure the soil is dry when you apply the oil to avoid diluting it. Hold off watering the tree for a few days to let the neem oil work its magic.
How Often To Use Neem Oil on Apple Trees
If you’re spraying the entire apple tree to fight off infections and infestations, apply neem oil once every 7 days. If you’re applying it to the soil, then spray every 3 weeks.
Spray Schedule for Apple Trees
Once the apple fruits are set, you’ll need to schedule your neem oil sprays every 10 to 14 days until the end of the season.
Homemade Apple Tree Spray
If you’re looking for an alternative to neem oil, you can make your own apple tree spray at home.
- Canola oil
- Cinnamon oil
- Garlic powder
- Cayenne pepper
- Dish soap
Mix the ingredients with water, and spray the apple tree to eliminate pests.
When Is It Too Late To Spray Apple Trees?
If you wait until the flower buds have opened, you should hold off spraying the apple trees to avoid harming the pollinators.
Does Neem Oil Kill on Contact?
Neem oil blocks the breathing openings of bugs and suffocates them. Certain pests, particularly small bugs with soft bodies, will be killed immediately while others may take longer to die.
You can safely use neem oil on apple trees to treat a wide variety of fungal, bacterial, and viral infections as well as pest infestations.
Because it is an organic solution, you can use it confidently knowing that you won’t be causing harm to yourself, your family, or the environment.
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