NOTES ABOUT NEEM
By Josie Hughes
(adapted from several 1998 MRS Newsletters)
I am a fledgling rosarian who is interested
in the possibility of growing roses organically; therefore, I am always
interested when a new product comes on the market and claims to help one
grow good roses without harming people, animals or beneficial insects.
On Monday, June 15th at 6:00 P.M., I began
spraying my roses with a neem product, Neemachtin, an “organic botanical
insecticide” spray concentrate, marketed as a “Japanese Beetle
Repellent.” It is manufactured by Sure Fire Products and can found
at any Tru-Valu hardware store. There are a number of neem based products
on the market. One has been highly advertised, Rose Defense; but I have
avoided it because of hearing a number of negative comments about it.
An organic, botanical insecticide “Japanese Beetle Repellant,”
a.k.a. Neemachtin, seemed to me to hold a lot of promise and I decided
to give it a fair test.
On Tuesday, after a drizzly night, I noticed
a marked decrease in aphids and was about to do a victory dance when I
spotted two Japanese beetles munching on a bloom of Tiffany. And so, I
As of Wednesday evening, I have sprayed
yet a third time due to a severe thunderstorm last night. Today, I noticed
one mobile beetle on a blossom of Elina. Even though I was spraying at
the time, instinct suggested I squash it, which I did and with minimal
I am using no other spray material at this
time and have put my baking soda and soap spray on hold. I have read that
neem can repel beetles and aphids and can even control blackspot. Wouldn’t
it be wonderful if neem could do all of that in my backyard?
Becoming enthusiastic about my
neem project, I consulted several agencies about it. Ted Rogers,
of the National Organic
Standards Program (a branch of the U.S. D.A.) in Washington,
D.C. mentioned that neem holds such promise, that in his department
it is known as “birth
control for bugs.” He assured me that neem, when used properly,
is harmless to animals and beneficial insects. The Cooperative
Service of Baltimore County’s representative stated that
neem is still being tested for its efficacy. She also mentioned
that her department
is predicting a low beetle year, due to last summer’s drought.
Hope she is right and that Neemachtin takes care of the drought
The agencies and the makers of Neemachtin
are emphatic about the following instructions:
- Do not spray if temperature is over 90?. Apply spray in early morning
or late afternoon.
- Do not mix neem solution with any other spray material.
- Do not use any left-over solution. Spray should be used within eight
hours of mixing.
- Follow the label instructions carefully. For example, I use 3 tbs.
of Neemachtin (well shaken) with ½ gallon of water. This will
cover about 50 rose bushes. Adding more Neemachtin to the solution won’t
repel more beetles, it will only burn the foliage. If I see any leaf
curl or leaf burn, I will stop spraying immediately. Foliage burn was
one of the complaints about Rose Defense.
As of Thursday morning, there aren’t
any beetles and hardly any aphids. I noticed no burning of foliage and
only a slight petal discoloration on Sally Holmes, a white floribunda,
and Fair Bianca, a white shrub. My other light-colored roses, Elina, Iceburg
and Baltimore Belle look fine, as do all other blooms. The foliage looks
glossy and I don’t see any additional blackspot.
This test of neem, admittedly, has been
very brief, but I’ll keep hoping the neem keeps working. I’ll
provide a more complete and meaningful report in the next issue of the
There can’t be much doubt that
an effective insecticide based on products from the neem tree is a real
possibility and will be a welcome addition to the rose growers’
arsenal; however, it seems there are problems in the laboratory or manufacturing
facilities in producing a safe, reliable and effective product which is
easy to use and has a reasonable shelf life. It will happen some day.
Let’s hope Neemachtin solves the insecticide problem. I will follow
Josie’s experiment with interest. -Ed.
By Josie Hughes
(adapted from the September – October 1998 MRS Newsletter)
[In the above article from the MRS Newsletter,
Josie wrote of a project which she had just begun to try a new approach
to the control of blackspot and Japanese beetles in her rose garden. In
this issue she comments further on her experiment and reaches certain
conclusions and a plan of action for the balance of this year and for
the 1999 growing season. -Ed]
“Oh Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm,
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy,
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.”
William Blake, Songs of Experience
In this case, it is the highly visible Japanese
beetle which destroys roses; and it is our job as rose growers to neutralize
the perpetual enemy, if at all possible!
At the time of the last writing, I had
just begun to use a new product, for me, Japanese Beetle Repellent, manufactured
by Concep, Inc. in Oregon.(For convenience, in the following ,I will refer
to their product as JBR).
On Thursday, June 18th, I visited Al Ford’s
enchanting rose domain. After a rose tour and a cup of tea, we had a chat
about neem-based products. He cautioned me to watch out for leaf curl
and leaf burn. That evening, having already started with the use of JBR,
I did notice some leaf curl. The next day, I telephoned Consep, Inc.,
in Oregon and told the representative with whom I spoke of the leaf curl
problem. She concluded that I had sprayed too frequently even though it
had rained several evenings in a row, and even though the instructions
advised to spray after heavy rainfall. Her suggestion was that I hold
off on further spraying for five days and then to use JBR at half strength,
3 tablespoons per gallon rather than the label recommendation of 6 per
My call was on the 19th of June, and I
didn’t spray again until July 1st because of very hot weather. During
the period June 19th to July 1st, I removed only two beetles per day from
my 70 rose bushes. This rate, following the use of JBR was down from 80
to 100, before its use. This neem product, JBR, was doing something. Pretty
Also, a section of my rose garden remote
from other roses was not sprayed during the test period, for control purposes.
This section consists mostly of floribundas, which were always encrusted
with beetles. This suggests that 1998 was, for my part of the rose growing
country, a normal beetle year.
The conclusion I have reached from my experimentation
is that for Japanese beetle control, Japanese Beetle Repellent works for
me and I will continue its use as an insecticide as needed, certainly
next year at beetle time. Although I have not referred to other injurious
insects, I should mention that my usual problem with aphids was completely
controlled this year, and I was not confronted with problems from other
JBR’s efficacy, at half label strength
recommendation, for me, seems to be about nine days. I apply the spray
with a hand pump sprayer, usually in the early evening. I have noted slight
leaf curl on some varieties, but none on other varieties. While I am intrigued
to find an effective organic insecticide, it must be used with caution.
There is a danger to the rose plants if the solution is too strong and/or
if it is used too often.
During my experiment, I was aware that
at least one rose grower I had read about had good results against blackspot
by using a neem-based product. With this in mind, I refrained from the
use of a fungicide ( I usually use Orthonex: Ortho Rose Pride) during
part of the test period to see if JBR--a neem based product--would help
with the usual blackspot problem. It didn’t take long for me to
learn that JBR, which admittedly, is sold as an insecticide, had no effect
on blackspot. Therefore, I went back to using Rose Pride.
As you may recognize, I am a rose grower
and enthusiast who would like to dispense with the use of chemicals in
my garden. This is why I was willing to try Japanese Beetle Repellant
on my previous aphid and beetle problem. Recently, I came across an organic
product which purports to control insects and blackspot, mildew and rust.
It is named Organic Rose & Flower Dust/Spray and is available from
Gardens Alive in Lawrensburg, IN. I’m still looking for a single
spray which will control my rose garden problems, but aren’t we
all? I’ll try it on a part of my rose garden next year and if it
works, I’ll let you know.-Josie
The Use of an Insecticide Spray
A Note From Josie Hughes
Josie’s article on her spray program, which appeared in the Sept-Oct
1998 issue of the Newsletter, seemed to suggest that Josie uses Rose Pride,
a combined insecticide and fungicide, every week. Josie wishes to correct
this impression by adding that she does not use an insecticide every time
she sprays. Her regular fungicide spray, used every week, consists of
3 tablespoons of baking soda plus a few drops of horticulture oil to a
half gallon of water. She also commented that she grows garlic among her
roses as a further deterrent to blackspot. Josie substitutes Rose Pride
for her regular spray only when garden conditions dictate its use. She
commented also that her use of Japanese Beetle Repellant, an organic insecticide,
is at half the label recommended strength and twice the time interval
between spraying, 7 to 10 days versus every 4 to 7 days. She has found
that the adjusted strength and time interval tends to prevent leaf curl
or burn. As her article acknowledged, Josie--like so many other rosarians--
is still searching for the best product to control blackspot. -Editor