Many of you have crape myrtle trees growing in your yard and you need to know that now is the time to NOT commit crape “murder”. Crape murder is when you cut the tree back from the top just leaving stubs. During the winter is the best time to prune crape myrtles. Crape myrtles are best grown as trees and should be pruned as trees. Follow these guidelines when pruning crape myrtle: remove low hanging branches that interfere with walkways; remove broken and dead branches; remove crossover or rubbing branches; remove sucker growth off the base of the trunk or on the trunk; and remove any branches growing into your home structure. Old seed heads do not need to be pruned. They will fall off naturally. Crape “murder” will shorten the life of your tree.
Crape myrtle have many overwintering insects and diseases that can be controlled by spraying thoroughly until runoff with Neem Oil. This product is a safe, non-toxic pesticide for your garden and landscape that is also friendly to the environment and still effective. Neem Oil is your friend and a good answer for all these concerns and you can use it on all trees, shrubs, ground cover and even in your garden. It means you can keep only one product in your garage for control of most insects, some diseases and mites. This information is especially important now, because if you will treat with Neem Oil during the dormant season, you will reap benefits throughout the spring and summer!!
What is Neem Oil? It comes from the seed of the Azadirachta indica tree, a common ornamental shade tree in South Asia and India. You can find Neem Oil in wax, oil and soap but for gardeners, it has anti-fungal and pesticide properties.
Is it safe for humans and animals? The highest concentration currently sold on the market is 3%. When used properly it is non-toxic but I don’t think you want to drink it! If you use it in your garden, I recommend washing any produce before consumption, but I know you do that anyway.
Is it safe for the environment? Studies have shown that if used appropriately, beneficial insects such as bees butterflies and ladybugs are safe since Neem Oil does not target bugs that do not chew on leaves. No residue is left in the soil.
Is it effective? This is the good news. Neem Oil works as a systemic insecticide when used as a soil drench. It will control aphids, mealybugs, scale and whiteflies and many more insects. It can be used as a fungicide to control powdery mildew, root rot, black spot and sooty mold. It also controls mites and has some effect on nematodes in the soil. I encourage you to spray all trees, shrubs and ground cover in the winter with Neem Oil for the control of overwintering insects, mites and some diseases. This treatment will greatly help you next spring and summer in your landscape and garden. When applying, follow label instructions and be sure to coat the surface of all leaves.
So plan now to prune your crape myrtles correctly and treat your crape myrtles and other trees, shrubs and ground cover with Neem Oil for optimum health in the spring.