Neem Oil as an Organic Pest Control Application

Neem oil is by far one of my favorite methods of pest control in the garden. It is safe for human exposure with appropriate use, safe for the plants, the environment, and pollinators, but murder to leaf eating insects and larvae. There is some data to suggest it may be slightly toxic to aquatic life, so use caution around ponds and other bodies of water/run off areas.

Neem oil is a product of the (nut) seeds of the neem tree (Azadirachta indica) that is found indigenous in India and the Indian subcontinent. Neem trees can also be found in parts of Asia, Africa, South Pacific Islands, Central and South America, as well as parts of Florida and California.

It is very likely that you have used neem oil in some form without even knowing it as it can be found in toothpaste, cosmetics, pet shampoo and soaps.

Neem oil works as an organic pesticide via multiple avenues. Depending on the insect it can simply be a repellent, it can affect insect growth and its ability to lay eggs, as well as interfering with their ability to feed.

Neem oil can be sprayed directly on the leaves of plants for an effective pest control option. Since neem oil has a half live of just a few days, frequent spraying may be required. In my practice, I have sprayed every 7-10 days, and after any significant rain and have had great results.

There is also some application for use in the soil to fight nematodes, but I have no personal experience with this use. One of my favorite YouTubers, Gary Pilarchik of The Rusted Garden, has an excellent video explain how he uses neem oil in his seed starting process.

It is important to note, that when I refer to neem oil, I am speaking specifically about 100% pure cold pressed neem oil. This is an example of a resource I like to use. I have searched the local garden mom and pop shops as well as the big box stores and cannot find 100% cold pressed neem oil. In my opinion the products they sell, as an example, are not effective and are much more expensive than the 100% cold pressed neem oil found online. In a nut shell, these store bought products simply do not work.

Application of neem oil varies on the vegetation and insects you are trying to control. For general garden plants I use 1 tablespoon per gallon of water (I have a LARGE garden) or 1 teaspoon per quart of water. For pesky insects you may need to double the amount of neem during some applications.

Since neem is an oil, and we all know oil and water do not mix well, a few drops of a general dish soap may be added to the solution to limit separation. Regardless of soap use, consistent agitation (shaking) of the solution is recommended for thorough dilution during application.

For my fruit trees, I start with 2 tablespoons of neem per gallon to start, but may increase to 3 or 4 tablespoons depending on the nature of the insect damage. I can honestly say, I can’t remember ever needing the highest concentrations in my applications. Consistent application processes as well as good garden observations will make a significant difference in success vs failure.

If you would like to read a study published in 2013 regarding other uses of neem for medicinal purposes, that research can be found here. There has been some question lately regarding neem oil use and the contraceptive-abortive process in humans that may be attributed to neem oil. If that is your focus for reading this study, be careful not to confuse garden application and use with described contraceptive use as cited in this article. The use of neem oil in these separate functions are night and day when comparing application concentrations and actual use. I want to be perfectly clear when I say…….NEEM OIL IS SAFE FOR HUMAN AND ENVIRONMENTAL USE IN THE GARDEN, there has been no documentation or research to prove otherwise. 

My Favorite Vegetable: Marglobe

The Marglobe is by far my favorite tomato. It’s very versatile, either cut up in a salad or on a sandwich, or my favorite, preserving them into sauce for pasta.

I have been growing these predominantly for the last few years and have gotten many compliments from friends and family when I give them away. In fact the compliment I usually get is “What were those, that was the best tomato I have ever had.”

I gave my neighbor a few plants last year to grow and he raved about them calling it the best tomato he has ever had, and I’m sure he has had a few in his 70+ years. In fact he flagged me down about a month ago to confirm the name again saying he looked all over the area and couldn’t find anyone selling Marglobe’s. He even exhausted his Amish resources! I’m sure I will be taking a walk down to see him and bring a few more in a few weeks.

I’m not sure why these are so infrequently used today, in fact I haven’t heard of them until a few years ago when I, by total chance, gave them a try. I gave a few tomatoes to my uncle and he told me that his father, my grandfather, planted these on his farm for as long as he can remember. Unfortunately I never met my grandfather, he passed 6 months before I was born, but there is a sense of kinship knowing I am planting the same variety he did  as early as the 1930’s and 40’s.

Marglobe’s are a determinate variety that mature in roughly 75-80 days. One of my favorite seed companies (Southern Exposure Seed Exchange) lists the Marglobe heritage as a cross of the “Marvel” and “Globe” tomato. The plant will reach anywhere from 4-6 feet tall and give a nice 6 oz fruit on average. This is obviously an heirloom since my grandfather planted them pre-WWII, and they are open pollinated so you can save the seed year after year.

Apparently Marglobes were developed in 1917 and released by the US Department of Agriculture in 1925 and were some of the first verticillium and fusarium wilt resistant varieties. This actually makes sense to me now, whereas some of the other varieties I have planted over the years have succumbed to v. and f. wilt, my Marglobe’s were hardly affected at all. Some report getting 50 pounds per plant in their test gardens. I have never weighed my yield, but I have gotten a fair amount as well, but I don’t think it has been 50 pounds.

As I mentioned previously I like to slice them and use them fresh, but I also combine them with Amish Paste tomato’s and make a great sauce to be canned for use over the winter months. If you are inclined to try a new variety, or are simply looking to grow a few tomato’s for the first time next season, I don’t think you can do any better than the Marglobe.

If you do choose to grow a few why not support some of the companies that are working hard to preserve the heirloom varieties. Here are a few of my favorites:

And my favorite:

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

GROWING:

1. Seeds should be started 6-8 weeks before the last frost.

2. Consider transplanting outside when there is no danger of frost and average temps do not fall below 40 degrees. Consistent nighttime temperatures in the 50’s is when I like to plant tomatoes outside.

3. Plant tomatoes as deeply as possible or laid down in a trench, the stems actually form additional root structure when planted. I like to place 2/3 in the bed and leave 1/3 open to air.

4. Tomatoes are heavy feeders. See my recommended basic fertilizing process. Ensure appropriate calcium supplementation.

PESTS and PROBLEMS

  • Major concerns for tomatoes are blossom end rot, the tomato horn worm and fungal wilt.
    • Blossom end rot is caused primarily due to low calcium levels in the soil. Applications of lime products at planting time can be used as preventive measures as well as treatment if caught early. I like to crush egg shells and throw them into my beds as a long term preventive treatment. Egg shells take forever to breakdown (~12 months) and will have no benefit in the garden this year, but over time they will decompose and add calcium to your soil.
    • Tomato horn worm can be most easily controlled by hand picking (and feeding to your chickens) and Bacillius thuringiensis kurstaki (Btk) can be easily sprayed if there are any signs of insect damage or if the tomato horn worm is spotted.
      • If you see this moth flying around, a preemptive Btk spray would be prudent. The tomato horn worm is the larvae of this moth.

    • Fungal wilt is usually caused by either the fusarium or verticillium fungus. The best treatment option is actually prevention. Good crop rotation, choosing resistant plant varieties, and avoiding high nitrogen fertilizers offer the best protection. Any signs of wilt should be followed by removal of the affected leaves, or even better, the entire plant.
      • Neem oil, and low dose sulfur sprays have proven to be somewhat effective, but not great. There is some mention in the literature regarding aspirin and baking soda sprays as options as well, but I have no personal knowledge of this.

SEED SAVING:

  • Seeds must ferment prior to drying
  • Differing varieties should be separated by at least 150 feet to increase your odds of getting an uncontaminated (cross pollinated) seed.

Sugary Drink Tax Leaving a Sour Taste

I have often thought that those who govern us have lost their minds, and now I am convinced. You may have heard of the sugary drink tax proposed by some government entities, but I honestly never thought something like this would happen in my own back yard.

I have written, on a few occasions, my opinion concerning the excessive government theft (Taxes). A few of which can be found here, here and here.

A tax on “sugary drinks” is something one would only imagine happens in New York or the People’s Socialist Republic of California, but unfortunately it has proven to be an easy and profitable venture, therefore has picked up steam in other communities as well

The sugary beverage tax was adopted in Philadelphia recently and is gaining steam. Since its inception January 1, 2017 this new tax has created (as of the time of this writing) roughly 6 million dollars of additional revenue for the city of Philadelphia, each MONTH!

The liberal agenda will tell you that this is a tax to help people make better decisions regarding their drink choices and ultimately their health.

The informed American will say, Hogwash! This is yet another attack on America’s freedom. Why on earth would anyone believe the government has the best interest of its people when creating this tax?

Let me tell you what this tax is about:

1. It is an insult to every American, regardless of what beverage you choose to drink. This is yet another paper cut of the death of 1,000 cuts slicing into Americans right to personal freedom and liberty.

2. The government of Philadelphia is so strapped for cash, due to its mismanagement of other forms of government theft (i.e. Taxes) that they needed to create one more piece of legislation so they wouldn’t have to do any real work, i.e.tax reform.

3. The government agenda is no longer trying to hide their deception with their sugary drink tax. If the purpose is to tax Americans to force them to make better drink and health choices, why are diet drinks such as Diet Coke and various juices taxed?

Take a look at these data from the Mayor’s Operating Budget, City of Philadelphia 2017. I would suggest reading through this 117 page document, especially if you are a resident of Philadelphia. In fact if I were a resident of Philadelphia, I would want to take a look at some of these line items in detail and uncover what these general balance sheets do not tell.

Here are some interesting points I noticed as I skimmed this document.

  1. Section II, page 2
    1. Observe the Total General Revenue Fund. Notice anything interesting? The change in revenue from 2015 to 2016 is 5.16% and from 2016 to 2017 is 4%. Do you know anyone that has gotten a raise of 9% over the last two years? I do, the Mayor and government agencies of Philadelphia. When my expenses rise, I don’t have the luxury of simply robbing (taxing) people, I have to tighten the belt and sacrifice, I guess Mayor Kenney doesn’t understand this concept, or doesn’t care.
  2. Section II, Page 7
    1. Pension Obligation. An increase of greater than 11% in 2015-2016 and another 3% in 2016 – 2017. This is simply unsustainable and there is no end in sight. This is typical for most government agencies, as they have been robbing Peter to pay Paul and it is now catching up with them. This is not the fault of the pension recipient, but unfortunately, they will be hit the hardest when this system ultimately fails.
  3. Section II, Page 10
    1. Line 19 Sugary Drink Tax. The Mayor is estimating $48 million dollars of revenue for the city from this tax for the calendar year 2017. With a population of just over 1.5 million people, this is an additional tax of $30 per person, just for the right to drink just about anything other than water in the city of Philadelphia, including Diet Coke!
  4. Section II, Page 10
    1. Mayor Salary. This article reports that Mayor Kenney “collects one of the nations top 5 mayoral salaries.” Now we know where this sugary tax is going, pensions and the mayors salary.

The bottom line is that government and career politicians don’t have to lie anymore to get their agenda pushed through to rob us all of our liberty and freedoms. They have simply brainwashed enough people to outweigh those of us left with any common sense.

Historically I had been of the mindset that I am neutral in regards to these social taxes (tobacco, alcohol, lottery) because they do not affect me, but I have now seen the light, these career politicians are getting more bold and determined to push their socialist agenda on us all because they simply do not care, and we as Americans are helpless simply because we keep voting for them.

If anyone is wondering, I do not live in Philadelphia and I do not drink high sugar drinks. I seem to recall another drink tax a few years ago that caused a bit of an uproar as well…think Boston…..tea….

Investment Snapshot: Express Script Holding Co (ESRX)


Express Scripts is a  large cap blend (40 Billion) pharmacy benefit management (PBM) company that provides healthcare management and administrative services to managed care organizations, health insurers, third party administrators, employers, government health plans, union sponsored benefit plans and workers compensation plans. Some of the services provided are specialized pharmacy care, home delivery pharmacy services, retail network pharmacy administration, said benefit design consultation, drug utilization review and formulary management.

FUNDAMENTALS:

ESRX has a current PE of 11.97 (21.84 Industry), forward PE of 8.55, and a 5 year PE range of 12 – 20. PS (.39/.96), PB (2.43/3.33) are all significantly under the industry average. PEG is slightly above industry average (.98/.89), but below 1.00 which is very healthy.

Profit Margins are fair with Growth (8.6/14.15), Operational (5.02/6.84), and Net (3.42/3.99) margins below industry average, but respectable non the less. Earnings growth is at (51%/24.5%) however revenue growth is (-1.4/11.9) for the trailing twelve months (TTM).

ROE (20.26/18.8), ROA (6.53/5.1), and ROI (9.6/4.66) are very healthy along with reasonable debt (Debt/Capitol Ratio 48.9%) right at the industry average. ESRX should have no trouble covering the debt interest with an interest coverage ratio of 10.59x. Quarterly revenue appears to be stuck in a range of 24 – 26 billions dollars.

Insiders are not heavy investors @ 0.3%, but remember this is a 40 billion dollar company. Institutions have invested at 88% and are not moving in or out at an overly worrisome rate.

TECHNICALS:

ESRX is currently at a price of $65.55 with a 52 week range of ~$63-$80 and appears to have recently hit bottom at the $63 area and rebounded nicely over the last several weeks.  ESRX appears to easily push through the 20 and 50 day SMA, but meets significant resistance at the 200 day SMA level, which currently resides at $72.

DISCUSSION:

Express Scripts is a dominant player in the recently beat up pharmacy sector. Along with CVS and United Health, Express Scripts is the largest of the three which control almost 80% of prescription volume in the US allowing it to have an upper hand in drug price negotiations.

Most analysts estimate the fair value price of ESRX to be between $80 – $100. Considering it hit $80 during it’s 52 week high, I have no reason to believe it can’t get there again, at least.

Express Scripts has healthy competition, but as stated before, is the biggest player in the game. The true risk to ESRX is, unfortunately, the government and its proposed regulations and uncertainty concerning Trump’s healthcare initiative. With the recent stall in congress, investors appear to be more comfortable with the healthcare sector in general, as demonstrated by the recent rise in stock price after the congressional stall.

The market can take good news and bad news and investors are able to respond predictably. However, what really irritates the market is indecision and we appear to be on a hiatus from government threats regarding healthcare for the time being. It appears that the damage has been done in the pharma and healthcare sector making it very appealing to investors looking for value and bargains. At $65 a share, ESRX looks like a good bargain to me and I think it has a strong potential to see a 15% – 20% gain over the next 12 – 24 months, at least having a smooth ride to the $72 resistance level.

I am not telling anyone to buy this or any stock I discuss in this blog, this is simply a vehicle for me to share my thoughts. The stock market can be extremely volatile, and is not suitable for most investors. Do your own homework and invest at your own risk.