You’ve heard of Neem oil, but “What the heck is a neem cake?” There’s a specific tree that’s gone from the source of Ayurvedic folk medicine to one of the most important crops in horticulture.
This tree’s name is Azadirachta indica, but you might know it better as the neem tree or Indian lilac. It’s native to India and other southeastern countries.
What’s made this tree famous is a chemical it naturally produces called Azadirachtin. This component has been used for thousands of years in natural pest management.
You’ve likely used neem oil extracted from all parts of the plant in healthcare or garden products.
However, did you know that neem oil isn’t the only beneficial product to come from these trees?
Welcome to the world of an underrated block of gardening natural products gold: the Neem Cake.
In this article, we’ll delve into what neem cakes are, neem cake benefits, and how to use neem cake for plants.
What Are Neem Cakes?
Neem oil, in its purest form, is created by cold-pressing parts of the neem tree.
It’s a by-product or de-oiled residue made from cold-pressing neem tree fruits and neem seed kernels.
The seed kernel, bark, and leaves produce more oil, but any part is usable.
After pressing, the solids left over are compacted into neem cakes and sold in either cake form or further processed into granules, powder, or added to existing fertilizers or manures.
Related: Can You Use Neem Powder On Plants?
What’s in a Neem Cake?
So, what is neem cake? While most of the oil in the extraction process comes from the solids, neem cakes still contain a small amount.
This means trace amounts of Omega fatty acids, Azadirachtin, and all the other goodies that make neem oil work so well.
Other components neem cakes contain are azadiradione, salannin, and nimbin.
Related: More on How Neem works on plant pests.
In most cases, there are no additional ingredients in a neem cake, making it a form of all-natural manure or compost.
Neem cake powder, on the other hand, is a powdered form of neem cake. Neem cake powder for plants is often used for agricultural purposes, such as controlling pests, improving soil quality, and promoting plant growth. It is also used in some traditional medicinal practices.
What are the Benefits of Using Neem Cakes?
Unlike many other natural fertilizers, neem cakes don’t rely on additives to work.
Neem cakes for plants are an excellent NPK fertilizer with a natural timed-release capability.
This “organic fertilizer” includes a wide range of vital plant neem cake nutrient content, including:
- Calcium (0.5% to 3.0%)
- Copper (4 ppm to 20 ppm)
- Iron (500 ppm to 1200 ppm)
- Magnesium (0.3% to 1.0%)
- Manganese (20 ppm to 60 ppm)
- Nitrogen (2.0% to 5.0%)
- Phosphorus (0.5% to 1.0%)
- Potassium (1.0% to 2.0%)
- Sulphur (0.2% to 3.0%)
- Zinc (15 ppm to 60 ppm)
Also, the trace amounts of neem oil remaining give the neem cake fertilizer natural pesticidal, antifungal, and antibacterial properties.
The cakes even help reduce soil pH naturally by producing organic acids on decomposition.
Since neem cake is natural, it’s quite compatible with microbes, which encourages beneficial organisms like healthy bacteria, ensures a stronger texture, improves the fertility of the soil and soil aeration, improves crop yield, reduces alkalinity, and raises water-holding capacity.
It also hinders soil bacteria from converting nitrogenous compounds into nitrogen gas.
How Do You Use Neem Cakes On Plants?
Because neem plants are an NPK-style fertilizer, it isn’t always the perfect answer.
However, it works well when used as a soil amendment in three areas:
- Soil restoration
- Plant food
- Plant health
Read on to learn more about the different neem cake uses.
Using Neem to Restore Soil
You can use neem seed cake in the fallow ground to restore the natural nutrients when paired up with restorative crops (such as peanuts) or other fertilizers.
As the cake breaks down and releases nutrients, it also reduces the nitrate released by soil bacteria. This aids in soil improvement.
This process can boost most fertilizers’ performance while adding their nutrients to the soil structure.
While studies have not been made to determine the efficacy of using neem oil cake in fallow soil, they can be quite effective when combined with other methods.
How To Use Organic Neem Cakes as Plant Food
Neem cakes are a natural and highly effective neem fertilizer. They are also incredibly versatile, finding their way into several different neem cake fertilizer uses.
Whether using them to restore soil after fallow grounds or as plant food for crops, vegetables, plants, bushes, and trees, neem cakes are an excellent resource.
Neem cakes have a relatively low NPK ratio, with most cakes rating 4-1-2 and the higher-end ones rating 6-1-2. This can be used as a slow-release source of plant macro nutrients.
The cakes are broken into powder or chunks and added to the soil around the roots of food crops, vegetables, plants, bushes, and trees.
For fields and gardens, add the seed cakes to the soil as an amendment during tilling at a rate of 1 pound per 20 square feet, mixing to a depth of 6″ inches, and watering well.
Wait a few weeks before planting for the best results.
For potted plants, it’s a little complicated.
As a general neem cake dosage rule, you should only add about 1% percent neem cake concentration to any commercial potting mix before a transplant, especially when dealing with young plants.
Even though neem is beneficial, young plants are susceptible to chemical burns from fertilizers and pesticides if there’s too much organic content present.
It can also slow early root development if applied too heavily.
For older plants, you can blend 2 to 2.5 tablespoons of neem cake powder for plants with one quart of water to make a periodic plant fertilizer.
Let the mixture sit for 2 to 3 days in a cool, dark place, then pour one cup into each plant’s soil.
Apply as often as directed by the cake’s packaging or following your plant’s needs based on the appropriate neem cake application rate.
Moreover, remember to apply the right amount according to the neem cake npk value or neem cake npk ratio to enjoy the benefits of this organic and nutrient-rich neem cake.
Using Neem Cakes for Plant Health
Of course, the biggest benefit of using a neem cake is in the name.
Now you might wonder, can you use neem cake for pest control?
The answer is YES.
Neem cakes contain nortriterpenoids and isoprenoids, which are a natural nematicide. It helps keep nematode populations under control by releasing metabolites that are nema-toxic like aldehydes, Amino acids, fatty acids, Ketones, free sulfur, and carbohydrates.
The trace chemicals kill lawn grubs and other forms of ground pest. Aside from nematodes, it’s an effective insecticide for controlling aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites.
This neem product can also slow and sometimes even stop fungal root rot, some bacteria, and other harmful plant pathogens.