Okay. I admit it. I’m growing a few non-edible plants. One is an amaryllis that was gifted to me by my mother. Its lovely blooms are food for the soul, even if not the body.

But another plant I have just gotten in is a guard dog for my crops instead of being a crop itself. Because what I have now…is a Neem tree.

Yes, neem. As in ‘neem oil’ — that all-purpose organic pest control oil that you spray on your plants. Did you know you could grow your own? This is what happens when my curiosity gets the better of me and I jump down the rabbit-hole of “What, exactly, is neem oil?”

Come to find out, it’s the oil produced by the seeds of the neem tree, which can be easily made at home by crushing the seeds, stirring them into water, then letting the mixture stand for several hours. At which point, it can be filtered and poured into a spray bottle to use on your plants.

That’s it? (I wondered to myself.) Do you seriously mean that’s all there is to it? And all I need are the seeds of a tree? Well!

And so that’s how it happened that the newest addition to my growing indoor garden is a neem tree — only very slightly tip-singed by shipping in cold weather.

The tree is lacy and pretty by itself, though I’ll need to remember not to water it too often. It is apparently a natural resident of arid zones and won’t take kindly to remaining damp. That means I may not be able to place it outside for the summer as early as I do most other plants because we often have very wet springs, but maybe I can find a spot protected from rain. It won’t produce seeds for another 2-4 years, but until then, I expect even placing the tree near other vulnerable plants will provide some protection — like companion planting basil with tomatoes.

Isn’t Mama Nature great? She gives us everything we neem…I mean need.

Happy Homesteading, to all!