Oil Drill: Horticultural Oil

Unless you’ve recently been chatting with your local landscaper about lawn spraying services or just happen to spend loads of time thinking about eco-friendly landscaping, chances are you haven’t had reason to research things like oil based pesticides and the wonderful world of horticultural oil. In fact, if you’re like most people, you don’t even know the answer to questions like what is horticultural oil; what the best horticultural oil might be; or whether you even need to be using organic horticultural oil rather than plain old pesticide.

The Oil Slick

To break it down simply, horticultural oil is a form of natural pesticide and herbicide made of some type of mineral oil or, in some cases, vegetable oil. To make the oil useable in spray forms, the oil is combined with an emulsifying agent so that it can then be mixed with water.

Originally, horticultural oil was used on fruit trees as a safe, effective method of controlling pests and diseases on the trees. Since the trees needed to be able to produce edible crops, the harmful chemicals in most insecticides couldn’t be used. Factor in the minor detail that the plants still needed to be pollinated, and it complicated things even further. Hence, there was the need for something that wouldn’t be deadly to the insects that pollinate them, only to those insects and pests that would endanger the plants.

Residual Effects

Horticultural oil actually works by suffocating the insects. Because the oil blocks their spiracles, or breathing holes, it keeps them from getting air, which kills them off. In addition, the oil also wreaks havoc on the metabolism of insect eggs and even the ability of some insects to feed. By starving the pests, the oil kills them off without the need for any chemical agent that could be harmful to the environment, making the benefits even bigger.

Due to the fact that the horticultural oil was applied in dormant season before the buds opened, it also became known as dormant oil. The first formulas of horticultural and dormant oils were too heavy to be used on plants that were in active periods of growth, because the weight was damaging to foliage. As time went on, however, they became refined and reformulated so that they were lightweight enough to be used even during growing season. Now, if you ask a landscape expert what is dormant oil, the answer will refer not so much to the type of oil as it does to when it’s actually being applied.

Like any other type of pest control, horticultural oil does have a time and a place. If used on the wrong plants at the wrong time, it can cause just as much damage as something less “eco-friendly,” so it’s important to do your research before you break out the spray.

Get slick about proper plant care! Give the team at Executive Landscaping, Inc., a call today!