When it comes to the inevitable face-off between you and bugs, keeping them away from your immediate vicinity is a top priority. There are pesticides and bug traps, but these plants reduce the need for so many chemicals around the patio.
Plants are in the business of repelling insects as a natural way of defending themselves. They also need insects to perform cross-pollination so they can survive. It is an arms race between plants and insects, each trying to survive and prosper.
We rounded up the plants local gardeners use to repel bugs, not just the garden, but the BBQ and patios as well. Their unique properties send pests in other directions while simultaneously sprucing up your gardens.
Basil knocks down and kills certain types of mosquitoes. This most popular garden herb produces repellent odor mosquitoes just don’t like.
Catnip is known for its ability to give your feline friends a mellow buzz and has the same mellowing effect on bugs. One study found the essential oil from catnip can help deter houseflies and mosquitoes. Another study from Iowa State University found catnip oil to be a more effective “spatial repellent” than DEET, the most popular ingredient in insect repellents. Catnip oil isn’t the same as a catnip plant, but the results are promising enough to warrant adding a few to your yard.
Lavender is effective against mosquitoes and other arthropods. It’s not clear why the flowering herb repels so well, but it seems to be the lavender smell that repels so well. What is pleasant to gardeners is often repulsive to bugs.
Lemongrass is a tall grass native to tropical climates of Asia. It looks a lot like citronella grass and also has similar mosquito-fighting properties. Scientific reviews found lemongrass oil protected 95% against mosquito. Another study found the oil can deter stable flies in a lab setting. It also works in the gardens.
Marigolds contain pyrethrum, an insecticidal compound that’s used in bug repellents. There isn’t a ton of research on the effects of marigolds on insects. Still, gardeners have long sworn by them to keep annoying pests, like mosquitoes and destructive nematodes away. The stunning pompom blooms are gorgeous, with a smell bugs just don’t like. Try using them to create a pretty border around patios or place potted marigolds near entryways and windows.
Many repellents contain essential mint oil. Another hack to consider is combining 10 drops of peppermint, thyme, and rosemary essential oils mixed with water in a spray bottle. Spritz the solution around your garden to repel flies, fleas, mosquitoes, aphids, ants, spiders, chiggers, and more. A similar effect is found by hosing these herbal plants down to release the scent around the patio.
Petunias These colorful annuals keep aphids, certain beetles, leaf hoppers, and squash bugs away. They do need to be in bloom to do their thing. Petunias’ bug-repellent properties are only there if flowers are present.
This spiky herb, thanks to its particularly pungent scent, helps keep mosquitoes away. The research found when compared to 11 other essential oils, rosemary had the most protracted repellent effects on mosquitoes while deterring insects like aphids and spider mites.
This herb has a reputation for getting rid of ants, flies, and mosquitoes. The research found that having a pot of sage around can offer up to 32% protection against mosquitoes. That’s 32% more protection than you would have with no repellent, especially if you enjoy using fresh sage in the kitchen.
What else can you do to keep bugs away?
We know to plant these desirable garden plants around your deck, patio, and BBQ areas to reduce insect activity. This is especially true when wetting down the foliage just before using these areas releases their essential oils.
Standing water should be removed or changed often as mosquitoes breed in just an inch of stagnant water. Oversee your pets’ water bowl for shrimp-like insect swimming in their water.
You can even use fans. Moving air is a natural enemy of mosquitoes. They are extremely weak, and air movement prohibits their flying and abilities to land. One or two inexpensive box or oscillating fans placed strategically dramatically reduce mosquitoes in the area.
Trim shrubs, since many pests, including berry bugs and ticks, like to live in dark areas with high humidity under your bushes. Keep branches trimmed and away from the house, to avoid a highway for pests entering your home.
Watters Multi-Purpose Insect Spray kills flies, mosquitoes, ants, and other pesky insects on contact. Designed for garden use, it works equally well to clear out spiders and bugs from your home.
Until next issue, I’ll be helping local gardeners with bug-free gardens at Watters Garden Center.