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It's mosquito season again. Those little buggers seem to get worse every year, and they are hitting us strong in our backyard and in our garden. Luckily there are a few things you can do to deter mosquitoes from joining you at dinner or eating your toes while you barbecue.
After researching a long list of plants that have mosquito-repellent qualities, we created four container planters categorized by type of plant. Obviously you can mix and match any way you please, but dividing the plants into categories helped us to think about where to place each container and what to do with it at the end of the summer.
We ended up with these four lovely containers:
1 The Pungent Perennial Herbs: Lavender, Sage, & Thyme
This container is made up of perennial herbs that will likely return next year if we transplant them to a permanent garden space. Lavender smells lovely to us and is great for encouraging a clam and relaxing environment, but it turns out it also repels mosquitoes, especially when the oil is applied directly to your skin. Try rubbing the leaves with your fingers and spreading the scent a few places on your skin while you're on the deck. Like lavender, common sage is also a member of the mint family and has similar repellent properties. It's also great for cooking, so its a great herb to grow close to the house for that purpose as well. You can even follow these directions to use some of your sage to make a homemade repellent. Lastly, this planter also includes lemon thyme, another great culinary herb that doubles as a repellent and is often found in natural bug sprays. To make the most of lemon thyme, grab a few leaves and crush them then rub them against your skin to the lovely lemony scent that mosquitoes detest.
2 The Sneaky Spreaders: Mint, Catnip, Lemon Balm
This container includes more perennial herbs, but in particular the ones that can spread like crazy if you let them run wild. When we reach the end of the bug season, we'll be sure to put these plants in places where we don't mind if they spread, like on the end of our woods or somewhere where they can be mowed to be kept under control. It's no surprise to learn that mint is a great bug repellent, since lavender and sage are also part of the mint family, but according to doityourself.com mint can also repel ants and flies, making it a triple duty addition to your repellent planter. In addition to planting it, you can crush leaves and sprinkle them where ants are a problem! We were less familiar with catnip, but Science Daily says that the essential oil found in this fragrant plant is actually 10 times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET. As a bonus, catnip tea is a great herbal relaxant to calm your nerves at the end of a busy day. This planter also includes a lemon scented herb - lemon balm - which also combines a mosquito-deterrent scent with a lovely option for calming tea.
3 Basic Basil
When it comes to culinary herbs, basil is certainly one of the most common and useful varieties. Whether you're sprinkling, cooking, or drying there are a million reasons why it could be useful to grow basil near your house. Luckily, it is also one of the most fragrant herbs and doesn't even have to be crushed or rubbed on your skin to deter mosquitoes. While any variety will do, you can also check out lemon or cinnamon basil to add even more fragrance to the mix. We planted two varieties in our planter which also added some nice color.
4 Fragrant Flowers: Citronella Geranium* & Marigolds
While the first four planters were edible, making them efficient double-taskers, you may also want to consider adding a pop of color to your deck with some fragrant flowers. Citronella geranium (also called "scented geranium" or Pelagonium Citrosum) is just what you would expect - a geranium that smells like a citronella candle. *Unfortunately, you should know that this plant actually only contains a small amount of citronella and won't do as good a job as some of the other herbal options we've mentioned. It can be a great addition to the collection but won't work as well on its own. To get something more effective you can also look for citronella grass which is a more pure version. That said, in our planter we combined our scented geranium with a marigold. Marigolds contain Pyrethrum, a compound used in many natural mosquito repellents. If you're thinking about repelling mosquitos in your garden, marigolds offer a double benefit of repelling the insects that attack tomato plants, so there's another opportunity for double duty impact.