Debug your Summer Fun with Herbs

Before you run out to buy chemical pesticides for your yard, there are a number of herbs that grow well in our area that are also natural insect repellents.

Summer is in full swing. This is a time of year when we enjoy barbeques, the beach, road trips and longer days. It’s also the time of year when mosquitoes, fleas and other bugs are out in force. This year’s warm winter and wet spring have caused the population of fleas, ticks and mosquitoes is higher than normal.

Before you run out to buy chemical pesticides for your yard, keep in mind that even the creatures we think of as pests play a role in the ecosystem. Chemical pesticides intended for those pesky bugs may also kill beneficial bugs and can even harm pets in some instances.

Mosquitoes and other pests don’t have to ruin your summer fun. There are a number of herbs that grow well in our area that are natural insect repellents. Try these tips to keep from being “bugged” this summer.

Basil – Repels flies and mosquitoes. Planting basil in containers or beds by your doors or around outdoor eating areas will help deter flies and mosquitoes. Crushing basil leaves and rubbing on your skin may help protect from mosquito bites or you can make an insect repellent spray with basil, water and vodka.

Lavender – Can be used in many of the same ways as basil. Crush the flowers to extract the oil and rub on your skin, or plant near doors and outdoor living areas to keep flies, fleas, and mosquitoes away. Making sachets for drawers and closets will help keep moths away from clothes, too.

Lemon balm and lemongrass – Both contain citronella oil which repels mosquitoes. Lemon balm can be crushed and rubbed on the skin to prevent bites. Growing lemongrass near outdoor living spaces will help keep mosquitoes away from your outdoor fun.

Rosemary – Repels mosquitoes and a variety of insects that are harmful in vegetable gardens. Grow rosemary near outdoor living spaces, mixed into garden or landscape beds or in containers to help keep insects at bay. Adding a sprig of rosemary directly to the grill will further repel mosquitoes and other insects as the scent infuse the smoke from the grill. Like basil, rosemary can be used to make a natural spray repellent.

Mint – Repels flies, fleas, and ants. Mint can be invasive so grow it in pots or other contained areas. Like lemon balm, lavender and basil, mint can be rubbed on your skin to help keep from being bitten as well as grown near exterior doors and outdoor living spaces.

All these herbs are great additions to your landscape. They’re not only drought-tolerant and easy to grow, but they also have wonderful culinary uses and are beautiful in your landscape. Talk about getting bang for your buck!

Picture of Vickie Castilleja
Vickie Castilleja
Although no longer with SAWS Conservation, Vickie thoroughly enjoyed her time here learning all aspects of gardening and landscaping from her colleagues. She continues with her interests of vegetable gardening and the food-to-table movement.
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