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No Bugs Allowed!

Let Mother Nature help keep the bugs away at your next outdoor gathering.

It’s summertime and that means enjoying more time outdoors—until the mosquitoes descend. While flying insects are an important part of the food cycle, no one wants them at dinner. These annoying pests target us by the odors and gasses we give off like carbon dioxide, sweat and smelly feet. There is however a way to foil their evil plans.

Some plants’ fragrances can block the receptors insects use to find us. The smell of mint, some fruit and chocolate are all decent blockers. It’s a good idea to add these plants to your garden, especially around decks and patios. They won’t make these areas a complete no-fly zone but they will help.

All of the plants we cover in this article do well when grown in containers. This may make it easier to plant them near the places where friends and family gather. One thing to keep in mind about container gardens is that you’ll need to feed them. Start your plants off right with an addition of Espoma’s organic Bio-tone Starter Plus and then feed every two to four weeks with Bloom! to ensure plants get proper nutrients.

Lemon grass is used to make citronella oil, a well-known mosquito repellent. The plant does indeed look like tall grass and could be tucked into a container design. It’s delicious in soups and other dishes as well. It’s only hardy in tropical zones, but is a fast growing, inexpensive annual.

All plants with a strong citrus fragrance will help keep bugs at bay. Think about planting lemon-scented geraniums, lemon thyme, and lemon balm. A word of warning: Lemon balm is an aggressive spreader. Grow it in a pot to keep it in check.

Lavender has so many fantastic attributes and uses, no garden should be without it. It repels moths, flies, fleas and mosquitoes. It’s easy to grow in pots on the deck in a sunny spot. You can also harvest the flowers and use them dried. Lavender sachets have been used for hundreds of years to keep moths out of linen closets.

Rosemary helps prevent flies and mosquitos from ruining your cookout. Throw a few sprigs on the grill or fire pit. The aromatic smoke will help deter them. In Mexico, they sometimes set small braziers on restaurant tables with a sprig of rosemary, one star anise and a wedge of lime to keep bugs away from diners and it works.

Basil is another culinary herb to the rescue. Basil repels flies and mosquitoes. It’s toxic to mosquito larvae, too. Plant near water features to discourage mosquitoes from laying eggs.

Mint exudes a strong fragrance that ants, mosquitoes and reportedly even mice don’t like. All members of the mint family are aggressive growers. Unless you’d like to have a big mint patch, grow mint plants in pots.

Garlic: Besides keeping vampires away, garlic also repels mosquitoes and cabbage moths. It has been said that if you eat enough garlic, the smell is released through your pores and that can repel insects, too.