Natural Mosquito Proofing
BY KITT WALSH
Summertime is finally here and, if you are like me, you plan to spend as much of the season outdoors as possible. Unfortunately, I won’t be alone out there. Hundreds of uninvited guests are due to arrive—mosquitoes.
Barring fogging the whole area nightly or fleeing inside, what can be done to get rid of the noisome insects? Here are some natural tips to help bid the bugs goodbye:
- Before trying anything else, get rid of all places harboring standing water. Check overturned garbage lids, empty flowerpots, the grandkid’s toys, even open bags of garden soil where rain has puddled. If you have a birdbath, consider floating a no-mosquito ring in the water (available from any hardware store. It won’t hurt the birds but will prevent baby mosquitos from being born and adding to the general nuisance.)
- Citronella torches and candles are popular and natural way to keep the bugs at bay, but did you know you can make your own? Buy citronella essential oil and add a few drops to any outdoor light bulb to diffuse the scent, to a beautiful bowl of potpourri or even to floating candle around your pool. Its mosquito repelling qualities have been verified by research, including its effectiveness in repelling the dengue fever mosquito. A few drops can even be added to a carrier oil (almond, coconut, baby oil) and used on your skin as a repellent. (It’s even good against table flies, louses and leeches—in case you are traveling in wilder outdoor climes.) If you truly want to get back to nature, grow your own citronella. It is derived from lemongrass and can be container-grown. The perennial clumping grass grows 5 to 6 feet and may kept in large pots. Not only will it help keep bugs away but it can be used in your Thai cooking too!
Other mosquito repellant plants that you can grow in containers or all around your patio, lanai or deck are:
- Marigolds: If you ever dead-headed a marigold flower by pinching it off and smelled your fingers afterward, you’ll understand why this plant repels mosquitos (and deer too). It smells awful and the smell lingers. I throw the seeds all around the border of my vegetable garden and grow it in pots all over the deck. Marigolds even help keep the pests off your tomatoes plants. Marigolds are fast-growing, low maintenance and produce lovey flowers of yellow, gold, orange or a combo of all the colors and they bloom for a very long time.
- Catnip: Did you think catnip was only used as the recreational drug of choice for your pet feline? Nope, it keeps mosquitos away, too, particularly if you grow some in containers and crush some leaves to keep around your table. Two cautions though: Being a cousin to the mint plant, catnip will take over your garden or any container you place it in, so keep it in its own pot (even when dug into the dirt of your garden) and get ready for every cat in the area to come calling like it’s a Cheech and Chong movie.
- Lavender: Not only does lavender smell great, but grown around your yard and in pots on your patio, it will keep mosquitos and gnats away from you. Plant several varieties (there are dozens) so they will flower at different times and their leaves will give off different scents—all of which deter pesky bugs. You’ll get bonus points for sewing some of the flowers into muslin bags (available at crafts stores or online) and hanging them in your closet to stop moths without that awful mothball scent. (Stick another under your pillow to promote sweet dreams, too and save some flowers to mix with honey to wow your tea party guests by serving lavender ice cream).
- Natural Perfume Spray: If you are growing other pretty smelling herbs like mint, sage, rue and rosemary, cover them with boiling water, leave overnight and strain through cheesecloth (or even an old washcloth) and put in a spray bottle. Spray around your yard before an outdoor party. It will smell great and help keep the flying critters away.
- Basil: If you are growing anything, I’m sure you have some basil to match up with those wonderful tomatoes of summer. If not, grab a plant or two (even from your local grocery), put in a larger container than the one you bought them in and keep the top pinched back to keep the basil from turning to flowers. The smell of basil leaves, even uncrushed, is enough to keep mosquitos at bay, and cinnamon and lemon basil varieties work the best as bug busters.
- Lemon balm does double duty: It helps keep bugs away but attracts bees and butterflies. It also makes you feel like a master gardener because lemon balm is also known as horsemint and you know what that means—it is a plant set upon world domination. If you are planting it in your yard, stick the entire pot in the ground so it won’t overrun your whole garden or keep it pinched back in containers around your deck. Use the extra leaves to make sachet, potpourri or even tea.
Enjoy your summer nights without those manic mosquitos.