It’s summertime in Central Texas, and that means there are mosquitoes galore. Are you looking for natural ways to repel these and other pest insects? Learn what to plant in your garden to effectively deter mosquitoes, chiggers and other unwanted visitors, and then use what you grow to make a homemade bug spray.
The aroma of lavender adds a soothing ambience to your garden while repelling mosquitoes and other insects. We suggest placing lavender plants near doors, windows and seating areas. With regular watering, this herb grows well in Central Texas’ hot summers. Lavender can thrive planted either in-ground or in containers.
Marigolds are a great addition to any garden because of their bright color, minimal need for care and pest-deterring properties. Marigolds require full sun and can be sowed directly into the ground in spring through fall. As a “companion” plant to most edibles, marigolds help control mosquitoes, aphids and white flies.
Citronella grass and scented geraniums
Citronella and scented geraniums are well-known for repelling mosquitoes. These distinctive-scented plants thrive in Texas because they are heat- and drought-tolerant. When flowering, geraniums also add a nice pop of white, pink, red or even orange or purple color to a garden space.
While catnip might not be suitable for every garden because of its ability to spread, this plant is effective at repelling mosquitoes and insects. In fact, at least one scientific study has shown nepetalactone, a chemical constituent of catnip, to be more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET. If you have cats at home, catnip is best planted in a pot away from your vegetables, as cats will roll over and around the plant.
Basil is great for mosquito control in your garden because the leaves do not need to be crushed in order to give off their scent, which is off-putting to mosquitoes (but lovely for humans). This versatile herb also can be used in many delicious summer recipes.
Sage and rosemary
When added to a fire, sage and rosemary both release scented smoke that repels mosquitoes.
Many of these herbs are ingredients in the following homemade bug spray recipe from Medicine Woman Herbs, a vendor at Sustainable Food Center’s Sunset Valley Farmers’ Market. This spray is effective against both mosquitoes and chiggers. Medicine Woman Herbs’ Miki Cook says of her spray, “I use only certified organic ingredients in all of my products, including certified organic essential oils, which are typically more expensive and difficult to source, because I don’t believe that products meant to support good health should contain pesticides and herbicides.” We encourage you to give Cook’s recipe a try, or to pick up a premade bottle at the market.
Homemade Bug Spray
To make a spray using fresh herbs:
Several sprigs of 2-3 of your favorite bug-repelling garden herbs (citronella, peppermint, basil, thyme, rosemary, lemongrass, lemon verbena, geranium, catnip or lavender)
1 cup water
Up to 1 teaspoon aromatic spices (vanilla extract or whole cloves are nice)
2-3 strips lemon peel
In a small pot, bring water to a boil and then turn off heat. Add in herbs plus aromatic spices and lemon peel and then cover pot (so those volatile oils don’t evaporate). Let steep until cool and then strain and put in a spray bottle. The liquid only will keep for a few days in the fridge because it contains no preservatives.
To make a spray using essential oils:
15 drops citronella essential oil
15 drops geranium essential oil
10 drops lemon verbena essential oil
10 drops lemongrass essential oil
5 drops peppermint essential oil
2 ounces witch hazel extract
2 ounces water
1 tablespoon vodka or rubbing alcohol
Place all ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake well before each use. Reapply every 2 hours as needed.
Note: Never use essential oils in any form on infants younger than age 1 or diffuse oils or apply them topically to children younger than 2. The spray is diluted enough to use with light application on babies between 1 and 2 years old for short-term outdoor exposure. Remember, essential oils are very potent, please use them with respect for safety.
— Miki Cook, Medicine Woman Herbs