I absolutely love my backyard. It’s my favorite place. Between porch sitting, gardening, and grilling, I enjoy spending time outdoors.
What I don’t love are the pesky mosquitoes that love to buzz around at dawn and dusk frantically trying to bite me. I can run through a host of reasons why I want to stay away from mosquitoes— itchy skin, infections, etc, but the bottom line is: they are simply an annoyance.
(Sidebar: Though I’m sure the mosquito does good in the ecosystem, I still need to keep them at bay.)
If you’ve followed my garden adventures, you know I’m really big on growing with intention. That means, I’ve had to be really honest with myself and determine what I genuinely enjoy eating, and growing that for myself, what I can purchase in the market because I don’t use it enough to sustain growing it (I’m looking at you cilantro), and what plants are great companions to each other.
In growing with intention, I determine which items that I enjoy growing can serve in a dual capacity – what do I love to eat and what will be a great natural deterrent from mosquitoes. And the best part is that these items don't require any additional care other than the regular watering and pruning that you'd already be performing.
According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the key to repelling mosquitoes, and most insects, is blocking their sense of smell. Usually, a mosquito’s scent receptors find our odors— sweaty to sweet. Fragrant foliage inhibits a mosquito’s ability to find us, and bite.
I’ve found that strategically planting specific greenery around my garden creates a natural shield against mosquitoes. I hope you can find a space for them in your garden as well.
Here's a list of my favorite plants that serve as double duty plants in my garden:
Citronella is the most obvious of plants to grow in your garden to serve as a mosquito repellent. It’s a grass-like plant that contains a high concentration of citronellal, the lemon scent that deters mosquitoes. This plant can easily be confused for the hybrid citronella plant that you often find at big box retailers. The two plants have similar scents, but the citronella grass is the real deal plant that does the heavy lifting.
I grow a lot of tomatoes! And with a lot of tomatoes, comes a lot of basil. Basil is an ever-present fixture in my garden. It’s the ultimate companion to tomatoes as it contains estragole, the chemical compound that helps combat insects and diseases. The sweet, yet pungent scent of basil leaves emit an aroma that while delicious to people, is toxic to mosquitoes.
Marigolds join basil and tomatoes to create the utmost triple threat. They are an essential element of my tomato beds that also ward off pests like tomato hornworms, white flies, aphids, squash bugs, and of course…mosquitoes. (I just got the chills writing all those creepy crawlers’ names out!) There have been many reports that the natural chemical compounds of marigolds are also found in many insect repellents.
Garlic contains a natural sulfur that aids in repelling mosquitoes. Like the other plants mentioned, the scent of the sulfur compounds in garlic deter mosquitoes so much that many DIYers will create homemade pest control sprays that include crushed fresh garlic.
Rosemary is an herb with a woody scent that mosquitoes strongly dislike. In addition to fresh rosemary, adding a few sprigs of rosemary to your grill or fire pit will create a fragrant smokiness to keep mosquitoes at bay.
Sooo… I actually hate any form of mint, but I did want to include it on my list since so many of my Plots & Pans gardeners love it. Like basil, peppermint’s sweet and pungent smell serves as a natural insecticide. Many gardeners love mint for its multipurpose uses mint for tea, cocktails, and of course, mosquito repellent.
There are many other plants you can add to your garden— catnip, eucalyptus, lavender, and even sage— that will also assist in repelling mosquitoes.
While natural plant repellents aren’t nearly as strong as the chemical repellents, they serve as helpful, beautiful, nutritious, and eco-friendly additions to your yard and garden, and also double duty mosquito deterrent.