Shoo, fly: Natural ways to repel insects

Authored By Ashley Hopkins

We have reached a point in the summer where the flowers are suffering and the insects are thriving. As we head outside to soak up the last few days and weeks of hot temperatures before school starts back and cool weather sets in, firing up the barbecue grill or gathering around the fire pit becomes infinitely less fun when inundated with mosquitoes, flies and other winged pests intent on destroying the evening.

“When your patio and yard are filled with creatures intent on ruining your summer evenings, it’s tempting to want to inundate your outdoor areas with pesticides,” Craig Walker, perennial specialist at The Barn Nursery, said. “But avoid this temptation. They’re not only terrible for the ecosystem, destroying vital food sources for frogs, birds and many other creatures, but they can also be harmful to pets, children and even adults with prolonged exposure.”

Instead, turn to natural means to repel-not destroy-your uninvited guests. Here are a few ways to naturally make them feel unwelcome.

Lemongrass is a lovely ornamental grass that repels, among other things, mosquitoes and fleas, which are among the peskiest of the garden pests. It’s easy to take care of, grows well in containers (so you can move it around and easily line areas commonly inhabited by people with it) and sometimes can live through the winter with proper care. Citronella is another ornamental grass that insects don’t like to get near.

Lots of herbs also repel flies, mosquitoes and the like. Basil, mint and oregano are but a few that pests hate the odor of. Plus, not only are herbs lovely, but they have the added bonuses of living a long time with proper care and elevating your cooking to a new level.

If you want something a bit more showy to repel insects, consider chrysanthemums, such as daisies. Other options are bee balm and marigolds. All these flowery plants are relatively low maintenance and produce a strong odor that insects tend to hate.

“Many plants add both beauty and practicality to your yard,” Walker said. “The beautiful blooms are just an added bonus when they are helping keep bugs at bay.”

Scented oils
If you’ve got a yard or patio covered with herbs, consider making some scented oils with some of your surplus. Peppermint, spearmint and lavender are great choices to create smells pleasant to humans but repellent to pests. Not only are scented oils perfect for a variety of medicinal purposes and for making your home smell wonderful, but a few drops smeared on the body for a night spent outside will do wonders in keeping insects off of you. And unlike the commercial bug sprays, you have control over the ingredients and know what you are putting on your body.

“Herbs are an inexpensive, relatively low-maintenance crop to grow, and their benefits are numerous,” Walker said. “You really can’t find a better, more organic way to keep pests at bay.”

Tiki torches and candles
Bugs hate the intense heat given off by candles, and they really hate the tropical-esque smell given off by the kind of candles and torches you purchase at lawn and garden shops. Lining your outdoor party or dining area with these will create a zone that most bugs are unlikely to want to penetrate. Combine this with the other two methods listed above and you will have a fortress against pests, plus a relaxing, enjoyable outdoor experience-all without doing any harm to the environment.

Cole Webster’s grandfather started The Barn as a fruit and vegetable stand in an old Civil War barn on McFarlan Avenue in Rossville, Georgia. His father, Jim Webster, moved The Barn Nursery to its current location 25 years ago and grew it into one of the leading garden centers in the country. Cole wants to continue to make The Barn Nursery a thriving part of Chattanooga’s landscape. He graduated from the University of West Georgia in 2013 with degrees in marketing and real estate and began working full time at The Barn Nursery in 2014. He wants to bring more young people to the garden center and gift shop, and keep it relevant and exciting to all generations of customers. Contact Cole with questions or comments here.

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