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OUT IN THE YARD — Plants that repel bugs and protect our hard work

In March, seeds were carefully planted, watered, fertilized and cared for.

In April, we watched as those plants grew beautiful and green with fruit that made us hopeful. Then May arrived with the arrival of insects that dashed our dreams and stung us while we tried to care for our precious gardens. Some plants not only produce flowers and/or food, but they also repel insects.

Many plants can help repel mosquitoes. The citronella geranium can be planted in containers around the porch. There is even a citronella grass that can be planted.

Citronella oil is found in lemongrass and is commonly used in candles and sprays to repel mosquitoes.

Cats are smart to love catnip. It is a very effective mosquito repellant. It works best if the plant is crushed and rubbed on the skin (if you are not allergic) or if the essential oils are used in a spray.

Rosemary and sage both repel mosquitoes when burned, so they can be used in the barbecue pit or campfire to lessen the population of biting insects.

The smell of basil naturally deters mosquitoes. It is also toxic to mosquito larvae, so it can be planted close to areas where you don’t want mosquitoes to lay eggs.

Peppermint oil is great for repelling mosquitoes and easing the sting of mosquito bites. Bee balm attracts bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. If you crush the leaves, the scent will repel mosquitoes.

Plants can also repel other garden pests. Marigolds repel many different insects, so many people plant them in the garden to keep bugs off their vegetables. They repel aphids, mosquitoes, nematodes and whiteflies. Petunias repel aphids, asparagus beetles, tomato hornworms, leafhoppers and squash bugs. Thyme repels whiteflies, cabbage loopers, cabbage maggots, whiteflies, tomato hornworms, and corn earworms. Lavender is also a great insect repellent, but it does not like our humid environment, so it does not grow well here.

These plants will not keep all insects away from the garden, but they will beautify the garden while decreasing the number of pests and helping you enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Reach Jefferson County Master Gardener, Melissa Starr, at melynstarr@hotmail.com or call the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension at 409-835-8461.