Monday, January 2, 2017

Never too early to get ready for mosquito's!

Practically every week I read about a new horrifying disease that is spread via mosquito's.  While I realize it's winter, it's never too early to begin planning for the inevitable "mosquito" weather.  Keeping yourself, your loved ones and your pets safe from these disease ridden creatures does not require dousing yourself with harmful chemicals or locking yourself indoors.
There are many types of flowers, herbs, and grasses that naturally repel mosquitoes due to the plants naturally occurring essential oils.  The oils are released into the air, particularly when a plant is cut or “bruised.” Higher temperatures also cause more of the oils to be released.  Coincidentally, higher temperatures are a mosquito's favorite climate.
Here are a sampling of plants that naturally repel mosquitoes:
The flower’s aroma not only repels mosquitoes, but marigolds are easy to care for and add beauty to your yard.  If you live in the warmer states of America, you can actually leave these in the pots outside all winter.  Once the weather begins to warm, most of the time these will regrow.  

Many of us love the scent, but mosquitoes can’t stand it. Lavender is great for people who are lazy about watering since it is drought resistant. Crush the leaves and rub them on your skin and clothes for personal mosquito protection.

Citronella and lemon grass
These related herbs have a lemony scent. Lemon grass is widely used in Asian cooking.  The Citronella plant is sometimes called the mosquito plant.  If you have ever bought a citronella candle to put on your patio to keep the mosquito's away, you will be familiar with the scent of it.  Also many of the mosquito repellent sprays that you buy to smear all over you when you go outside contain this in them. If you buy citronella, make sure you get the varieties Cymbopogon nardus or Citronella winterianus. They work best.  Both of these plants are hardy and fairly fast growing.  they should last for years with a minimum of care.

Contrary to popular belief, a 2005 study found that eating garlic does nothing to ward off mosquitoes. However, garlic plants do repel them. You can plant the edible form of garlic or try society garlic which is an ornamental garlic that is not edible but has pretty purple flowers that these insects hate.  Edible garlic also sprouts flowers just before harvesting time but they aren't as long lasting or as pretty.

The pungent pine-like scent drives away mosquitoes. It does well in the ground in warm climates. But if you live in the north, grow it in a pot and keep it inside in the winter. Use it generously in cooking. As a bonus, rosemary is a powerful antioxidant. As a bonus, this plant has been linked to improved memory functions.  This can be grown in any size pot or you can plant it directly in the ground and allow it to get as large as it wants depending on the size of your outdoor space.

Bruise a few leaves on your basil plant to help repel mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes can’t stand it and your cat will love you for growing it. It can be invasive and take over your yard. So restrict it to pots or plant it in between hardscape to restrict its growth.

Mint is another plant that is usually best grown in a pots because of its aggressive growing habits. There are tons of variations of mint.  Lemon, spearmint, peppermint, even strawberry.  For mosquito control, I would stick with the traditional mint.  This is a great plant if your yard is mostly shaded or contains a lot of pine trees because this plant if left to its own devices will become a hardy grown cover.  However, if allowing it to take over your yard isn't your thing, then you should truly plant these in pots in order to control their growth.  The great thing about having this as ground cover, is the scent you get from it every time you walk in the yard or mow your yard.  It's really heavenly.  If you have a bit of "lawn" between a walkway and the house or by your patio and a fence or wall, this would be a wonderful place to plant it directly in the ground.  Or you can use it to fill in the spaces between pavers or bricks and still reap the scented rewards.

Lantana just may be the best mosquito-repelling plant of all. Researchers in Africa found it was so effective that it helped control malaria. Scientists planted lantana outside 90 homes in Tanzania. They used another 231 homes as a control group. The lantana-planted homes had 83% fewer mosquitoes.  All of these plants will thrive in most parts of the country in the summer months when mosquitoes abound. An excellent strategy is to keep pots of them near doorways to keep mosquitoes out of your house. And plant them in high traffic areas throughout your yard.  Some states such as Florida have labeled Lantana as an invasive species so planting it directly into your ground may be prohibited in your community, so it's best to check on that prior to planting.  However, I'm not aware of any community that has forbid this plant from being kept in a container.  Lantana comes in many colors so the hardest part about having them is deciding which color to buy.  They are hardy plants that thrive in most conditions/soils.  Another great thing about lantana is the fact that butterflies, hummingbirds and all manner of wonderful creatures love their flowers.

Perhaps the most important part of mosquito control is standing water. This is the most common breeding ground for mosquitoes.  It doesn't take a swimming pool worth of water for these creatures to call home.  Things as shallow as your pets outside water bowl, an empty flower pot, birdbaths, your house gutters that have become a bit clogged thus creating small pools of water, anything that is thumb deep will suffice and these horrible things will lay their eggs and grow more mosquito's before you know it.  If you are vigilant about ridding your property of standing water and plant some of the above plants near your windows and doors, you should have as mosquito free environment as possible.

As always, enjoy your space!

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