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by Lynn Kirk, Public Relations Writer,  Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, reprinted with permission from the Richmond Times-Dispatch

Summer is a delightful time to be outdoors — until you hear that all-too-familiar, high-pitched whine circling your head. Soon you feel tiny blood-sucking bites, and before you can flee, itchy whelps begin appearing on your neck, arms and legs. The dreaded mosquito has arrived, and, as luck would have it, it seldom travels alone!

marigolds

When used as a garden border, marigolds do double duty by also warding off unwanted insects that can damage vegetables.

Mosquitoes put a damper on outdoor activities, and their disease-carrying potential is a real risk. Commercial repellents have their advantages, but some consumers worry about chemical toxicity from continued use. If you prefer more eco-friendly options in your battle of man vs. mosquito, why not turn to nature? Several of summer’s annuals and perennials can help, especially when strategically planted near your favorite outdoor areas.
Citronella, with its powerful lemony scent, is relatively easy to grow. Look for the Cymbopogon nardus or Citronella winterianus varieties that repel mosquitoes by masking other odors. Be sure to allow lots of vertical space since this grassy annual can grow up to 6 feet tall.
Plants can help keep mosquitoes at bay
Marigolds also deter mosquitoes with their strong scent. When used as a garden border, marigolds do double duty by also warding off unwanted insects that can damage vegetables. Plant marigolds in full sun and enjoy an added bonus of vibrant color throughout the summer season.
Plants can help keep mosquitoes at bay

Geraniums produce geraniol oil, which is a natural alternative for chemical insecticides. Their bright, cheerful blooms are an added bonus.

Geraniums produce geraniol oil, which is a natural alternative for chemical insecticides. Their bright, cheerful blooms are an added bonus.

Geraniums produce geraniol oil, which is a natural alternative for chemical insecticides. Their bright, cheerful blooms are an added bonus.
Catnip deters mosquitoes through production of the oil nepetalactone. Growing catnip in planters may be best for two reasons: Cats love frolicking around this plant, and it can spread with wild abandon.
Plants can help keep mosquitoes at bay
Lavender is a fragrant, flowering herb whose extracted oil helps keep bugs at bay. Its lovely, calming scent is accompanied by lush, purple flowers that enhance any garden setting.

Lavender is a fragrant, flowering herb whose extracted oil helps keep bugs at bay. Its lovely, calming scent is accompanied by lush, purple flowers that enhance any garden setting.

Lavender is a fragrant, flowering herb whose extracted oil helps keep bugs at bay. Its lovely, calming scent is accompanied by lush, purple flowers that enhance any garden setting.

Peppermint, which is a cross between spearmint and watermint, is a less-known hero in the fight for mosquito-free environs. Mosquitoes don’t appreciate the scent of peppermint oil, and its crushed leaves rubbed on the skin can help relieve the itch that often accompanies insect bites.
Horsemint emits a lemony scent similar to citronella. Like many other herbs, it’s easy to grow. As a member of the bee balm family, horsemint also attracts important pollinators, such as bees and hummingbirds.
Plants can help keep mosquitoes at bay
Rosemary is good for more than seasoning and good looks. While the scent of this woody perennial is pleasing to gardeners and chefs, it tends to repel mosquitoes.
In addition to experimenting with these plants, double-check that your yard is free of standing water, where mosquitoes can breed. Watch for dripping hoses, and store toys and items that hold water when not in use. Also avoid scented lotions, soaps and perfumes that lure mosquitoes your way.
Mosquitoes have existed for more than 150 million years, so man’s dislike of the pesky insect is nothing new. However, today’s savvy gardeners know that the war against mosquitoes doesn’t have to be a losing battle.

Rosemary is good for more than seasoning and good looks. While the scent of this woody perennial is pleasing to gardeners and chefs, it tends to repel mosquitoes.

Rosemary is good for more than seasoning and good looks. While the scent of this woody perennial is pleasing to gardeners and chefs, it tends to repel mosquitoes.

Editor’s Note: This article first published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, in July 2014.

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