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Companion Plants and their uses

In addition to keeping pests from ravishing your plants, you can keep them from pestering you.

Let’s face it – no one wants to spend time outdoors when mosquitoes, gnats, and flies are buzzing about, but staying indoors is about as appealing as slathering your skin with toxic bug repellant.

Plants such as lavender, basil, marigolds, mums, and nasturtiums naturally repel insects. There is something in each of these plants that can help you create an (almost) pest-free garden.

Mums: have a natural compound called pyrethrum that is used to make pyrethrin-based insecticides. All mums produce pyrethrum, but some varieties have more than others. For maximum insect-repelling effect, plant the painted daisies varietys.

Painted daisies produce showy midsummer blooms in vibrant shades of purple, pink, and red. The perennials are easy to care for and will grow well in full sun or part shade. In addition to keeping mosquitos at bay, painted daisies make lovely cut flowers.

Citronella: It’s dubbed the “mosquito plant” because the fragrance in its foliage is a natural repellant. For maximum effect, crush the leaves, releasing the fragrance, and rub them on your skin.

Citronella is part of the geranium family. The annual plant has green, lacy leaves and can grow up to three feet tall. Citronella is drought-tolerant and prefers part shade.

Rosemary: A hearty evergreen shrub, rosemary produces clusters of blue blossoms in the winter and spring. It’s known for attracting beneficial insects such as bees and butterflies while repelling mosquitoes.

Rosemary plants can get quite large, growing up to five feet tall in some areas, so be sure to give it enough space in the garden or keep it trimmed to maintain its size. Grow rosemary in full sun and well-drained soil. It can also be grown in containers and brought inside to overwinter.

Catnip: Cats go wild for this ultra-fragrant herb, but mosquitoes hate it. Researchers found that catnip was more effective than DEET, a common (and toxic) ingredient in bug repellant, at repelling mosquitos. It also repels cockroaches.

This fast-growing perennial blooms with small white flowers in the summer and grows best in full sun. Since catnip can be invasive, it is best grown in a pot to keep it from taking over the garden.

Lavender: The pretty purple flowers are a beautiful addition to the garden, and the essential oils in the plant repel mosquitoes, flies, and moths. Plant it near outdoor seating areas to keep insects away or rub the plant on your skin to transfer the oils as a natural mosquito repellant.

Lavender is a heat- and drought-tolerant perennial that grows best in full sun and well-drained soil. It can also be grown in containers.

Keeping pests out of the garden is not only about picking the right plants: Where you choose to plant annuals, perennials, herbs, and vegetables can also have an impact on pest control.

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