The marigold is a common annual, one that you probably know and use frequently. It’s easy to grow and has many of the same properties as other mosquito-repelling plants.
Consequently, its use extends far beyond that of a simple and attractive annual bedding plant. You can pot up marigolds and place them strategically, near mosquito entry points, on the deck or balcony where you spend a lot of time outdoors.
Marigolds also deter insects that feed on tomato plants, so adding a border of marigolds around your tomato garden is more than an attractive idea, it’s also helpful.
There are a number of other plants that share this same property: lavender, basil and lemongrass. Lavendula, or English lavender, is a popular perennial, best known for its fragrant flowers.
It’s not native to England but actually to the western Mediterranean, primarily in the Pyrenees. It’s strongly aromatic and its leaves are evergreen. It’s more of a shrub than a plant, growing 3 to 6 feet in height and is hardy in our zone.
The flowers are pinkish, some might say lavender, and arrive on leafless stems. The flowers do smell lovely, can be dried and made into sachets, and are thought to repel moths if hung in closets over the winter. Interestingly, most websites do not mention its mosquito-repelling talent.
Basil is one of the few herbs that can do this as well; lemon basil and cinnamon basil are the best varieties for our purpose. Consequently, it might be a good idea to plant some with your tomatoes.
It’s also one of the few repellents that doesn’t need the leaves to be crushed or brushed against. Its proper name is ocimum basilicum and it’s a member of the mint family, native to India, where it’s been grown for more than 5,000 years.
It’s a semi-hardy annual, best known for its contribution not only to Italian cuisine, but the cuisines of Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Taiwan. The leaves give off a pungent smell. Grow some and make your own pesto while warding off pests.
Lemon balm is a perennial, whose proper name is melissa officinalis. It is also a member of the mint family — not surprising since mint is famous for its sharp smell. It’s native to parts of Europe, the Mediterranean region, North Africa and as far away as Central Asia. This is not the same as bee balm, which is actually the plant called monarda. It has small white flowers filled with nectar, and grows from 2 to 5 feet depending on the variety. The flowers attract bees, hence its name, and also butterflies. Amazon sells two plants for $27.
Suggestion of the Week: If you are ordering spring bulbs, take the order blank out of the catalog and make several copies. On one of them, write down the color and height and where you plan to put them. Put it in your garden book, ready for easy reference when they arrive weeks later.