ARTICLE Erin Reilly
The classic Kiwi summer is epitomised by long lazy days at the beach, chargrilled sausages on the barbie and ice-cold beers on the deck. But if you’re a fan of outdoor dining on balmy summer evenings, you’ve probably fallen victim to an annoying insect that likes to feast outdoors too … On you.
The humble mosquito might be tiny, but it has a big bite – and it likes to travel in packs. Besides smothering yourself in litres of insect repellent, is there anything you can do to banish them from your backyard? Zones Landscaping planting expert Nichola Vague thinks so, and it starts with what you plant in your garden.
The pelargonium citrosum (affectionately known as the ‘mosquito plant’ or ‘mozzie buster’) is a variety of scented geranium that smells like citronella. “Mosquitoes don’t like strong aromas,” says Nichola, “so the kind of plant that will keep mozzies away is a strong-smelling one.” Plant the mozzie buster in pots or straight into the garden around your outdoor entertainment spaces and kids play areas.
Mint is more than just a summer cocktail essential; when its leaves are crushed and its oil and aroma released, it’s also an effective mosquito repellent. Peppermint, spearmint and pennyroyal are all great minty options to plant in parts of the garden that are regularly used by humans. Mint can go crazy though, so restraining it in a pot will prevent it from taking over your whole garden.
Basil’s strong aroma masks the scent of people that mosquitoes are drawn to, making it a good natural insect repellent. Plant basil in pots near doors and windows or straight into the garden. “Don’t be afraid of companion planting,” Nichola says. “Herbs don’t have to live in a herb garden. Basil and most other herbs do well alongside other plants – even flowers.”
It might be a perfect accompaniment to roast lamb, but mozzies don’t like rosemary at all. Prevent mosquitoes from crossing the threshold into your home by planting rosemary in pots outside doors and windows. If you like to use an outdoor fire on warm summer nights, throw a handful of rosemary sprigs onto the flames to emanate a stronger aroma and keep mosquitoes at bay.
Lavender isn’t just beautiful and hardy, its strong scent makes it an effective mozzie repellent too. Plant lavender in pots or containers, in the garden, or as borders around your outdoor entertainment spaces.
Marigolds emit an aroma that mozzies and other bugs don’t like, so if you plant them in pots near doors and open windows, they’ll help keep nasties out of your home. They also look great in borders and vegetable gardens.
Other tips to keep mosquitoes at bay
While some plants can be effective, natural alternatives to insect repellent, Nichola also recommends carrying out regular home and garden maintenance to keep mosquitoes and other nasties away. “Mosquitoes breed in still, standing water, so be careful not to leave buckets of water lying around, and fill in dips in the ground that gather water,” she says. “Water features are great, but make sure they use running, not standing, water.”
Another tip is to use citronella candles in outdoor entertainment areas. “Small oil burners don’t produce much smoke, so they’re perfect for outdoor dining,” she says.
You might be interested in reading: How to keep your garden free from aphids
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