by Adrienne Diaz
Warm weather brings out the big three of the biting bug world: mosquitoes, ticks, and fire ants. Instead of using toxic DEET to protect yourself, wouldn’t it be great to use leaves gathered from your own edible landscaping yard to help you out?
Beautyberry, not just pretty.
Chemical compounds in Beautyberry leaves are natural insect repellents. Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), a deciduous shrub is best known for its bracelet-like clusters of showy purple berries. Compounds found in beautyberry leaves have shown amazing natural insect repellent properties. Fresh green leaves, crushed and rubbed on people or pets, often repel insects for a couple of hours. Also published research studies in Mississippi have shown that essential oil distilled from beautyberry leaves seem to repel fire ants from biting as well. Bonus: remember, Beautyberry fruit is edible for humans, and a favorite of backyard birds.
Home cooks love rosemary as much as Insects hate it!
Rosemary seems to repel mosquitoes and a variety of insects harmful to vegetable plants. Plants can be grown in containers on a patio, grown in herb gardens or planted in landscaped beds, where some varieties can grow quite large. Rosemary’s oils are as delicious to home cooks who use herbs as they are unpleasant to many insects. The plant itself and its cuttings are effective repellents. You can make a simple repellent spray by boiling one quart of dried rosemary in a quart of water for 20 to 30 minutes and then straining the liquid into a container at least a half-gallon in size that contains a quart of cool water. Put a cap on the combined liquid and store it in the refrigerator. Add the repellent to small squirt bottles as needed when going outdoors. Discard the remaining repellent in the refrigerator when it no longer has a strong telltale smell of rosemary.
Lemongrass contains citronella, a natural oil often found in insect-repelling candles.
You’ve no doubt seen citronella candles in stores during the summer and read how citronella will keep mosquitoes away. Citronella is natural oil found in lemongrass, an ornamental grass that can grow up to 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide in one season. This grass is hardy in South Florida.
To repel mosquitos, plant lemon grass in large pots (and move around as needed), or along walkways and in locations close to seating areas. Bonus, Lemongrass has multiple culinary uses; many Asian recipes call for it. Use its fragrant, narrow leaves in chicken and pork dishes, or to flavor soups and salad dressings or in teas.
Adrienne Diaz is a Certified Square Foot Garden Instructor, a Lee County Master Gardener and the Project Director of the Six Mile Charter Academy School Garden. She grows numerous fruits, vegetables and herbs year round. She offers free workshops & classes monthly, gives garden tours and can speak to your group. Contact her on Facebook at Miss Potters Place, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 239-464-5754.