We enjoy growing our own, fresh veggies in our garden patch in the backyard. We have also learned about some the plants that already existed in our garden and how we can use them as well.
Here’s a guide on plants that can help repel insects, rodents and even cats away from your home & garden in a natural way, minus the pesticides & poisons we really don’t need in order to grow our gardens.
Look out for the specific qualities of herbs that repel insects. When selecting herbs, you should be looking for herbs that contain phenols, napthalene, pyrethrum and citronella. All of these chemical components are replicated synthetically or derived naturally in quite a number of commercially available products that repel pests.
(Mint & Lemon Balm are 2 plants we grow in and use from our garden.)
Mentha Piperita (usually known as Peppermint). King of all mints. The potent taste of the leaves – very strong menthol – takes your breath away. Very cool and clean indeed. Peppermint is the mint that is most often used commercially — in liqueurs, toothpastes, soaps, and mouthwashes — because of its strong, pure qualities. In medicines, it is used not only as a pleasant flavoring, but also because it contains healing properties as well. Mint has been known as both a seasoning and a medicine for centuries. It is also being used for rubbing since the very early stages of human evolution.
Plant family: Lamiaceae (mint family). Used plant part: Leaves.
Origin: Peppermint is a (usual sterile) hybrid from water mint (M. aquatica) and spearmint (M. spicata). It is found sometimes wild in Central and Southern Europe (where mint rubbing originated), but was probably first put to human use in England, whence its cultivation spread to the European continent and Africa.
Cultivation: Peppermint is much cultivated in many countries of Europe, Western and Central Asia for the production of menthol. Northern Africa is also a main cultivation area. In most of these countries, peppermint entered local cuisine, replacing in part native mints.
Repels flies, fleas, mice, rats and ants.
Mountain mint rubbed on pants can deter chiggers and ticks.
An endangered mint plant from Florida, Disceranda frutescens, has been found to be a very powerful insect repellent; try and grow some!
Sensoric quality: Characteristically pure and refreshing odour, pungent and burning taste. The typical `mint scent’ is most pure in peppermint, of all mints.
Main constituents: The essential oil of peppermint (up to 2.5% in the dried leaves) is mostly made up from menthol (ca. 50%), menthone (10 to 30%), menthyl esters (up to 10%) and further monoterpene derivatives (pulegone, piperitone, menthofurane). Traces of jasmone (0.1%) improve the oil’s quality remarkably. Menthol and menthyl acetate are responsible for the pungent and refreshing odour; they are mostly found in older leaves and are preferentially formed during long daily sunlight periods. On the other hand, the ketones menthone and pulegon (and menthofurane) have a less delightful fragrance; they appear to higher fraction in young leaves and their formation is preferred during short days.
Peppermint Tea – yum!
Lemon balm is a type of herb that is somehow similar with mint. It is easy to grow and can be planted near shaded area and does not need daily watering. The pant grows in clumps and spreads vegetatively. It can be easily grown from stem cuttings which are rooted in water and sometimes it will seed itself in ideal conditions. Lemon balm has so many uses which vary from culinary to medicinal ones. Here are some tips in using lemon balm in any purpose that you would like.
Fresh lemon balm leaves can be used in cooking to give a lemon taste with a hint of mint on the food preparations. Do not dry or freeze the leaves since the flavour will be lost. You may put fresh leaves in plastic bags and refrigerate them for a few days to increase their shelf life. It is highly recommended to use fresh leaves to season green salads, poultry and fish dishes. You may add lemon balm into beverages with mint to give it a lemon taste or combine pepper with it since they blend nicely. Lemon balm is also used as flavourings in ice cream, herbal teas and iced tea.
Lemon balm also has some medicinal purposes which include insect repellent when the leaves of the plant is crushed and rubbed on the skin. It produces a distinct aroma that helps repel mosquitoes. Lemon balm also has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties and this can be made by crushing the leaves of the lemon balm and using these leaves as a herbal tea. Another medicinal use of the plant involves aromatherapy that could be an effective treatment for nervousness, depression, insomnia and headaches. The essential oil can be prepared by crushing the leaves of the lemon balm in order to release the oil. Another way is by adding a cup of oil to a half-cup of fresh lemon balm leaves. Let it sit for 5 days at room temperature. In this way, the herbs will settle in the oil. Strain the mixture out and put the oil into jars and can be refrigerated up to 6 months.
Lemon Balm is currently famous as a remedy for common ailments such as flu, common the cold and high blood pressure or hypertension. The remedy is achieved through its leaves which are crushed and turned into tea. The Lemon Balm tea is also a remedy for dyspepsia and for stress relief due to its calming effect. Studies have also shown that the leaves contain natural substances that have mild sedative properties that can help in treating nervousness, palpitations and even aid you in sleeping. The calming effect also induces better memory performance and mental focus. The leaves are also crushed and turned to topical mosquito repellant and to treat lesions caused by herpes simplex due to the antiviral properties found in the leaf extracts. These extracts are also found to be a potent antioxidant and have antibacterial properties. Lemon Balm was also scientifically proven to improve cognitive function on individuals suffering from mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease and works better compared to placebos.
Lemon balm also has uses in pollinating fruit-bearing trees, flowers and orchids. The scent that this plant gives off makes honey bees attracted to it. For this reason, you can use lemon balm and plant them around your orchids or flowers in order to attract bees to pollinate them.
These are some of the tips in using lemon balm for culinary, medicinal and horticultural purposes. Indeed, these herbs need to be planted in our backyards in order to attain these great benefits.
The Lemon Balm is also a pretty-looking herb so planting one in your backyard or garden will be a great addition. It is also a non-invasive plant which means you do not have to worry about the Lemon Balm acting like weeds. Grow this herb in a shade so that it will grow large with bright green leaves. Pollination is also easy with the Lemon Balm since its flowers are rich in nectar making it a favorite of honey bees. This is the reason for its scientific name which is Melissa officinalis, with Melissa which is the Greek for honey bee.
We make tea with it too, yummy!
Select your herbs. The following herbs are good choices to begin with. Each herb shown here is accompanied by an explanation of its pest repellent qualities:
Wormwood, southernwood [Artemisia sp.]
- lovely silvery, bushy appearance that repels moths, intestinal worm, slugs, and flies.
Rue [Ruta graveolens]
- repels cats. It is also good for controlling fleas and Japanese beetle.
Tanacetum genus (pyrethrum, tansy, feverfew)
- repels moths, flies, ants, mice, mosquitoes, cockroaches, mites and bedbugs.
Tansy is a strong herb suitable for growing around doorways to act as an insect deterrence. Pyrethrum is great made into a spray. Feverfew (pictured) is a good insect repellent and is also used for treating insect bites. The fact that feverfew is usually pest-free says something positive about its pest abilities.
- repels flies, silverfish fleas; add to sachets and hang in the wardrobe.
Santolina (Cotton Lavender) has the strongest insect repellent properties and can be mixed with English lavender in sachets.
It is even said that the essential oil in catnip, nepetalactone, is 10 times more effective than DEET!
- deters insect pests and also helps with preventing musty odours; use in sachets, both flowers and leaves.
- contains citronella – run the long grassy leaves and stalk on the skin to repel mosquitoes.
- fly and mosquito repellent; grow near outdoor eating areas.
Sage - deters a variety of insects. Hang dried bundles in the house and at doorways.
Design your pest-repellent garden. Make a design that will ensure an attractive herbal arrangement in your garden, as well as easy access for harvesting. You may choose to deliberately design a herb garden space; or you may choose to plant the herbs here and there throughout your garden, as space and design wishes permit. Take care with mint – it is probably best planted in a pot to cure its tendency to spread across your garden. Planting in pots is also fine and is especially useful when you would like the move the plants to different areas of the garden. And don’t forget the value of growing these herbs near your outdoor entertaining area – this will add extra punch to the work being done by your citronella candles!
Harvest and use. There are numerous ways to use the plants. These are just a few suggestions; it is likely you will come up with many more of your own:
- Harvest, dry and use in sachets for drawers, wardrobes, storage boxes etc.
- Harvest, dry and use hanging from curtain rods in the laundry, kitchen area or from clothes hanging rods.
- Keep live herbs growing in pots near doorways to discourage the entrance of pests such as flies and mice; plant mint near any areas of the house where you feel mice might be tempted to enter (and seal any holes!).
- Plant rue near a garden bed that you don’t want cats messing about in; be careful though, as some plants do not tolerate the presence of rue (e.g., basil).
- Make water-based sprays – follow a suitable recipe.