Wednesday marked the first official day of summer for the Northern hemisphere, and boy does it feel like summer! As we worked in GA participant gardens all week we were definitely feeling the sun, heat, and frustratingly dry skies, as well as one nuisance that I am still feeling the ramifications of as I sit inside at my computer, bugs….. I have never been one to complain about bugs or itchy bug bites, but after these past few weeks I have been commiserating with those who run inside at the first sign of a mosquito or god forbid those nasty little no see ‘em gnats that eat me up.

      As part of Grow Appalachia we strive to use only organic amendments in our gardens to help our vegetables grow. Fertilizer, fungicide, and pesticides that we distribute are all organic OMRI approved, so why don’t we take the same precautions to protect ourselves from those nasty bugs that can make gardening miserable? Most bug sprays are loaded with chemicals that can be very harmful to our health and yet we turn to them immediately when the bugs bite. One common chemical in potent bug sprays is DEET, a chemical which can impair brain function and can cause severe physical impairment after prolonged exposure. I for one am a bit scared of DEET and similar chemicals and would rather not use them when I am out working in gardens every day. So I thought I would research a couple ideas for natural bug protection and share them with everyone.

Mosquito Repellent Plants
Citronella Plant
     Many plants are natural mosquito repellents and can be planted around the garden to help deter bugs and can even be potted and set around outdoor spaces such as porches and patios to discourage mosquitoes from joining you for dinner.

Citronella: a perennial clumping grass that is a stronger mosquito repellent than citronella candles or torches.

Horsemint/Beebalm: an adaptable perennial that gives off a strong odor which confuses and repels mosquitoes.

Marigolds: Hardy annual plants with a distinctive scent that mosquitoes find offensive.

A beautiful Ageratum plant
Catnip: a perennial herb, that has been found to be a stronger mosquito repellent than DEET, leaves can be crushed and rubbed on skin to further repel bugs.

Ageratum: a low lying, annual ornamental with pretty purple blooms, Ageratum secretes Coumarin, a substance commonly used in mosquito repellents

Homemade Bug Sprays
     Another way to repel bugs naturally is with the use of homemade bug sprays. There are many different recipes out there for all different kinds of natural bug sprays, most of which include essential oils using herbs such as lemon balm, mint, rose, etc.m which you can buy online or in many natural foods stores, or follow Jessica at BDVP’s example and make your own infusions:
These oils are then combined with various other ingredients which may include water, apple cider vinegar, etc. to make an effective and safe bug spray.

Natural Bug Spray #1
1/8 c. apple cider vinegar
1/8 c. rubbing alcohol or (yes, I’m going there) vodka
1/8 c. distilled water
25 drops eucalyptus essential oil (1/4 tsp.)
25 drops citronella essential oil (1/4 tsp.)
50 drops peppermint essential oil (1/2 tsp.)
Natural Bug Spray #2
3 1 ⁄2 ounces (which is basically 1/3 cup) of Witch Hazel
A small bottle of homemade bug spray will go a long way!
1 ⁄2 teaspoon Lemongrass Oil
1 ⁄ 2 teaspoon Eucalyptus Oil
1 ⁄ 2 teaspoon Citronella Oil

For both recipes simply combine all ingredients in a small spray bottle and shake well before using.

This website has some great bug spray “recipes” of varying potency:
     Other advice for avoiding pests include eating garlic, onions, and bananas (not all together though!) drinking a TBSP of apple cider vinegar each day, taking Vitamin B1 supplements, and even rubbing pure vanilla extract directly on your skin. Who knows if these home remedies work, but I for one am willing to give it a try if it means avoiding itchy bug bites and the use of harsh chemicals.

Wishing you all happy and bug free gardening!