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Plants That Repel Mosquitoes

Urban legend or truth? Are there really plants that repel insects that can be planted in your garden or around the patio to prevent mosquitoes from hanging around where you wish they didn't?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. Simply planting juniper shrubs, rosemary, or citronella grass (a 6-foot tall tropical plant by the way) or any other plant at the back door won't stop mosquitoes from buzzing around the patio during the dinner hour. What will keep insects like mosquitoes and gnats away is the essential oils contained in the plant's leaves, which are obtained by crushing the leaves.

So what's a homeowner to do? Plant a few herbs like lemon thyme and catnip (Nepeta cataria), which scientists have discovered is 10 times more effective than DEET at keeping mosquitoes away, or rosemary, whose essential oils have proven effective against insects like mosquitoes, gnats, and no-see-ums. You can use the leaves of these herbs to make your own insect repellents either by infusing them in oil, or crushing them in a mortar and pestle and infusing with a mild vinegar such as rice vinegar, vodka, or grain alcohol.

The basic recipe is as follows:

Take 2 cups of catnip leaves or 1 cup of rosemary leaves, stems removed and crush in a mortar and pestle. Alternatively you can use a rolling pin to crush the leaves. Place the leaves in a clean jar.

Fill the jar with 3/4 cup of rice vinegar or vodka, or if you use oil, 3/4 cup of jojoba or almond oil. Let the mixture sit for a couple of weeks, gently stirring at least once a day. Strain mixture into another clean jar and your homemade bug spray is ready to make its debut!

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