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How To Naturally Deter Insects With Herbs Instead of Chemicals

Pesticides, herbicides and fungicides dominate agricultural practices for killing just about anything that is unwanted or interfering with the healthy growth of plants and crops. However, lower scale operations should never resort this poisoning of nature. Some of the earliest written documents on gardening discuss the relationships between herbs and companion plants. When selecting your companion plants you will need to consider more than which pests are deterred. Think about what each plant adds or takes away from the soil and what effect the proximity of strong herbs may have on the flavor of your vegetables. 

In nature, there is only balance. When there is unbalance, nature quickly shifts course to maintain and regulate its environment so that all organisms may live and reproduce as required by a given ecosystem.

The important thing to remember when you are trying to get rid of the "bad" pests is that there are many good insects, such as lady bugs, bees and butterflies, which may be killed by commercial poisons - even if it was not your intention.
There is always a way to deter pests. For example, ants hate cucumbers, especially cucumber peels. You'll especially appreciate that fact if you want to get rid of them. Just spreading some cucumber peels (the more bitter, the better) where ants enter your garden or home will repel them. Consider cucumber the "anti-welcome" mat for ants. Cucumbers are one example of natural pest control.

Another thing to bear in mind is that even though a pesticide may be organic, it still might harm beneficial insects. The happy balance is attained when you use natural pest control using herbs and companion plants to together to deter only the specific pests and lets the beneficial insects live.

An important note when planting any of the below is to try to avoid placing two heavy feeders or two shallow rooted plant types near each other. 
HerbCompanionsPests Repelled
Dislikes Rue
Flies, Mosquitoes
BorageTomatoes, Squash, StrawberriesTomato Worm
CarawayPlant throughout the garden to loosen the soil.
Avoid Dill
CatnipEggplantFlea Beetle, Ants
ChamomileCabbage, Onion
Dead NettlePotatoesPotato Bug
Dislikes Carrots and Caraway
FennelMost plants dislike this herb
Feverfewrosesattracts aphids away from roses
FlaxCarrots, PotatoesPotato Bug
GarlicRoses, RaspberriesJapanese Beetle, Aphids
HorseradishPotatoesPotato Bug
HenbitGeneral Insect Repellent
HyssopCabbage, Grapes
Dislikes Radishes
Cabbage Moth
LavenderMoths — combine with southernwood, wormwood and rosemary in an anti-moth sachet
MarigoldsPlant throughout the gardenMexican Bean Beetles, Nematodes, others
MintCabbage, TomatoesWhite Cabbage Moth, aphids, flea beetles
Mole PlantMoles and Mice
NasturtiumRadishes, Cabbage, Cucurbits, fruit treesAphids, Squash Bugs, Striped Pumpkin Beetle
PennyroyalRosesFlies, Mosquitoes, Fleas, others
Pot MarigoldTomatoesTomato Worm, Asparagus Beetles, others
PyrethrumsUse dried flower heads as a general insect repellent.
RosemaryCabbage, Beans Carrots, SageCabbage Moth, Bean Beetle, Carrot Fly
RueRoses and Raspberries
Dislikes Sweet Basil
Japanese Beetles
SageRosemary, Cabbage, Carrots
Dislikes Cucumbers
Cabbage Moth, Carrot Fly, Flea Beetle, Slugs
SouthernwoodCabbagesCabbage Moth
SowthistleTomatoes, Onion, Corn
Plant in moderation
Summer SavoryBeansBean Beetles
TansyFruit Trees, Roses, RaspberriesFlying Insects, Japanese Beetles, Striped Cucumber Beetles, Squash Bugs, Ants, Flies
ThymeCabbageCabbage Worm
WormwoodPlant as a border to keep animals out of the garden.
YarrowPlant near aromatic herbs to enhance production of essential oils.

Natural Insect Repellent Recipe
Need a natural insect repellent without DEET? you'll get a more effective repellent if you combine a few different insect-repelling natural oils. If you are making large amounts of insect repellent, a good rule of thumb is to mix the repellent so it's 5-10% essential oil, so mix 1 part essential oil with 10-20 parts carrier oil or alcohol. For a smaller batch use: 
  • 10-25 drops (total) of essential oils
  • 2 tablespoons of a carrier oil or alcohol

The essential oils that work well against biting insects (mosquitoes, flies, ticks, fleas) are:

  • cinnamon oil (mosquitoes)
  • lemon eucalyptus or regular eucalyptus oil (mosquitoes, ticks, and lice)
  • citronella oil (mosquitoes and biting flies)
  • castor oil (mosquitoes)
  • orange oil (fleas)
  • rose geranium (ticks and lice)

Safe carrier oils and alcohols include:

  • olive oil
  • sunflower oil
  • any other cooking oil
  • witch hazel
  • vodka

Mix the essential oil with the carrier oil or alcohol. Rub or spray the natural insect repellent onto skin or clothing, using care to avoid the sensitive eye area. You'll need to re-apply the natural product after about an hour or after swimming or exercise. Unused natural insect repellent may be stored in a dark bottle, away from heat or sunlight. If you wish, you may combine the oil with aloe vera gel to change the consistency of the product.

April McCarthy is a community journalist playing an active role reporting and analyzing world events to advance our health and eco-friendly initiatives.

this first appeared in Prevent Disease