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Calendar Says May, Thermometer Says Otherwise

The rule of thumb is to wait till after Mother's Day to plant veggies in the garden. Looking ahead at next week's forecast, it will be at least another week before I'll be able to even step in the garden because of the mud!

But we can start our container gardens! And I have a special one to plant this year. It's a mosquito garden. Mosquito repellent that is. Place your mosquito garden near your usual gathering place whether it be the front porch, deck, or patio. Disturbing the plants before you sit down to relax will release the scent into the air and keep those buzzing biters away from you.

One of the best plants to use to repel mosquitoes is lemongrass. Lemongrass is a perennial and is best planted in a large container or directly into the beds next to your porch/deck. It grows quickly and can be a good choice for a privacy screen if needed.

Have you ever heard of the thriller, filler, and spiller method of planting containers? That's going to be my method as I plant my mosquito garden this year.

Starting with the thriller. The thriller is the main plant in the container. It could be the tallest. It could be the most colorful. Or it could be the only flowering plant in the pot.

There are two flowers that I can use as my thriller--lavender (of course!) and marigolds. Because it's a container, I would choose a smaller lavender in the angustifolia family such as mini blue for a deep purple color or coconut ice for a pretty pink and white.

I love purple and yellow together, so I'm going to use the mini blue and the common yellow marigolds. Marigolds actually contain a compound found in many commercial insect repellents, and together lavender and marigolds can repel mosquitoes, fleas, flies, and moths.

Next are the fillers. There are so many herbs to choose from to fill in the mosquito garden container. The best part about using herbs as fillers is that they can be snipped and used in your favorite recipes!

Anything in the mint family will repel mosquitoes, and many mints have beautiful fuzzy foliage or variegated leaves to add interest to the container. Lemon balm is one that has a sweet lemony fragrance. Although these plants smell great to us, mosquitoes find them extremely unpleasant. Yay! Peppermint, spearmint, pineapple mint, or apple mint are good choices too.

Mosquitoes dislike all basils, and basils come in different colors and flavors. Sweet basil has a beautiful leaf to use as a filler. Or lemon basil and cinnamon basil can be used for their fragrance.

Rosemary can be added as a filler to repel flies and mosquitoes. It is a woody herb like lavender that will bloom with tiny blueish purple flowers. I snip mine so often for recipes that it never has a chance to grow long enough to bloom.

Not all of these have to be in one container. In fact, it would be beneficial to have more than one mosquito garden for your porch/deck. Since rosemary and lavender have similar foliage, I would probably keep them in different containers and use a lemon basil with the rosemary and a sweet basil with the lavender. Snipping your herbs is good for their health and do not have to be used only in recipes. They also make great fillers for cut flower arrangements.

Last are the spillers. Spillers are plants that will grow to hang over the side of the pot. Three good ones for a mosquito garden are oregano, scented geraniums, and lemon thyme. Oregano leaves are tiny and unassuming but add a great scent and pleasing trailing look to your overall container.

Scented geraniums come in different colors and have a citronella scent that is known as one of the best mosquito repellents found in sprays and candles.

For extra protection from those buzzing biters, spray your gathering area with a natural bug spray made with essential oils from these same plants. Spray the furniture, spray the perimeter, spray the tablecloth and umbrella, and even spray some cotton balls to sit inconspicuously around the area.

In a small spray bottle add these essential oils:

5 drops lemongrass

3 drops thyme

2 drops peppermint

2 drops lemon

2 drops oregano

Then fill the bottle with purified water and shake well. Spray as needed.

Herbs grow quickly and need to be snipped on a regular basis for continued growth. When you can't use them fresh, dry them to be used later. Throw some of those dried herbs in your fire pit for an added protection from mosquitos and a heavenly, relaxing outdoor experience! Enjoy.

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