I guess if I were a frog or a bat maybe I’d have an appreciation for mosquitoes. But I’m not, and I don’t. Dusk would be my favorite time to be in the garden during the summer if not for mosquitoes. As it is, I try to be finished and in the house around the time the sun goes down or risk being eaten alive by swarms of these nasty pests. But sometimes the work demands another hour of attention and I comply, but not without a bit of precaution.
If you’ve read many other posts here, you know that we minimize the insecticide applications in our yard. So I wanted to touch on some of the ways you can garden even when you know the mosquitoes will be there and ready to suck the life out of you. Here are a few strategies that will help you stay comfortable and productive.
Eliminate standing water in your yard and you will reduce the mosquito breeding habitat. Plant saucers, pails, childrens’ toys and anything else that can hold water should be emptied after rain. Any low ground that holds water, including ponds where fish and other wildlife live, may be treated with Bt israelensis. This is a highly specified strain of biological control that is safe for humans, animals and aquatic wildlife of all kinds (except mosquito larvae). It is usually packaged in granules or pellets that are applied directly to the water.
Dress For Success
Wear long sleeves, long pants, a hat and gloves when gardening in the evening or on overcast days. Especially when it has recently rained. I find that mosquitoes are especially ferocious on these days. If you live in a hot and muggy area (like I do) stick with breathable fabrics like cotton. Treat your clothes with bug repellent, as well as exposed skin.
If you are concerned with the unknowns related to conventional bug repellents you can try botanical-based products. An option may be growing in your yard. Citrus scented plants are all the rage for their mosquito repelling qualities. Unfortunately, just planting them in your yard isn’t enough. For a quick, short term mosquito repellent, grab a handful of foliage, crush it and rub it on exposed skin. A few good choices include (but are not limited to) scented leaf geranium, lemon grass, lemon verbena, citronella, bee balm, mint, and citrus thyme.
Use A Net
Mosquito netting is not just for covering your cot while on safari. Mosquito suits for hunters work just as well for gardeners. Check your favorite outdoor or garden supply store for availability.
Use A Fan
Yeah, that’s right. Run an extension cord to the garden and bring a big electric fan out there. The breeze will keep you cool and keep weak-flying mosquitoes at bay.
I only use bug repellents as a last resort. If you live in an area with a lot of mosquitoes, this may be the only option. Many commercial bug repellents have DEET in them. It’s not organic, homeopathic or “natural,” but it’s the class of the bug repellent industry because it’s the most effective thing on the market. There’s no need to get the super-high concentrations, though. Ten percent DEET is extremely effective when applied as directed. The higher concentration stuff lasts longer, but is not more effective.
Enjoy your garden and don’t let the bugs chase you away.