Herbs have been a natural pesticide for centuries. Sure, you can buy plenty of natural garden pesticides today with a variety of herb oils as their base. But the easiest – and most beautiful – way to harness the power of herbs is to plant them amidst your favorite plants.
Mint isn’t just for tea – it’s great for keeping ants at bay.
Photo Credit: Johnny’s Selected Seeds
Pennyroyal is a wonderful deterrent to ants, aphids, ticks, fleas and cabbage maggots.
Photo Credit: Johnny’s Selected Seeds
If you want to get rid of aphids on roses, plant feverfew nearby.
Photo Credit: ©Pennystone Gardens
Planting herbs with fruits and vegetables can create a beautiful, bountiful and healthy garden.
Photo Credit: Mark A. Miller
How do herbs keep bugs away? Well, various herbs work differently. Some herbs just deter pests with either a repelling scent or taste (or both). Others lure bugs and slugs away from your prized plants. And some operate as beneficial companions to your garden favorites, bringing out the best in your flowers, fruits or vegetables and literally enhancing their scent or flavor.
If you’re in the market for a natural pest repellent, there are many herbs you can try. Generally speaking, herbs emit a scent somewhat like camphor that keeps insects away. Some plants, like basil (Ocimum basilicum) and sage (Salvia officinalis), produce chemicals in their leaves that repel flying insects. (Some gardeners also believe that basil prevents mildew from growing on cucumbers if you plant it nearby your food crop.)
If sugar ants are the culprit of your garden woes, make a point of including tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) in your planting palette. If other ants are an issue, try planting mints (Mentha), southernwood (Artemesia abrotanum) and pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium). You can grow creeping or upright pennyroyal – both sport bright green leaves and exude a strong peppermint scent. This wonderful herb also deters aphids, ticks, fleas and cabbage maggots, and it’s great around broccoli, cabbage and roses.
Herbs with aromatic leaves like hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis), savory (Satureja) and dill (Anethum graveolens) draw insect pests away from your prize plants. (Hyssop roots are also said to purify the surrounding soil.) These herbs are great among cabbage, grapes and carrots.
Other culinary herbs that serve double duty are rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and thyme (Thymus vulgaris). These beauties lure slugs away from beans, carrots and cabbage and they repel cabbage moths, beetles and mosquitoes. (Thyme is also reportedly great for eggplant and tomatoes. A small border of this popular culinary herb can beautify any garden area.)
If you’ve got a problem with aphids on your roses, try planting feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) nearby. Not only does its active ingredient, pyrethrum, attract those little pests, it’s a pretty plant, too! This upright-growing bloomer reaches about 2 feet tall and has small, white, daisy-like flowers with yellow centers – a great accent for many roses!
There are also herbs that work underground through root secretions to bolster their nearby companion plants. Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) works wonders to perk up ailing neighbors. French marigolds (Tagetes patula) exude a substance into the soil that deters nematodes and stops eelworm from recognizing their host plant. Plant these flowers near tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and other plants that fall victim to these pests. (Just don’t use odorless marigolds – bugs don’t shy away from them.) Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are another obliging companion plant. They help prevent scab on apple trees and deter Japanese beetles, as well as keep aphids and black spot off roses.
A variety of aromatic herbs like tarragon (Artemesia dracunculus), lovage (Levisticum officinale), marjoram (Origanum majorana) and thyme are said to strengthen the growth of all nearby vegetables and flowers, so feel free to plant them throughout your garden. And while you’re planting your marigolds next to your tomatoes, add some basil or lemonbalm (Melissa officinalis), too – reportedly said to improve the quality of the fruit.
Finally, to help all your herbs grow healthier, add a hearty helping of yarrow (Achillea) to your garden. Not only does it attract beneficial insects like predatory wasps and lady beetles, the plant is said to increase the production of essential oils in other herbs.
Even if you don’t enjoy all the culinary benefits herbs can bring to the table, you can still savor the additional beauty and health they bring to your entire garden. Not only do herbs add wondrous scents and simple beauty, their mere existence can help your other garden plants reach their full potential!