While DEET, an ingredient found in many brands of mosquito repellent, is considered safe for human use, many of us try to avoid using synthetic chemicals in our daily living.
At Stoney Creek Farm, we try to use sustainable methods as much as possible—whether it’s using natural pesticides such as beneficial insects or building our own temporary greenhouse with reusable materials.
And when it comes to trying to keep pesky mosquitoes away, we also try to use natural repellent methods, like citronella and lemon balm, as much as possible!
We’ve put together 6 natural ways to repel mosquitoes:
Common Plants for Insect Repellent:
You probably know about citronella (cymbopogon nardus) from the candles you find at the supermarket.
But did you know you can access these mosquito-repelling qualities directly from the plant? Though the plant itself does not keep mosquitoes away, you can crush the leaves and apply a bit of the oil directly on your skin to help deter mosquitoes naturally.
These plants are perennials in tropical climates, but in places like Tennessee, you’ll need to bring the plant inside during wintertime—but the good news is that citronella will grow well inside, too. If you plant directly into your garden in areas that experience cold temperatures, the plant will function as an annual.
Another great benefit of citronella: it smells great and is easy to grow!
We use citronella on our porch at Stoney Creek Farm, so we can enjoy the outside swings and rockers without being a mosquito meal.
People have had experience with lavender as a natural mosquito repellent—both in essential oil form and the plant itself. Plus, who doesn’t love both the bright color and calming fragrance of this plant?
Lavender has Mediterranean origins, so it prefers really dry soil, lots of sun, and low humidity levels—something that states like Tennessee don’t exactly offer. It does best in zones 5 – 8.
But if you live in the southeast and are up for the challenge, you can check out these great tips for growing lavender!
We use lemon balm here at Stoney Creek Farm, crushing and then rubbing the leaves on our arms and legs while working in the garden or yard.
Lemon balm contains citronellal—an essential oil that contains the same properties as—(can you guess it?)—citronella, offering those same mosquito-repellent benefits.
It’s a perennial that likes well-draining soil and full sun, though it can manage partial shade, too. It will die to the ground during winter but will return once the weather warms up again. And when it grows—it grows! It can easily go crazy spreading throughout your entire garden. If you want to keep it in place, plant it in a container to keep the roots from spreading.
Lemon balm also makes for a great cooking herb and it smells so deliciously-lemony.
The basil plant is also said to have some mosquito-repelling properties, but scientific studies haven’t confirmed this. Either way, this herb is great to cook with and makes for a great addition to your garden!
Basil prefers lots of sun, nutrient-rich soil, plenty of water, and space to spread its roots. You can learn more about growing basil here.
Basil is also a companion plant to tomatoes—I plant it next to tomatoes in my garden to deter bad bugs with its fragrant smell.
Homemade Natural Insect Repellent:
If you love DIY-products, you can also make your own homemade natural insect repellent using essential oils from some of these plants!
Check out this recipe from Attainable Sustainable that uses neem seed oil, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and citronella essential oil.
Store Bought Mosquito Repellents:
If you’re looking for a store-bought brand of mosquito repellent that doesn’t contain DEET, this Repel Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent, which uses lemon eucalyptus oil, has received top marks from Consumer Reports.