There are about a million kinds of basil and new varieties being introduced all the time. Basil is a beautiful fragrant plant that grows easily in most climates. It even tolerates the dry, Texas heat pretty well.
Most people know fresh basil is delicious in pesto, tomato based dishes, and salads but did you also know that it is one of the best ways to keep flies out of your house? Just plant basil next to the doors, use as a foundation planting mixed in with your flowers, or plant in containers. The flies will stay far away.
You can grow basil in containers by your picnic table or on your patio and cut a nice size bunch of it to decorate the blanket with when you go to a remote picnic spot. As an added bonus, mosquitoes don't like it either. Choose your favorite, all the basil that I have tried works equally as well.
2. Bay Leaf
You can grow bay outside in the summer but you will need to bring it indoors during the winter months. You can buy dried bay leaf at the store if you find you are unable to grow it; the dried variety that you put in stews and soups works as well as the fresh for keeping pests away.
You can put one bay leaf in fifty pounds of wheat berries or organic white flour and it will keep the weevils out of it. If you don't happen to buy flour in those quantities you can add a bay leaf to a smaller sized container with similar results. Other items that it will protect are:
Most cereal products will be just fine for months with the bay leaves to protect them. Scatter a few leaves on the pantry shelves to repel moths, roaches, earwigs, and mice. Flies seem to hate the smell of bay leaves, too. Who knew they had such sensitive olfactory nerves?
Lavender smells wonderful and if you have never used lavender buds in cooking you should give it a try. In small amounts it adds a wonderful floral and citrus flavor to baked goods, meats, and even vegetables.
Lavender also repels moths, mosquitoes, and fleas.:
- Hang a bundle of it in your closet or lay a few sprigs of it in with the out of season clothes you are storing.
- Grind it to a powder and sprinkle it on your pet's bedding.
- Grow it in containers on your patio to repel mosquitoes.
- Grow it in your kitchen garden to keep rabbits out of your lettuce and spinach.
Mint, catnip, and pennyroyal planted around the foundation of your house can keep both ants and mice out of your home. Neither of these pests seem to like the smell and all but the most determined will head to a better smelling yard. You can also place shallow bowls of the dried mint leaves in your pantry to discourage mice.
Pennyroyal is also repugnant to fleas, ants, flies, and mosquitoes. Just be careful of it because large amounts of pennyroyal can be toxic to pets and children. You can place dried pennyroyal on your pantry shelves and it will keep ants away.
Just a quick warning about mice. They love anise. Keep anise in jars or it will draw mice to your pantry no matter how much mint you have out! You can use anise to bait live traps with excellent results.
Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs, not only for cooking and grilling but because it has a number of uses medicinally and as a household herb. As it grows it repels mosquitoes. Try planting it around your patio or any area that you use in the evenings to keep the air smelling fresh and the mosquitoes on someone else's property.
Rosemary also repels cats, so planting it around the kids sandbox is a good idea. You can use rosemary springs under the cushions to keep the cats off the furniture but beware - the oils in the rosemary can stain the cushions. Be sure they are the one sided type.
6. Sweet Woodruff
Sweet Woodruff has long been used to deter carpet beetles and moths. Just lay it beneath wool carpets (or other types). It may also deter ants. An added benefit is that it releases a sweet scent when you walk across your rugs.
Tansy is another little known herb that repels flies, ants,fleas, moths, and mice. Its flowers resemble marigolds or yellow Bachelor's Buttons and it makes a great foundation planting. Tansy was traditionally used by churches as a strewing herb in the Middle Ages.
Original, Green, and Frugal
Herbs were the original household cleaners, disinfectants, and bug repellents. They had been used for thousands of years with good results before humankind came up with toxic chemicals in a can. These herbs are not only better for the environment; they actually improve the environment. Herbs continue to work for you when you have finished with them and discarded them to the compost heap. They enrich the soil, add nutrients, and some (like Valerian) attract beneficial earthworms.
Next time you are tempted to reach for the fly spray, reach for the basil instead.