Pest Be Gone Herb Garden July 10 2017
This is a re-print from the Herb Blurb Column I am writing in Equine Wellness Magazine, one of the largest publications in North America focused on natural and alternative therapies for horses. This is from their July/Aug 2017 issue. https://equinewellnessmagazine.com/
At some point every equestrian has used fly masks, fly sheets, fly sprays, and maybe even fly predators in order to mitigate the summertime insect infestation. Even so, most people just accept that with horses come flies and other annoying pests. However, what about a different tactic? What about planting herbs around the barn to repel those pesky insects?
Some of the most popular, easy to grow, aesthetically pleasing plants make wonderful insect repellants too- so while you’re working on your barn beautification project, know that you’re also protecting your four and two legged friends alike.
There is definitely a reason why so many of our natural fly sprays include many of the herbs below, such as the Total Horse Protection Spray, the Peppermint Summer Protection, and the Pure and Simple Original and Plus Sprays!!
How does it work?
It’s all that odor! Thankfully however, most of us find the strong odors of these herbs very pleasant, while insects find them repulsive. In addition to planting them around the barn, also consider crushing leaves to release the oils and placing in bowls around the barn, and making some herbs into a smudge and carrying around the smoldering bunch of leaves around barn to further ward off insects.
Here is a list of our favorite insect repelling plants, some tips on how to grow and maximize their benefits for you and your horses:
Lavender: With it’s highly coveted scent used in perfumes and calming tinctures, lavender is a popular flower among humans and horses alike. Flies and fleas, however, not so much. Both these insects find the scent of lavender repulsive. Plant these beautiful purple-blue flowers in a sunny area around the barn with well drained soil.
Peppermint: We all love a little mint in our lives- whether in our tea or elsewhere, but did you know that peppermint oil repels adult flies, and also kills fly larvae and eggs? Peppermint loves lots of water and sunshine, spreads rapidly, and is most effective when leaves are crushed and placed around barn to release the maximum scent. An added bonus- you can add peppermint leaves to your horse’s feed to help with stomach upset.
Catnip: Yes, Catnip. Catnip contains Nepetalactone, which has been shown in past studies to be nearly as effective as DEET in deterring mosquitoes (and also what drives cats nuts!). Part of the mint family, Catnip also has beneficial digestive properties, and grows well in poor soil and full sun.
Rue: Crush up the leaves of your Rue, and you have a very effective fly repellant. Rue makes a very good companion plant for vegetable gardens because its strong smell not only repels flies, but beetles, ticks, and other insects, as well as dogs and cats. Rue can grow very tall, likes well-drained, rocky soil, full sun, and little water. However, please use caution as Rue can cause irritations or skin rashes.
Marigolds: Have you ever heard of pyrethrum? Well, it’s a common ingredient in many equine fly repellants, and actually comes from the flowers of Marigolds. In addition to deterring flies, marigolds make a cheery sight around the barn, attract bees, and can also be used for topical wound care. These flowers prefer sunny areas with fertile soil.
Wormwood: Wormwood is effective at repelling intestinal worms, ticks, moths, earwigs, mice, flies and slugs. It is best known for its use in Absinthe, but also contains compounds known to deter internal parasites. Plant in a sunny location with well-drained soil, and be careful not to over-water.
Sage & Rosemary: Two of the most popular cooking herbs, grow these two around the barn not only to liven up your meals, but also to diffuse their pungent smell that is a common ingredient in natural fly sprays. Additionally, consider bunching sage or rosemary, and burning to create a smudge, which repels insects. Both these herbs prefer sunny areas with well drained soils.
Lemon Thyme- Lemon Thyme is a beautiful plant with citrus scented leaves and pale pink flowers. Lemon Thyme contains citronella, which Mosquitoes and other insects find repulsive. This herb can also be used in cooking and an effective digestive aid, but will also make a lovely addition to your barn garden. Plant in full sun with well-drained soil.
Happy Planting and Insect-Repelling!