This is the final post in our series “The Challenges of Gardening with Dogs“. This post is not so much about challenges – it’s more of a bonus that there are quite a few plants you can have around your yard that are two-for-one; they are safe for your dogs and can repel insects as well! If you are interested in the previous parts in this series you can find them at the end of this post.
Many of these plants are herbs and not flowers, but one good thing about herbs is that many of them flower as well; in fact, most do. I think the only one that doesn’t on this list is rosemary (correction: rosemary does flower, I don’t know why mine never has!). I love fresh herbs for cooking so that also works for me. Many are also good for dogs, and for our chickens too! Some can be made into teas as well, though I am not a tea drinker so I couldn’t tell you which ones.
Bee Balm – I was surprised to learn through my research that bee balm is an herb, not just a flower like I thought, and a member of the mint family. Not only does bee balm repel mosquitoes, it has other benefits as well. It will attract hummingbirds and butterflies to your yard. It is also known for medicinal uses for dogs including aiding digestion, calming, and as a wound dressing. You can read more about that here if you are interested: “Safely Using Bee Balm for Dogs“
Be sure to do your research before using herbs with your dogs for any of these issues, they must be used in certain ways so you need to be careful.
Other mints can repel mosquitoes as well, and that includes catnip. Catnip, also in the mint family, is said to contain a natural oil that is 10 times stronger than DEET, a chemical in many commercial insect repellents. Don’t forget to give some to your cat too – our Samantha has her own catnip plant and loves it!
Rosemary and thyme are not just two of the herbs mentioned in a popular folk song from the 1960’s (bonus points if you tell us in the comments who the artist was), but they both have insect repellent properties. Rosemary can be simmered in water and made into a spray that may disinfect the air as well as deter bugs. Important! Rosemary is not safe for dogs with seizures, so if your dog is prone to them, you will want to be sure they don’t ingest this plant.
Crushing thyme leaves can keep mosquitoes away. We have a lot of thyme in our yard, though I still want to add some of the lemon variety, for the wonderful citrusy smell.
Speaking of citrusy smells, lemon balm is something I added to our patio this year. Lemon balm is another member of the mint family, and is disliked by mosquitoes, flies, and ants. I was only able to find one plant at our garden center, so next year I’m going to be sure to get some seeds so I can start many more. I love to just rub the leaves and enjoy the smell anyway, and you can see in the photo at the beginning of our post that Luke likes it too!
Lemon balm, like bee balm, is also said to be good for dogs as a digestive aid, for calming, and as a wound dressing. You can even rub the leaves on your dog’s coat to give them a fresh smell!
Oregano and basil are not just good for Italian cooking! Greek oregano is said to be best for bug control, it contains a natural insect repellent called carvacrol.
Basil will repel black flies and other flies. You could hang some in a pot right by your door to deter those pests from coming in the house.
Marigolds have been my favorite flowers my whole life. I even included them in my wedding bouquets when I got married. Their bright colors are so cheerful! They come in many varieties large and small. It’s definitely a bonus that their distinctive scent is disliked by mosquitoes. Just be careful of putting them too close to where you’re sitting, because they are also liked by wasps. In addition, marigolds are said to repel other insects that might harm tomato plants, so planting a few near your tomatoes could be a good idea (I haven’t tried this yet but I plan to!).
Marigolds are inexpensive at most garden centers and easy to start from seed yourself as well. Starting from seed takes longer, I am still waiting for my marigolds to blossom this year.
Go ahead, fill up some pots or garden beds around your favorite sitting areas with these plants! I am working on getting more around our patio and deck. In some cases, leaves need to be crushed to release their effective scents, so I’m also thinking about crushing leaves into a bowl for the tables when we’re sitting outside.
Something else to keep in mind: many of these plants are known to be “invasive”, especially those in the mint family. That means they will take over your gardens if you let them. They spread through their strong roots and some can be difficult to remove! I fought oregano at our previous house (I don’t think all oreganos are invasive, and I’m not sure what variety I had then), so some of these might be better off in pots if you don’t want them to spread. I put the lemon balm in a pot to start with, but I want that one to spread, so I’m going to transplant it into the garden bed before fall.
I haven’t tested this much myself as far as the effectiveness of each of these plants in repelling insects. My theory is “what do I have to lose?”. No matter what, I still get to enjoy the beauty, scents, and other benefits of these wonderful plants, like when I was watching a hummingbird flit around the bee balm outside our window recently. The enjoyment of them comes in multiple ways, and if they keep bugs away as well, that’s a bonus in my book!
Interested in our previous posts? Here are the links to the first 6 parts.
Part 1 – Introduction
Part 2 – Quiz – Do you know what these plants are and if they are safe for your dogs? Even though the prize giveaway is now closed, you can still have fun with this quiz and then find the answers in Part 3.
Part 3 – Quiz answers
Part 4 – Herbs
Part 5 – Levels of Toxicity – Not all plants that are toxic are deadly. Also common toxic and favorite non-toxic flowers.
Part 6 – Is Your Yard & Garden Safe? – There are other dangers besides plants to be aware of around your yard.