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.
Great post and I’m shopping for all those right now! Not only for the herbal properties but I need the flies gone! And I think people skim read because I didn’t see that anyone answered the bonus question. But I’ll go ahead and say Simon and Garfunkel. Thanks again for helping the four legged critters enjoy the garden without the flying variety bugging them!
Good for you catching that bonus question!! (You’re right, people do skim!). I hope you were able to find all the plants, and that they are working for you and your critters. ♥
Great post. I plan to grow Rosemary and thyme
Shannon Lafountain says
These are excellent tips. I would like to thank you for such informative article.
Monika & Sam says
I can certainly vouch for the efficacy of marigolds keeping garden pests at bay-they work GREAT. Their wizardry, alas, isn’t 100% effective with squirrels who are the biggest threat to veggies in my hood. 😀 The squirrels here are borderline hoodlum gangsters. LOL
Oh no! Our squirrels are not too bad….I never see them in the gardens….maybe because we have so many acorns to keep them entertained. I’m so glad to hear the marigolds work….I will be planting a ton of them next year!
Erin the Cat, Princess says
Excellent post and I have directed some of my equine pals to the Cat Nip one in particular and suggested they grow loads!
Thank you, Erin!!
I have mint and oregano in my garden in the backyard and have no problem with bugs eating the plants.
But have loads of Japanese beetles in the front yard. Think I need to go get some marigolds.
I am definitely planting more marigolds next year!
Our chickens also seem to be taking care of the Japanese beetles though! 🙂
Jodi Stone says
Thanks for sharing these great tips! I went looking at my garden center for some of these plants, but I think I was too late in the season.
Looks like I’ll be breaking my greenhouse out next spring!
I’ll be doing a lot more next year too!
Sam D says
This is an amazing blog post, i wasn’t aware some of these plants i was already growing could be some incredibly useful. Fantastic post!
Thank you, Sam! So glad you enjoyed it!
Ellen Pilch says
Great post, we have most of these plants.
Good for you, Ellen! So you have no bugs, right? Ha ha.
Stephanie Seger says
I am the worst gardener of all time. Living in AZ, keeping anything but citrus and fruit alive is tough. I have had good luck with herbs though, so I will have to try some of these tips. Thank you!
Here it’s tough because our season is so short. This year was especially bad because early summer was cold and wet and nothing grew! Now it’s trying to play catch up. I hope no one ever said that gardening was easy, because it certainly is not! 🙂
All Things Collie says
It’s a little late now, but maybe next Spring we will try some of these!
Bee balm is a favorite of mine. I just wish it liked my yard more. Hopefully some extra watering this year will help it change its mind.
I always thought bee balm was supposed to be really easy, but I had a tough time with it at our previous house too. At our new house, we seem to have more this year than last, so hopefully that’s a good sign.
Erin the Cat, Princess says
What an excellent and informative post! I never knew about catnip being such a powerful insect repeller! And the others too. I shall be planting some of them all from now on.
Who knew catnip was for more than just cats? 🙂
I love these ideas! I had no idea there were so many ways to safely repel bugs. Bear has a history of getting into everything – so I try to be careful. It’s interesting that so many varieties of the mint family are included – and catnip is from the mint family too! Coincidence?
I could not believe how many plants were in the mint family that I did not know! I think there is a lot more to mint than we ever realized. 🙂
Samantha also eats any plants she comes upon, so I have to be very careful with her too.
Cathy Armato says
This is excellent information, thanks so much for sharing! I didn’t know about all of these plants and their ability to repel mosquitos. I grow mint and basil but perhaps not in large enough pots to be good repellents. I can attest to the invasiveness of mint- I’ve been yanking it out around my yard for years, LOL! It’s a great plant though. I planted a Citronella plant this Summer to repel mosquitos. It’s getting huge!
Love & Biscuits,
Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them
I need to add to the quantity of my plants next year as well! I did start some more basil, but it’s kind of late. I’ve never tried citronella, that is definitely a good one. Is it a pretty plant? I might have to add that to the list for next year too.
This is a great list! I am always looking for natural ways to help repel insects, but being able to plant some flowers and herbs that are safe for Hank will be great. We’re big Italian food fans so we will definitely be planting some Basil and Oregano. Yum!
Thank you! There is nothing better than cooking with your own fresh herbs, and it’s such a bonus to know we have plants that can also repel the bugs and are safe for our dogs.
Thank you for sharing! There are so many plants I want to grow after reading this post.
Lynn LaChance says
Oh and yes, while I am not as familiar with all the other plants, the one I know that to me was extremely invasive is the beebalm. While I loved it for the butterflies and hummingbirds, and it’s smell, it became very hard to control, and indeed the roots were crazy hard to dig up. I planted a couple pots of marigolds this year, Jan, and always think of you when I think marigolds! Surprised to hear you think Basil can be hard to grow, That one seems to be the one
I find For Sale the most, And Thought I’ve had it Grow Pretty Well. In the past. Guess I was lucky, and most times it came from your greenhouse!
My basil, which I bought as a plant last year, did quite well. But it always seems to be prone to bugs and diseases for me. This year’s started out slow, though is doing better now.
All the bee balm here is over by the hatchway, and at the edge of the woods, so I’m happy to just let it go in those locations!
Lynn LaChance says
Simon and Garfunkle! Didn’t look at other comments before writing this! Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme….Thx for this informative post!
Good job, Lynn!
GROOVY GOLDENDOODLES says
If I get some and rub them on my body will they stop biting me? LOL
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and I say it’s worth a try! 🙂
Just do a test spot first, you wouldn’t want to rub it all over your body and then have some kind of reaction. LOL
Shadow and Ducky's Mom says
Simon & Garfunkel sang “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme”. I don’t recall if they actually wrote the song as they did with so many of their other hits.
I HAVE TO go up to the nursery and get some of the plants! The bugs out here in the yard drive me up a wall some days! Thanks for this post, my friend!!
Very good on the song! Every time I read comments on this post, I end up with that song in my head again! LOL
I’m so glad to be of help, hopefully this will work for you. Bugs are just SO annoying, aren’t they??
Meagan & Merlin says
Rosemary does flower, they have little purple flowers on them. Merlin likes to rub up against it, so he ends up smelling very strongly of rosemary afterwards.
Oh, Merlin must smell so good, I love it! I don’t know why my rosemary has never flowered; maybe because it needs longer and we have such a short growing season here in the Northeast? Anyway, thank you for letting me know that, I made a correction in the post.
Meagan & Merlin says
No worries hun 😊
Wow, the Bee Balm is going crazy in the meadow behind our house. I’ll have to try to plant some closer to our house. I love how it smells!
I never even realized that it did smell, until I read it was in the mint family, and checked it out! I love it too.
The Island Cats says
Thanks for this! We didn’t know that about catnip. The mom has a pot of it on the patio right now. 🙂
It’s a far more versatile plant than I ever realized it was!
Mary McNeil says
Are you going to Scarborough Fair? – parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme/
Remember me to one who lives there
He once was a true love of mine.
-sung by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. (adapted from a much older song)
Yes, thank you!! I didn’t know about it being adapted from an older song, thanks for sharing that tidbit!
The song was going through my head the whole time I was writing this post! 🙂
Rosemary is a great bush for bees. It can grow huge around here and easily take over a garden. Thymes are wonderfully aromatic and can make fantastic ground covers. I like to plant marigolds with the veggies, just because they’re pretty.
That’s a good idea, and I’m going to plant some marigolds in the veggie garden next year.
I transplanted a bunch of thyme that was here last year, and it didn’t seem to do much. But this year it’s doing quite well.
I love to put rosemary on roasted potatoes, but mine has never done very well when planted from seed, I’m not sure why. Maybe this year it will.
Jackie Bouchard says
I should grow some basil! We eat tons of it! (I have a brown thumb though… Have killed most of my rosemary…)
I think rosemary can be tough to get to grow well, and most of my basil has been challenging too (it seems to be prone to diseases and bugs). It’s also the one spice I probably use the most, so I keep on trying (and it’s SO much better when it’s fresh!).
Brian Frum says
That sure is interesting and we didn’t know any of that, seriously!
Two French Bulldogs says
What great info. Never thought about dog friendly and repelling bugs
Lily & Edward
Mary Hone says
Great info. Al drinks lemon balm tea daily since he had his stress induced TIA. It’s been helping him quite a bit. Better than synthetic drugs.
That is so great, Mary! I’m glad Al has found something to help him that is not drugs.
Mrs Lorna J Griffith says
Thanks so much for all the gardening posts, they are so useful. We have all the herbs in our garden too and they are much loved by Tu-Lei and Angel Sable before. I think they know what is good for them.
I’m so glad you are enjoying them, Lorna! I agree, I think the dogs know what is good for them; Luke and Cricket love it when I add fresh herbs to their food.
I often think I should start a separate gardening (or farm) blog, but I just don’t have the time! So I hope I’m succeeding in tying the two together.
Roby Sweet says
You are creating my dream garden! 🙂
Wish there was something to battle the Japanese Beetles. They came to our area last year and are killing off trees like crazy. Such awful bugs! We have heard about some of these plants being good for repelling other bugs, but we don’t have much bug trouble here, thankfully. the Japanese Beetles are more than enough.
Japanese beetles are tough! I’m just starting to see some now, so we have them but they aren’t out of control (yet). I hope that’s something our guinea hens will take care of!
we have a lot of lemon balm too… sadly the snails ate our basil… is there a plant too what can keep this slimy little buggers away?
I believe snails are related to the slugs that we get. I’ve heard that beer bait is the best way to get rid of them. Of course, I would not trust Luke nor Phenny to not drink that beer! BOL