Controlling the tiny tropical mosquitos becomes a big concern as soon as the rainy season begins.
The first line of defense is to remove any puddles and standing water from your yard, patio, and roof.
Once your space is clean, you are preventing new mosquitos and it’s time to start planting to repel them away.
Herbs do a great job in repelling not only the pesky mosquitoes but flies and ticks too.
Rosemary – This is my favorite to grow in the topics because it’s hearty all year even through the heat and rain. My plants have gotten bigger than I’ve ever seen rosemary before and it’s a delicious cooking herb fresh or dry (http://nikofthyme.com/dry-and-use-garden-herbs/). I have a number of these throughout my home and garden and even keep them on my balcony in containers. Added fact, smelling rosemary is good for your memory you may want to add as many to your house as you can. This plant, called romero in spanish, grows from cuttings and root propagation but is easily found year-round in all the local nurseries.
Oregano – You will find two varieties of oregano here, a smaller ground cover and a much larger bush. Both are potent in smell and good at keeping away pests. You will choose your variety based on space and design. The larger bush is great if you have a big area you want to cover and is used in many local dishes. If you don’t have a lot of space or want to protect an upstairs balcony only the smaller variety grows well in pots. Both varieties will survive the heat and rainy season without issues. These grow best through cutting and root propagation, I do not suggest starting from seed. You won’t have any translation issues with this plant, it is called nearly the same in Spanish orégano.
Basil – This is a favorite because it is so versatile and easy to grow. You can find basil plants in all local nurseries so when your flowers and goes to seed or gets flooded during the heavy rains, it is cheap and easy to replace. If you are eating the plant just snip off any early flowers you get to keep the flavor sweet. Basil grows best in the dry months but you can keep it in containers and move it under cover during the rainy months. Honestly, what’s better than a plant that makes pesto while also keeping away pesky insects? The only downside to basil is its short life span, but eat up and it will be worth your investment. You can start basil plants, known locally as albahaca, from seed any month from November through April or find it in any nursery.
Lemongrass – Another year-round rockstar and the culinary herb is lemongrass. When grown in the garden it can be used as a decorative border without anyone knowing it’s actually your bug spray. Not only does it work outside, but you can also trim off the growth low to the ground, open the steam, crush the softcore and rub the flavorful oil on your wrists to take the mosquito repelling properties with you. It won’t grow too big (about 2 feet tall) but will continuously expand meaning you can cover a lot of space with it or start giving it away to friends. Lastly, it makes a great tea both fresh and when dried (http://nikofthyme.com/lemongrass-tea-uses-and-benefits/) and can be added to soups, making it the best nondescript plant you could ever have in your garden. Plus if you aren’t a green thumb this grass doesn’t care, it will grow with just a bit of water and no help. Lemongrass known as zacate lemon is in many nurseries but not all, if you are having a hard time finding a plant maybe you can beg one from me when mine gets too big.
Mint – This herb will readily expand but will always keep away bugs very well. I like to use it under trees or in containers because of how good it is at taking over space. It’s a smell you will probably also enjoy having around as it helps boost the mood and when drunk will calm the nerves and stomach. If you are new to the local food a mint tea may be exactly what you need at night. The secondary benefit of this plant is that because it’s a creepy crawler it grows both in sun and shade and won’t be too easy for you to kill. Unless you literally never water it. This can be propagated from a root or found at any nursery and you will find it called hierba buena.
Marigolds – The only flower I have met that is good for everything. It will help your soil be healthier while attracting bees and keeping away unpleasant insects. It isn’t the easiest to grow in the Yucatan but it is possible. They usually show up at local nurseries after the rainy season as they grow best in dry and warm but not scorching hot. If you let the flowers self-seed the plant will come back year after year in the area you first plant them. It’s best to plant many the first year around 5-10 but if you have space for more that would be great. You can aid self-seeding by sniping off dry blooms and spreading them directly onto the ground. You can also start Mexican marigolds called cempaspuchitl from seed in November.
Thyme – This one is slightly more delicate to grow but you will find it year round in the nurseries. I’ve found container growing to be the best as it allows for quick drainage. I also use the plant often in my cooking to help stimulate new growth. It’s most susceptible to over watering and should be protected during the rainy season but it makes a great patio container plant. You will find the plant under the name tomillo.
If you have any specific questions about the plants above don’t hesitate to write me or visit the gardening section on NikofThyme.com for more tips and tricks.
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