May 17th, 2011

Debunking a Pest-Control Myth

dougWill planting onions, garlic, sage, and marigolds in a vegetable garden keep insect pests away? That’s a question I was asked by a gardener at the Rodale Institute’s spring plant sale on Saturday. I had joined John Torgrimson, the executive director of Seed Savers Exchange, for the question-and-answer session. Our audience had lots of good questions, many from gardeners who were interested in learning the basics.

The questioner had seen books and magazine articles by authors who stated that certain strong-smelling plants, including herbs and onion relatives, repel insects from a garden. I’ve heard the same claims, but my experience doesn’t back them up. While the garlic, herbs, and marigolds may remain pest-free, other plants just inches away may be riddled with insect damage. The repellent qualities don’t extend beyond the pungent plants themselves.

But whip up some garlic and marigolds in a blender, strain the liquid into a sprayer, add a drop of dish soap to make the solution stick, and you can spread the repellent qualities of those plants throughout the garden.  —Doug Hall

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Comments

    What a great tip. I’ve tried over the years planting all those things in the garden to keep the pests at bay to have no luck. I’ll definitely try whipping up this spray!

    Are you saying that you have tried this, (garlic, marigolds blended, strained, drop dish soap) and it works as a repellent, or are you just suggesting it for those who want to give it a try?
    Thank you,
    Diane

    I’m wondering how much marigold & garlic it will take to make up even a small amount of liquid when blended? Is there a liquid that could be added to make it go farther – may something else with repellent qualities? Thanks.

    It does indeed work. The better repellent properties of the plant, the better. There are several capsaicin (the stuff that makes peppers hot) based recipes out there there are cheap and simple to make oneself. Do your research and find out what works best for you depending on what you have available.
    We happen to have pawpaws (asimina triloba) growing in the woodlands on our property. The properties of this plant are still being researched and range from anti-tumor to organic insect repellent. I make a tea out of the leaves and bark and it works quite well. Most of these organic pesticides are water soluble, however, which is a double edged sword. Great to know that a little rinse washes them away when you want to eat them, but it needs frequent re-application in the garden.

    Will this also repel rabbits, squirrels, and rats? Or just bugs.

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