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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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