Recently my youngest brother left for college in Vermont, and my parents’ flew out there with him to send him off. My parents came back without my brother, but with a bunch of itchy mosquito bites.
Photo by loveberry
Here in Southern California, we don’t have very much standing water for mosquitoes to breed in, and the state sprays insecticide a lot because we have such a huge agricultural economy. But I know that in many areas, there are mosquitoes galore this time of year. Luckily, this is a problem you can grow your way out of.
Lemon Balm is a natural mosquito reppellant. It has a very high level of a compound called citronellal in its leaves. Citronella–which is used in many commercial mosquito reppellants–is the essential oil version of citronellal. Some varieties of lemon balm are up to 38 percent citronellal! You can buy seeds of one such variety from Johnny’s Seeds: Lemon Balm ‘Quedlinburger Niederliegende.’
If you don’t want to carry a Lemon Balm plant around with you at all times, simply pinch off a few leaves, crush them in your hand and rub them over your skin. You’ll have a wonderful lemony smell that mosquitoes can’t stand.
Quedlinburger Niederliegende is hardy to zone 4 and prefers afternoon shade. It is somewhat drought tolerant and prefers soil that is one the dry side of moist. Feel free to pinch off leaves regularly as doing so will only encourage more growth.
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