This year you can put herbs to work for you in the garden by planting those which will help you fight insects. This is known as companion planting. Many herbs will actually repel certain insects while others will attract the pollinators.

Still, other herbs can be used as an ingredient to homemade sprays for spraying directly on your vegetables to discourage pests. Garlic is probably the most effective and widely used of this type herb.

planting garlic to repel garden pests

You can buy a pound of garlic bulbs at the grocer and separate into cloves. Plant the cloves around fruit trees to protect against borers, among cabbages to fight cabbage maggot, between berry plants and around bean plants (both bush type and pole).

Leave the garlic in the ground all year and it will multiply and furnish you with healthy seasoning for your meals. I have planted garlic along the fence of the dog kennel to discourage fleas.

Another popular insect repellent is Marigold. Easily grown from seed, this flower is a lovely addition to any garden wherever it is planted. It repels asparagus beetle and will discourage nematodes and aphids.

marigolds as insect repellent

Plant it liberally about the vegetable garden and round fruit trees. The dwarf variety does well in containers and boxes or along borders. Other insect repelling flowers are in the same family; asters cosmos and chrysanthemums.

Companion Planting Attracts Pollinators

As for attracting insects, begin by planting thyme, it will attract bees to your garden, as will borage.

Basil is a companion plant to tomatoes and is easily grown from seed. A dozen basil plants for example, will protect to the three or four dozen tomato plants against pests.

Basil will repel flies, so plant it lavishly about the house outdoors and when harvested, hang it upside down to allow the oils to remain in the lush leaves and you will have a cooking herb.

Mexican bean beetles are a deadly pest to all bean plants. Savory will help keep them under control although it is not as easy to grow and should be started in flats indoors.

mexican bean beetle on leaf
The Mexican bean beetle

Later, as you plant your beans, set out the little savory seedlings throughout the rows. Although it is not as effective as some other herbs for the purpose it does help, and savory is a delight when cooked along with the beans for flavor.

The Mint Family and Others

A wonderful addition to any garden is the mint family. But beware, it can be invasive. All of the mint plants: peppermint, apple mint, lemon or orange mint, spearmint, pennyroyal, are effective as insect repellents.

Insects seem to dislike the minty smell of these lovely plants. They can be planted among your cabbage plants or any vegetable in the cabbage family. Mint is another fly repellent so may be safely planted along the barn or house foundation.

Some other insect repelling herbs are sage, castor beans, coriander, anise, oregano, lavender, and borage. Is it any wonder that herb gardens are so popular?

Not only are these herbs repellents, they have culinary uses as well—all but the castor bean. Beware of this poisonous plant! Although it is a repellent, the seeds or burrs, are highly poisonous. It grows to great heights and is useful for shade in dry climates.

Plants can also be used to attract pests themselves in the garden. When insects collect on these trapping plants to feed, they either die or can be easily caught and removed by the gardener.


The white geranium (Pelargonium) will attract Japanese beetles that are said to die after feeding upon it. Hyssop, when planted near your cabbage in the garden will attract the cabbage worm butterflies. And when planted near grapevines, is said to increase the yields of your grapes.

Nasturtiums attract aphids and squash bugs. Scotch broom also does an excellent job of attracting aphids. You can use these to attract insects away from your vegetable patch.

To make a spray to use in the garden to help fight insects this summer, use 2 cups of water for a base. Harvest any of the insect repelling herbs, particularly garlic, and swoosh through a blender until it is well liquefied.

Strain, and use with a plastic spray bottle for applying to the plants. A little household detergent may be added to help it “cling”. And don’t forget to spray the undersides of leaves where insects like to lay their eggs.

Let Herbs Do the Work for You

I do hope that this year as you plan your garden, you will plant lots of herbs. They are nature’s insect repellent, and will add plenty of color, fragrance and flavor to your daily life.

By putting herbs to work for you, you will reap the rewards of a better harvest, a prettier garden, and can even add them to your pantry shelves at harvest time.