Repel Pests With Plants

The seed magazines have been coming in for the last couple of weeks, signaling me to get ready. This is the most exciting and anxious time of year. I feel like it’s the beginning of the growing season: like I am running out of time already. What a weird time of year, right?

If you have the same feeling I do, I feel bad for you. I guess my first worry is that the seeds I want to buy are almost sold out or are sold out. I do save most of my own seeds, but I still like to buy heirloom seeds I haven’t tried before. Experimentation is the only way to find the best flowers, fruits, and vegetables.

I am going to try and focus on pest control via plants. I had really good success last year using mums and dill as pest management. I used okra as a catch crop for aphids and that worked great. I just didn’t grow enough of these plants, and I want to grow other plants to make the lives of these pests miserable!

Last summer I protected my tomato plants by planting basil, mums, and cayenne around them. I literally interplanted in this clock pattern: 12:00 cayenne, 6:00 cayenne, 3:00 mum, 9:00 mum, and a tomato at the center with a basil plant. Yes, it seemed like I had an army surrounding my tomatoes, but I did not find one aphid or tomato worm on any of my tomato plants.

I may have gotten lucky, but I have never been that lucky before. The only problem I noticed was blossom end rot. I quickly cured this by pulling any suspect tomatoes and working in a handful of crushed oyster shells at the base of each plant.

This was a nice setup because I had everything I needed for tomato sauce in one place. What a delicious way to keep the pests off the tomato plants. Next year, I will have to plant my garlic and onions closer and make it even easier to make my tomato sauce.

I have a ton of faith in interplanting to control bugs. These are a few plants I want to use and what they will repel.

Plants that Repel Pests

Basil- Repels flies, mosquitoes, carrot fly and white flies.
Borage- Repels tomato hornworm and cabbage worms.
Chamomile- Repels flies, mosquitoes, carrot fly.
Chives- Repels carrot fly, aphids and Japanese beetles.
Cilantro- Repels aphids, potato beetles and spider mites.
Cosmos- Repels Corn earworm.
Dill- Repels aphids, squash bugs, spider mites, cabbage looper and small white.
Fennel- Repels aphids, slugs and snails.
Garlic- Repels root maggots, cabbage looper, peach tree borer and rabbits.
Geraniums- Repels corn earworm and small white.
Hyssop- Repels cabbage looper and small white.
Lavender- Repels moths, fleas, mosquitos and flies.
Lemon balm- Repels mosquitoes.
Parsley- Repels asparagus beetles.
Peppermint- Repels aphids, cabbage looper, flea beetles, squash bugs, winter flies and small white.
Radish- Repels cabbage maggot and cucumber beetles.
Tansy- Repels ants, beetles, flies, squash bugs, cutworms, whiteflies, tomato hornworm and small white.
Thyme- Repels cabbage moth and white flies.
Tobacco- Repels carrot fly and flea beetles.
Tomato- Repels asparagus beetles.

More companion planting information here:

Grow Pest Repelling Plants

Buying all these plants can become very expensive. Many people may use pesticides because it’s easier and cheaper. Pesticides are never cheaper; have you ever heard the statement “Pay the doctor or pay the farmer.” Well, I will pay myself and plant the seed. The best way to get all the plants you need is to grow them from seed.

I know this can seem overwhelming, but take it one step at a time. Make a list of your vegetables and fruit plants you want to grow. Then I follow these steps:

1. I write the name of the plant in my journal.
2. Beneath it, I write the pests this plant attracts.
3. I look at the list above and write down the plants that repel the pests.
4. Then, I write down the heights of each plant, so I can place them according to the sun.
5. Finally, I draw the placement of the pants according to the ones I will use.

I know this may seem like a lot of work, but you will only really have to do this once. Then, year after year, you can go to your planting journal as a refresher. This is an example of what I do:

Repel Pests With Plants 02

Plant: Sweet Pepper
Pests: Aphids, Beet Armyworm, Potato Beetle, Flea Beetles, Leafminers, Spider Mites, Corn Earworm
Repelling plants: Chives, Cilantro, Dill, Fennel, Peppermint, Lavender, Tobacco, Cosmos
Notes: Birds will take care of the insects that the companion plants can’t repel.

I don’t have to use every one of the Repelling plants, but I will use the ones I want. The more you plant, the better the chance they will repel the pests. Some plants will have different growing times and habits, so take them all into consideration and keep notes on everything.

The biggest mistakes I ever made usually revolved around not keeping growing notes and dates. So, as I got older and wiser, (depending on who you ask) I found out that taking the time to write it down actually saves time on future mistakes.

Just because you have this list doesn’t mean you have to stick by it. I don’t like rules and I always find things that work for me even though they shouldn’t, so I use this as a guide and experiment. Grow the same plants in different ways while taking notes on what works and what won’t.

The last suggestion I have is to put a bird bath in the middle of your garden and build a bunch of bird houses. Build your own bird houses and put them every 10’. You can find free plans online and make different houses to attract different birds. My pest problems have been significantly reduced ever since I made my food forest bird friendly!

Wrens eat pests:


    1. Hello Ines,
      I would encourage snakes like black rat snakes and hopefully owls and other birds of prey. Building a natural cycle should work best or figure out what they eat and take care of that situation.

      If that isn’t possible cats and rat traps should help.

      I hope this helps, Rich

    1. Hello Kirsty,
      I’m so glad this article is giving you ideas. Permaculture is all about sharing ideas and I’m tankful to Permaculture News for giving us a platform to share ideas!

      Have a great planting season, Rich

  1. I hate picking squash bugs. Last year my lettuce went to seed right around one of the zucchini, and it didn’t get infested. Whether it was the lettuce or just a mat of tall plants around the goal, I have no idea. Something to test.

  2. Hi, does “small white” have a scientific name? I have no idea what pest you’re referring to, and it’s utterly ungoogleable.

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