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5 Tips to Keep the Bugs Away When Gardening

James Whitebugs away when gardening

I hate bugs. Just hate ‘em. Too many legs, too many eyes, too many wings. I hate them.

Did you know that researchers have identified more than a million different types of insects? That’s not all: Scientists estimate that 30 million more bug species haven’t even been classified yet.

Surprised I have all these facts? I know my enemy. I have to. There are probably about 10 quintillion individual insects in the world. In case you’re wondering, that’s 10 followed by 18 zeros.

I do my best to keep bugs out of my house, but I especially can’t stand having them around when I’m gardening. I know, I know … not all bugs are bad for your garden and I wouldn’t have amazing veggies growing without those pollinators. But there are some things you can do to just keep the bugs away when you’re outside gardening.

1. Dress for Success

When I’m working in the garden, I always wear boots, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and a hat. An extreme bug situation calls for clothing that’s been sprayed with peppermint essential oils. You can even buy clothes pre-treated with bug repellent.

Manufacturers add permethrin, which drives off a wide variety of bugs. The Environmental Protection Agency considers this clothing as safe to wear. However, wash it separately from everything else, because some of the permethrin might come off in the laundry.

2. Spray Your Way

Bug spray seems like an obvious and effective choice, but there are so many kinds. Which do you choose?

Repellents that contain DEET are at the top of my list. I know some people worry about side effects, but recent studies don’t find any problems if you follow the application instructions.

A product doesn’t need to be more than 50 percent DEET to keep mosquitoes away. You need at least 20 percent DEET to repel those nasty ticks.

If you’re still leery about DEET, other effective product ingredients are lemon eucalyptus oil, catnip and citronella.

3. Clean Your Scene

Mosquitoes are one of the worst offenders. They’re terrifically annoying, and some carry diseases.

I take steps to make my property an unattractive breeding ground. Mosquitoes love standing water. Even a little is enough for them to lay eggs.

• I don’t leave anything lying around that can hold water. No empty bird feeders, flowerpots, buckets, wheelbarrows, hollow logs or old tires.

• I clear my gutters of decaying leaves and other gunk every spring.

• I level off any low-lying areas that crop up during the winter.

4. Lifesaver Flavor

In terms of annoyance, gnats are not far behind mosquitoes. They’re so tiny, and they get everywhere. Have you ever inhaled one?

I rub a little vanilla extract along the brim of my hat. This seems to help keep them away from my face, at least. No more nose gnats.

5. Vent the Scent

Bugs like strong floral scents, so I never go outside smelling like a piece of fruit or a flower. My soap and shampoo are fragrance-free, and I don’t try to impress insects with cologne anyway.

Same deal for laundry detergent. It doesn’t need to make my clothes smell like a spring bouquet. It just has to get them clean.

I wish bugs would adopt the motto “Live and let live.” Leave me alone, and I won’t bother them. Until they have a change of heart, though, I’m going to go after them with elbow grease and a little ingenuity.