Baseball, apple pie and mosquitoes -- all of these things are synonymous with our American way of life.
Since we spend more and more of our free time relaxing outdoors, these pesky creatures can make life extremely uncomfortable and in some cases, dangerous. Mosquitoes can be more than just a menace; they can carry diseases such as Malaria and West Nile Virus, just to name a few. West Nile Virus has been a menace for the past few years and its presence has been spreading yearly. As you can see, controlling mosquitoes in your yard can be both beneficial for your sanity as well as your health.
Before we talk about ways to help control these pests, here are a few mosquito facts. Mosquitoes have four stages of development: the egg, larva, pupa and adult. Their larva and pupa stages are spent in water. When the adult mosquitoes emerge into the adult stage, the first thing they want is your blood. Keep in mind that only the female will bite. The blood supplies the mosquito with the protein they need for the development of her eggs. The cycle then begins all over again. You can see that if this continuous cycle were allowed to go unchecked, you would be in for a miserable summer.
This year will probably be a bad year for infestation because of the heavy rains we have had the past couple of months. There is plenty of standing water for these critters to breed in.
There are, however, many steps you can take to help control these pesky critters. The first thing you need to do is walk around your property and try to remove any old tin cans, containers and old tires. Clean your gutters so they are not clogged and hold standing water. If you have an ornamental pond, stock it with fish. If you have birdbaths and fountains, change the water twice a week to keep the water from getting stagnant.
There are also other steps you can take to control the infestations such as spraying the perimeter of your yard with a designated mosquito spray. These sprays can be purchased at most retail garden centers and come in sprayer containers that can be attached to your hose. Use and follow label directions carefully!
If you don't like to use insecticides, there are a number of natural ways you can utilize to make your outdoor activities more enjoyable. One that works really well for me is a combination of lining the perimeter of your recreation area with garden torches. Not only are they functional, but they also add a great atmosphere to your evening entertaining. Another great idea is to use your chiminea. Lighting a fire is not just for wintertime. The smoke from the fire is a natural deterrent to mosquitoes and it also adds a warm feeling to your outdoor palace.
There is yet another way to help deter the pesky critters. You can line your outdoor area with Citronella Geranium plants. These plants are an annual that can grow to be as large as 2 feet. The plant has a distinctive citronella scent. The scent is readily released when you rub or crush the leaves of the plant. It has been said that the plant can deter mosquitoes, but I have not been able to actually prove it. Since the plants are attractive, it is worth trying.
The plants are easy to care for, so plant in full sun and in an area where it will get good air circulation. The plants require a steady source of a good fertilizer to keep the leaves from turning yellow. The plant can also be grown indoors in a container providing you have a good light source. The plant is also known as the "Mosquito plant." The plant is in the geranium family, as you will see by the leaf structure. The plant is often hard to find so you may have to shop around or try ordering them online.
Joe Zelenak has more than 30 years experience in gardening and landscape. Send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his Web site www.hometowngarden.com.