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Flies are relatively harmless, but they can be quite annoying. We will show you some plants that can deter flies from your house.
Flies can be extremely annoying, regardless if it is the really big blue bottles or just some tiny fruit flies. One has to wonder sometimes if flies can sense when they can bother us the most. Flies are, in principle, pesky rather than harmful or dangerous, but the thought of where the fly might have sat before it landed on your arm or snacks, can be a little unsavoury.
Flies have an excellent sense of smell. This means that there are certain scents that are unpleasant to them. The essential oils of certain plants often have a deterrent effect on them. In this article, we have listed some plants that keep flies away.
Trees that repel flies
Have you ever noticed that walnut trees (Juglans regia) are often planted around seating areas in parks? And that it is also common to plant walnuts on farms? The reason for that is simple: the essential oils of the walnut tree keep insects such as flies, bugs or moths away. The next time you are standing under a walnut tree, you should pay attention to how many insects are buzzing around – there won’t be many. Walnut leaves emit fly-repellent substances; if you crush the leaves a little and rub them on your arms, mosquitoes and flies won’t bother you for a while.
Chestnut trees (Castanea) also belong to the fly-repelling plants. To be more precise: the chestnut’s fruits are effective at keeping fruit flies away and can therefore be used in the kitchen. For this reason, if you see some shiny chestnuts lying on the ground during a walk in autumn, take some of them home with you. Place them into your fruit bowl and you will be amazed at the result – the fruit flies will avoid the bowl. You can also put chestnuts next to your biodegradable waste to keep the flies away from there as well. For more information on fruit flies and how to get rid of them, you can read this article.
Herbs against flies
Garden nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) can be easily recognised by its round leaves and bright orange flowers. It is an extremely robust plant that grows quickly, even when cultivated in a shady place. The nasturtium is a real allrounder, as it doesn’t only repel flies with its scent but also snails. In this article, you can find more snail-deterrent plants for your garden.
When we talk about flies in this article, we are also including several different mosquitoes. These small insects are best kept away with lemony scents. Herbs such as lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora) or lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) fall into this category. These fragrant herbs are both suitable to make refreshing teas, to season various dishes or to repel flies.
Aromatic mint plants are also among the herbs that can be helpful against flies. They can also be used in teas and many different dishes. Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is particularly effective as it does not only repel flies, but also mosquitoes. But don’t be surprised if you get some feline visitors in your garden. Cats cannot be deterred with catnip – quite the contrary, they are attracted to the herb as if by magic. These furry animals love to roll around in the plant and nibble on it. After all, catnip didn’t get its name by chance.
Read here to learn more about the most refreshing mint varieties you can grow in your garden.
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)can also be used to ward off flies. It can easily be kept in a small pot on your windowsill where it can emit it’s refreshing scent, thus, keeping away any annoying insects. However, the typical peppermint aroma is only released when the plant is injured. Therefore, you should pluck off some leaves and rub them between your fingers from time to time. Dried peppermint shoots on the windowsill are also great for repelling flies.
Lavender (Lavandula) is not only calming and has a pleasant scent, but it is also helpful for repelling flies. Its wonderful purple flowers attract bees and butterflies, while successfully keeping flies away. The lavender’s essential oils are the reason for that. However, you should always make sure that your plant is placed in a sunny spot with protection from the wind. Lavender can also be kept on the windowsill where it also wards off insects.
Among the Mediterranean herbs, there are also many plants that deter flies. Basil (Ocimum basilicum) for example, is not only supposed to keep flies and mosquitoes away but can also ward off wasps. However, basil is very particular when it comes to its demands for water. On the one hand, the plant must not get too wet, but on the other hand, basil does not tolerate dryness well either. Other than that, a dry and sunny place is all a basil plant needs in order to grow well. To benefit from the plant’s fly-repelling properties, place it in a pot on your windowsill or balcony and the pesky insects will leave you alone.
You can find detailed instructions on how to plant herbs here.
Ornamental plants that deter flies
Geraniums (Pelargonium) with their colourful flowers are a classic plant for the balcony. Watering them regularly and placing them in a sunny spot is often enough for the plants to bloom in a variety of gorgeous colours. The geraniums’ scent deters many insects, including flies. If you would like to know how to plant geraniums, read here.
Another plant that deters flies very effectively is the marigold (Tagetes). Its yellow to orange flowers are a stunning addition to every garden bed and will keep many insects away with their scent. Unfortunately, though, marigolds attract snails. But you can turn this attribute into something positive! You can attract all the snails to this one plant and thus protect the rest of your garden. From this point of view, marigolds have two benefits: these plants deter flies and other insects and attract snails at the same time.
The tansy’s (Tanacetum vulgare) yellow umbellifers often grow at the wayside. Even though the plant is nice to look at, its scent has a repellent effect on many insects. So, to keep the irritating flies away, you could put a bouquet of tansies in your living room. Calendulas (confusingly also sometimes referred to as marigolds; Calendula officinalis) have a similar effect. If put together in a vase with marigolds (Tagetes), you can double their fly-deterring effect. In the garden, the plant is not only great for keeping away flies but also to attract bees, bumblebees and other pollinators. It is also commonly used as a medicinal herb for wounds or dry skin.
If you are looking for other bee-friendly plants to grow in your garden, read here.
Carnivorous plants against flies
Another type of plant that can help get rid of small, annoying flies are carnivorous plants. They don’t scare them off, but simply eat them. Carnivorous plants can work in different ways: with hinged traps, pitfalls or sticky traps. They can usually only kill smaller mosquitoes but not the bigger houseflies. Nevertheless, many people are fascinated by carnivorous plants, which we totally get.
One of the most popular carnivorous plants is the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula), which catches its prey with the help of a folding mechanism. Its trap lobes can catch insects, such as flies or ants, by snapping shut very quickly when triggered. This is why the Venus fly trap is particularly suitable if you are having problems with larger types of mosquitoes: when the prey sits on the lobe, the trap closes and catches the mosquito. The insect is then digested by the plant.
Unfortunately, the plant can only ever catch one mosquito per trap and is therefore not suitable to combat a whole plague of insects. After a maximum of seven catches, the individual trap lobes of the Venus flytrap die off. Another problem is that the plant’s prey cannot be larger than a third of the size of the lobe. If the insect is bigger, digestion takes too long, and the plant will die from a surplus of nutrients.
Tropical pitcher plants (Nepenthes) are another kind of carnivorous plant which catch their prey with traps. There are about 100 different Nepenthes species which all form “pitchers” that insects fall into. Those pitchers contain acidic fluid which decomposes the prey and provides the plant with nutrients.
Sundews (Drosera) demonstrate the third way in which carnivorous plants can catch their prey and help us get rid of annoying insects. They use a slightly different system to capture their prey: the leaves are covered in adhesive glands on which the prey gets stuck.
All of these carnivorous plants are therefore both practical and also beautiful ornamental plants.
Vegetables that keep flies away
Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) are a staple in most gardens. Not only are they delicious, but their scent also repels various insects, including flies. Mosquitoes are also not fond of tomatoes and are deterred by the plants’ aroma.
Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) also repel flies with their intense scent. These legumes are great for our digestion and can be cultivated either in the garden bed or in a pot.
Fly-repelling plants at one glance
We have summarised all the plants that keep flies away for you here:
- Garden nasturtium
- Lemon balm, lemon verbena, lemon grass
- Mint, peppermint
- Carnivorous plants
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Hyssop is a low-maintenance and robust herb. It also has deterring effects on some pests, which makes it a practical must for every garden.
Hyssop, which bears the botanical name Hyssopus officinalis, belongs to the mint family (Lamiaceae). This family includes many popular herbs, such as rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) or thyme (Thymus officinalis). A total of six species belong to the genus Hyssopus. Most of the hyssop species are native to Russia.
Since the hyssop is partially woody in growth, it is a semi-shrub. Therefore, it should be pruned regularly so that it retains its shape. Other than that, this herb is extremely easy to care for and, thanks to its intense aroma, it even repels some garden pests. This is why hyssop proves to be a suitable plant neighbour of other plant species, that are more susceptible to pest infestations. What is more, hyssop blooms in gorgeous blue to violet flowers, which add to its decorative value. The flowering period of hyssop is also extremely long and lasts from June to September.
Growing hyssop: in a garden bed or in a pot?
Hyssop prefers a sunny location on permeable and, if possible, calcareous soil with a good amount of nutrients. It is not recommended to grow hyssop in open areas with strong winds. Before planting this herb, heavy soils should be loosened up with sand to avoid waterlogging. Of course, hyssop can also be cultivated in pots or containers on the terrace or balcony. Always choose a slightly larger pot: smaller pots can quickly become too narrow for this fast-growing herb.
There are several ways to propagate hyssop easily and quickly:
Growing hyssop from seeds
In order to prevent the small seedlings from freezing to death, it is advised to sow hyssop out in the open from the beginning of May onwards. It is also possible to start the young plants from seeds indoors on the windowsill. If the seeds are sown in a seed tray from mid-May, more vigorous young plants can be planted out after the Ice Saints in mid-May.
Propagating hyssop with cuttings
In spring or summer, young shoots of about 5 cm length can be cut off from the mother plant and then placed in special substrate for cutting propagation. It is advantageous if no flowers or flower buds have yet formed, as this costs unnecessary energy and makes rooting of the cuttings more difficult. For the time when the cuttings have not yet taken root, they should be kept in a place with increased humidity – for example in a propagator with a plastic cover.
Propagating hyssop by layering
Since hyssop is a half-shrub, it is not possible to propagate it by division. However, another option for hyssop propagation is the so-called layering. To do this, bend down relatively strong but flexible shoots of the plant and fix them in the ground, for example with a wire. The tip of the shoot should protrude vertically from the ground and soil should be piled up at the point of bending. Roots can then form on the shoot at the point where it is tied down and the newly formed hyssop can be replanted in any place after it has been separated from the mother plant.
Watering and fertilising hyssop
Hyssop plants can even cope with a dry place in the alpine garden. If it is grown in a normal garden bed, it is therefore not necessary to water it. If it is grown in a pot, however, occasional watering is required from time to time. Keep in mind that waterlogging should be avoided at all costs in order not to provoke an infestation with the life-threatening root rot.
Hyssop is truly a low-maintenance plant and that applies even to its nutrient needs. It is sufficient to fertilise your hyssop plant just once a year.
Hyssop is a half-shrub which means that it is partially woody. In order to prevent the plant from losing its shape and the shoots becoming sparse and bare, annual pruning is recommended. The plant can be shortened to a height of 10 cm. However, do not cut into the hard and wooden parts of the plant because the hyssop can no longer sprout from there. Pruning can be done in autumn, but it is even better to do it in spring before new shoots appear. In this way, there is no risk of the winter frost penetrating the vulnerable parts of the plant and possibly causing them to die.
Regardless of whether the hyssop is cut in autumn or only in spring, it should be covered to protect it from winter. The half-shrub is relatively hardy, but long and severe frosts can still have a negative impact on its wellbeing and growth.
Harvesting and storing hyssop
As such, hyssop can be harvested continuously, provided that fresh shoots and leaves are on the plant. However, as with so many other herbs, the herb is most aromatic when harvested just before the long flowering period from June to September. You can pluck off either the leaves or harvest the entire shoots of hyssop.
When it comes to the aroma of hyssop, it remains the strongest if the leaves are used fresh right after harvest. Of course, the harvested hyssop can also be stored and used later, too. Here are some tips on how to store hyssop:
If hyssop is dried at room temperature in a dry place, it can be used as a dried spice for several months. There are two ways to do this. Either whole shoots are harvested or individual leaves are plucked. While the whole shoots can be hung up, the hyssop leaves should be spread out on a towel to dry. It is important to note that there will be a slight loss of aroma as a result of the drying process, though.
Another option is to simply freeze the leaves of hyssop. In this way, the herb is available in a more or less harvest-fresh state and without any significant loss of aroma intensity.
Like almost all Mediterranean herbs, hyssop can also be preserved in oil or vinegar. The shoots must be completely coated in liquid so that the harvested parts of the plant do not start to mould. After about two weeks, the oil or vinegar will have absorbed the hyssop aroma. Then, they can be used in various ways in the kitchen, for example as a spicy tarragon oil or vinegar for cooking, marinating or as salad dressing.
Hyssop: uses and benefits
What are the best ways to use this spicy herb, which unfortunately finds its way to our gardens all too rarely? Because of its strong aroma with a slightly bitter note, hyssop is great to use in sauces, salads and various meat dishes. The beautiful flowers of the hyssop are also edible and make a stylish addition to your plate. There is a pleasant side effect of hyssop consumption too: just like the closely related sage, hyssop has a soothing effect on inflammation. It is also said to have a calming effect on sensitive areas of the stomach and the intestinal tract. Although hyssop has long been used as a medicinal plant, it is not anymore, as it can trigger cramps (when consumed in higher doses).
Hyssop has one other special property, which makes it a great plant to grow in the garden bed. It can be used as a natural pesticide. Its intense smell and high content of its specific components have a deterring effect on some pests such as caterpillars, snails or aphids. If other plants are susceptible to these pests, it can sometimes help to plant a hyssop in a close proximity to them.
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Herbs are essential for every home cooked meal. Find out here how to successfully plant herbs on the windowsill, on the balcony and in the garden bed.
Cultivation of herbs has become a real trend. This is no surprise at all, because herbs have a lot to offer. They add spice to life and should not be missing in any garden. Herbs can be easily grown in a pot or on a windowsill, even if you don’t have that much space available. In the following, you can find out which herbs should be grown in the bed and which are suited for pots. In addition, we provide all the information on how to plant herbs.
Planting herbs: step-by-step instructions
Most herbs can be cultivated both in the pot as well as in the garden bed. However, your approach to herb care should be a little different depending on where the plant grows. For example, potted herbs need to be watered more often because their root balls tend to be a lot smaller. Herbs planted out in the garden bed, on the other hand, need to be grown in the right location and overwintered well. Moreover, garden beds need to be weeded regularly, which takes up a significant amount of time. If your goal is to achieve a harvest as quickly as possible, it is better to buy young plants instead of growing the plants from seeds. Young plants that have been recently purchased should be replanted as soon as possible.
How to plant herbs:
- Loosen the ground with a suitable substrate
- Dig a hole that is deep enough for planting (the base should be at ground level after watering)
- Remove the plant from the pot and place it in the hole
- Fill with fine soil
- Water the plant immediately
Selecting the herbs
Herbs can be roughly divided into annual and perennial plants. However, each herb has specific requirements regarding its location. Here is an overview of what needs to be considered when planting the individual herbs and which species go together particularly well.
Botanically speaking, plants are considered annual if they reproduce only once in a growing season and die at the end of it. However, in some regions, plants are also considered annual for their lack of winter hardiness, because they were bred specifically for high yields (which in turn decreased their robustness). Dill (Anethum graveolens), chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), coriander (Coriandrum sativum), borage (Borago officinalis) and nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) are all considered annual herbs.
A basic rule to follow when planting herbs is that annual and perennial herbs should not be planted together. This actually makes perfect sense from a gardening perspective, as many short-lived species prefer an annual change of location. However, it is more important to reflect on whether a side by side cultivation is possible and also reasonable. Possible risks of increased susceptibility of the plant to diseases or growth-inhibiting intolerances need to be taken into consideration. The most amicable of the annual herbs is probably basil (Ocimum basilicum), which, due to its essential oils, can even protect its plant neighbours from pests and fungal diseases.
Well-known examples of perennial herbs are thyme (Thymus vulgaris), oregano (Origanum vulgare), sage (Salvia officinalis), chives (Allium schoenoprasum), fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), savoury (Satureja hortensis), tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). The latter is tolerated well by other herbs, though it should not be planted right next to basil, as these two herbs do not enjoy each other’s company at all. Savoury, oregano and sage, for example, are great perennial herbs that can be planted side by side.
Sunny locations are ideal for the cultivation of Mediterranean herbs. These include savoury, rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), basil, lavender (Lavendula angustifolia), oregano, sage or thyme.
As many of these species originally come from the Mediterranean region, they prefer poorer soils that are not waterlogged. When choosing plants for the garden bed, do bear in mind that many Mediterranean herbs are not hardy.
Herbs that are not hardy:
- Lemon verbena
Herbs for semi-shady locations
Watercress (Nasturtium officinale), dill, parsley (Petroselinum crispum), fennel, tarragon, chives, lovage (Levisticum officinale), peppermint (Mentha x piperita) and chamomile do not depend on sunshine in order to grow. The east or west side of a house is ideal for the cultivation of these herbs. Furthermore, these plants usually prefer soils that are slightly moist and also rich in humus and nutrients.
Herbs for the windowsill
It makes sense to plant the most common kitchen herbs within easy reach. Because frankly, hardly anybody truly enjoys walking through half of the entire garden in rainy, cold weather just to get a handful of herbs. In cities, very few people have a whole garden or balcony to themselves anyway. Fortunately, most herbs can thrive wonderfully when grown in pots on windowsills. Especially in winter, having fresh and aromatic herbs right in the kitchen feels like a treat. Chives and parsley, for instance, can easily be potted in autumn and cultivated on the kitchen window. With their fresh green appearance and wonderful aroma, they can also help dispel gloomy moods during those dark months of the year. Mediterranean and non-hardy herbs should be planted into pots before the first frost anyway, so that they can be moved to their winter quarters.
Tips for herb cultivation on the windowsill:
- Repot from time to time
- Neither water the plant too much nor too little
- Do not forget to fertilise
- Harvest correctly in order to maintain a favourable growth habit
Tip: A layer of gravel or clay fragments under the substrate ensures that the water can drain off easily. This helps avoid waterlogging.
Herbs for the balcony
Larger pots can also be placed on the balcony. Depending on where the balcony is facing, the location requirements of the individual herbs need to be taken into consideration. A balcony facing south offers the best levels of sunlight. However, soil in pots usually dries out faster and, for this reason, plants in pots should be watered more frequently. The exact opposite is the case on north-facing balconies. Due to less sunlight, the water in pots evaporates much more slowly. From this we can conclude that a balcony on the east or west side is ideal for growing herbs that prefer semi-shaded locations.
In addition to the optimal location and a suitable substrate, the size of the planters also plays a crucial role in the cultivation process. Some herbs, such as dill and lovage, have roots that go quite deep and, therefore, they need a pot that is tall enough for them. However, deep-rooted plants or plants with a particularly profound root system, such as tarragon or wormwood, are not suitable to be grown on the balcony.
Herbs for the garden
Of course, herbs can be cultivated in the garden too. Since usually only limited space is available, the selection of herbs should be based on the need and intended use of the gardener. The best way to plant herbs is in a way that you can easily reach them.
Herbs for the herb bed
Specifically in monastery gardens, herbs gardens tend to have a very structured layout. Herbs grown there tend to be divided in groups and planted in symmetrically arranged beds. These beds are usually bordered by low hedges, fences or paths. Cleverly arranged paths between the beds allow easy access to plants and can be very helpful, especially in bad weather. On top of that, geometrically designed beds are quite easy to maintain, and a clear structure makes finding the individual herbs a lot easier.
The following must be considered when planting herbs:
- The location requirements of individual herbs differ
- Do not combine annual plants with perennial plants
- Place taller-growing plants in the middle or in the back
- Plant drought-tolerant herbs on the edge
- Place vigorous plants in delimited areas
Herbs work great in mixed cultivation. They do very well with flowers, vegetables and fruit bushes. Green, colourful or beautifully flowering herbs, such as marigold, borage or purple marjoram, also blend in wonderfully with ornamental gardens. Some herbs even support the growth of other plants due to their active ingredients, which can certainly be made use of in the vegetable patch. Basil, when planted between tomatoes, cucumbers or cabbage, wards off mildew and whiteflies, for example. Herbs such as chives and parsley, which are easy to preserve, can also be grown in larger quantities as needed. With aromatic plants such as tarragon and wormwood, planting just a few plants is usually sufficient to deter pests.
Tip: Some herbs prefer to grow alone or should only be placed at a specific distance from other plants. Such plants are, for instance, lovage, lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) and wormwood (Artemisia absinthium).
Herbs for the raised bed herb garden
Just like the usual garden bed, a raised garden bed can also be filled with all kinds of herbs. Most herbs do not have very deep roots. Therefore, a height of about 50 centimetres is usually sufficient for a raised herb garden. When planting Mediterranean herbs in the raised bed, it is important to make sure, already when filling the bed, that the lower layers allow the water to drain. The ideal location of the raised bed depends on the herbs that are planted in it. Some species need a sunny spot, while others are quite comfortable in partial shade.
Tip: Here are some detailed instructions for planting a raised bed herb garden.
Herbs for the herb spiral/herbal snail
The herb spiral, also known as herbal snail, is a modern and effective version of the usual herb garden. A mound of soil is arranged in the shape of a spiral (or a snail shell) and surrounded by a wall made of small stones, for example. The size of the spiral can vary depending on the amount of space available. The hill-like shape creates different habitats for the plants. Moisture-loving herbs such as mint, parsley or chives are planted at the foot of the spiral. Thyme and Thymus pulegioides, on the other hand, feel very comfortable at the top, since they prefer a sunny and dry location. Mint, cress, sorrel (Rumex acetosa) and chives can be placed on the shady north side. And Mediterranean herbs like sage, rosemary and lavender thrive very well on the sunny south side.
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