Essential Oils for the Garden

Using essential oils for the garden can be a good natural way to treat bugs and nasties!

By choosing not to use toxic, chemical-based products we are abstaining from polluting our very beautiful planet – what’s not to like!

Essential oils have a huge number of uses for health, beauty and around the home, but they are also really useful in the garden. Plants and flowers produce essential oils specifically as a self defense mechanism against would-be predators – tiny oil-producing glands within the leaves to prevent the plant from being eaten alive by insects.

You probably already have some of the insect repelling essential oils you’ll need, so here are a few tips how to use them to protect against a hostile invasion.

Insect Repellants

Rosemary oil is a potent repellent for many insects including flies, fleas and mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes & gnats

Citronella, eucalyptus lemon, lemongrass or thyme – thyme essential oil has a 91% protection rate against female mosquitoes! Cedarwood, cinnamon, patchouli and spearmint essential oils can be blended with these to make a natural repellent that can be used to repel a wide range of biting, flying insects

Don’t use lavender oil or you’ll have unwanted attention from bees and wasps!


15 drops of peppermint to 25 mls of water in a trigger-spray. Shake the bottle vigorously and then spray a defensive line wherever you see an line of them coming your way.

Spiders & beetles

Lemon scented essential oils are good and I even rub a lemon juice around windows & door frames to keep them away. Also white thyme, peppermint, and eucalyptus globulus oils work.

Flies & moths

I burn citronella candles, oil diffuser or joss sticks in the summer early morning and evening to keep them out of the house or away from us while eating in the garden. If on a picnic try soaking a tissue in some oil and leaving it near the food to act as a deterrent.

You can mix essential oil in a carrier lotion or oil and spread on your skin to keep bugs away – 1 drop of essential oil to every 5mls of lotion but remember that natural insect repellants are not as strong as chemical versions so you need to reapply every 3 hours.


Rose geranium – chose Pelargonium capitatum x radens and not Pelargonium graveolens – most essential oils need to be diluted, but rose geranium does not fall into that category if used in small doses

So, because all you need is a few drops to do the job, a little most definitely goes a long way. Placing one drop on each ankle and on the wrists, then behind the knees and one on the back of the neck is all you will need to do the trick.

You can use on your dog too but as they are extremely sensitive to smell, use sparingly. One drop behind each shoulder blade and at the top of the base of the tail. Be careful to avoid the face and nose.

Other essential oils such as lavender, lemongrass, citronella, pine, eucalyptus, and cedar wood have all been found to be helpful in repelling ticks as well. Please check specific directions before using to ensure safety for dilution purposes.

Whatever scent you use, take caution and remember to double-check yourself from head to toe after coming in from a summer stroll in a tick-infected area.

Bites & stings

Mix 2 drops of lavender oil, 2 drops of chamomile, and 1 drop of basil essential oil with one teaspoon of Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) – apply this to fresh bites and stings with a cotton ball or pad.

Alternatively, substitute jojoba oil instead of ACV – cleanse bite and surrounding area with ACV, dab dry and apply the oil soaked cotton ball or pad.

Mice & other rodents

Cotton balls with 1-2 drops of peppermint oil placed in entrances to mouse holes, squirrel nests, etc should persuade them to relocate.

Slugs & snails

Cedarwood, hyssop, and pine are the best essential oils for keeping slugs & snails off of your plants. Mix about a teaspoon of your chosen oil(s) in a spray bottle filled with water. Apply diluted oil in a ring around plants where slugs and snails like to visit. Refresh as needed. I also use crushed egg shells, coffee grounds, gravel and pick snails up & drive them to a wooded area on other side of a motorway! It’s claimed they are able to find their way back home from up to 5 miles away.

Sidney slug suzie snail illustration


(blackspot on roses, powdery mildew, etc)

Tea tree oil – is a powerful, natural fungicide. Mix one tablespoon of tea tree oil per in 250ml of water in a spray bottle to treat existing fungal growth or as a preventative but avoid spraying leaves in hot weather or sun-heated oil will burn leaves. Apply directly to infected plants once or twice per week.

Fungus is the cause of around 85% of all plant diseases and can quickly become a big problem if left untreated,.


Lavender oil is the most effective to keep aphids away so plant lavender and garlic near plants which are commonly effected or spray the plant – 5 to 10 drops of Lavender oil into a spray bottle and fill with water

Cats, dogs & foxes

Lemon juice sprinkled about is a great deterrent for foxes, cats and dogs but if your own cats know it’s you marking their territory & don’t take the hint spray your mulch with Rosemary oil diluted in water to avoid unwanted presents in your veg patch.

Alternatively add a few drops of Rosemary oil to a wide, shallow container partially filled with water. Whisk vigorously to break up oil droplets then drop in strips of cloth or pieces of string. Allow them to soak long enough to absorb all of the oil. Tie strings between plants or around the garden perimeter. Hang cloth strips between garden rows, around plants, or anywhere you know the cat likes to dig. Refresh as needed.

Dogs hate Pepper oil – use the same string/cloth method as above but use sparingly and with care as it can act or it will deter humans as well!!


Some essential oils should be avoided if you or your animals are pregnant – peppermint is one.

Some essential oils are known to be toxic to cats so use with care if spraying areas and plants where they hang out with the following oils: Peppermint, Oregano, Clove, Sage, Citrus oils, Lavender, Tea tree oil, Cinnamon (cassia), Wintergreen, Thyme, Birch, Bergamot, Pine, Spruce and any other oils containing phenols.

Just make sure they are indoors or not sleeping under a bush until the sprayed area has dried off.

Not all essential oils are recommended to use for animals, especially cats and horses. Consult your veterinary doctor before using any essential oil on pets.

Written by Maggi M.
Illustration & photo by Suzie H.

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