Advice for the Horticulturally Harassed

Our thought for the day:
“Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”    —Chief Seattle, 1845

Ask any vampire

The search for nontoxic insect repellents may be overlooking one of the most repellent natural substances known to mankind. “The oil of garlic is a very potent thing,” says botanist James Duke, who studies economic uses for plants. He occasionally slaps on a dash or two of garlic while doing field research. Mr. Duke says Soviet researchers discovered decades ago that garlic oil was effective at repelling—and in high doses, actually killing—certain types of dog and deer ticks. “Some people even say that if you eat enough garlic, it will keep them off.” However, he prefers rubbing himself with the more fragrant leaves of coyote mint or pennyroyal, two wild plants that contain pulegone, a chemical compound that repels insects. But in a pinch, a freshly crushed clove of garlic will do—though he advises that it may repulse more than ticks. “You’re going to lose a lot of friends,” Mr. Duke says. “But if you’re on a dog-eat-dog fishing trip, who cares.”