Marigolds help repel insects like aphids, mosquitoes, and nematodes.

If you spend any amount of time outdoors, you’re probably going to encounter bugs. While most are harmless, swarming gnats, pesky mosquitoes, and other nuisances can make it difficult to enjoy your outdoor spaces. The good news is you don’t have to spend another season swatting away flies. There are plenty of cruelty-free and environmentally friendly ways to keep bugs and other pests away from your patio. Here are a few I’ve tried.

Plant Bug-Repellent Flowers

Certain herbs and flowers have been found effective in repelling annoying insects. By adding potted plants to your patio or planting bug-repellent flowers around its perimeter, you can help keep pests at bay. Marigold, basil, rosemary, and lemongrass are known to repel mosquitoes and other common garden pests. Mint keeps away ants and spiders. Other great bug repellents include chrysanthemums, lavender, petunias, and catnip.

Spray Mouthwash Around the Patio

The answer to your bug problem may be sitting in your bathroom. Mouthwash containing eucalyptus doubles as a bug spray and can be used around your patio to keep pests away. Pour three parts mouthwash and one part water into a spray bottle and generously spray the solution on or near the patio. You can also spray the bases of your chairs and other furniture.

Buy Citronella Candles and Torches

Citronella is a naturally occurring oil known to repel mosquitoes. The oil works by masking scents that are attractive to bugs. Instead of dousing yourself in bug-repellent lotions or sprays, set up attractive citronella candles and torches around your patio. They start working almost immediately and can double as backyard décor.

Spray Essential Oils

Essential oils are a safe and effective way to keep bugs away from your patio while creating a pleasant scent in your backyard. Lavender and eucalyptus are the most commonly used essential oils that can be used to create a pest-free barrier around your patio. Other essential oils that repel bugs naturally include cedar, peppermint, neem, geranium, vetiver, and tea tree.

Install a Fan

If your patio or deck has a ceiling, consider installing a ceiling fan. A fan acts as an effective bug repellent because smaller insects like mosquitoes are not strong fliers, so they’re often blown away with even the slightest breeze. If your patio doesn’t have a ceiling or if you don’t want to invest in a permanent solution, a stand-alone oscillating fan will also work well to keep bugs away.

Tent Your Patio Area

Mesh tents and bug screens can be set up around your patio to keep bugs out. This can be especially useful when you’re hosting barbecues and other types of gatherings where your guests will be relaxing and enjoying food and drinks. If you don’t want to tent your entire patio, consider tenting just your patio table. Nets can be attached to outdoor umbrellas to create a screened area.

Keep Your Patio Clean

Ants, bees, and other types of insects are attracted to some foods and drinks, so to help keep bugs away, make sure there are no spilled sodas, crumbs of food, or bags of garbage on your patio. You also want to avoid stagnant water, which can be a breeding ground for bugs; after it rains, check to make sure that there isn’t any standing water left behind on your patio.