Summer is definitely here and the barbies are cranking. Nothing spoils an evening with friends or family in the alfresco quite like being bitten by voracious, out for blood mosquitoes.
Unfortunately, many people don't have much luck with the 'mozzie repelling' plants like lemongrass, citronella, etc. So what to do?
Consider using a pure, good quality essential oil of lavender instead. We buy the inexpensive Tasmanian lavender oil, available from Donna Harper's herb store at the Fremantle Markets. Whether mixed 50% with olive oil or rubbed undiluted on the skin, this keeps away all manner of creepy crawlies, including flies. It works a treat.
Of course preventing them from breeding is crucial. Here at Garden Deva, we have a resident frog, birds, 2 ponds full of tadpoles and western minnow fish which keep mosquito larvae at bay. So why do we still have mosquitoes flying around?
Well, the bromeliads can partly take the blame. It never ceased to amaze me that wrigglers can survive in less than 1cm of water but they can. The water filled centre of most bromeliads is paradise for mosquito larvae - keep an eye on this area when you water and tip over pots immediately into a pond/the garden or flush out with the watering can.
This afternoon, I opened our green bin/converted water tank and was shocked to see thousands of wrigglers in there, despite the lid being closed unless it rains. Those little Houdini mozzies really know how to squeeze into tight spaces.
Reminded of Bill Mollison's comment, "See the problem as the solution", I grabbed a few fish and a couple of handfuls of my new carnivorous plant, the wonderful floating bladderwort, and placed them both in the water. Between the two of them, within a few hours, there were no wrigglers left. The fish will go back to their pond and the water plant will stay.
Recently I have been experimenting with this intriguing floating bladderwort - Utricularia gibba subsp. exoleta, for the horticulturalists out there.
My observation after 4 weeks of trials and many buckets of water is that, yes it definitely eats mosquito larvae but is a bit fussy and only likes the small ones.
So it is not fair to expect the bladderwort to devour large established wrigglers in a waterfeature or pond, as the carnivorous suction pads on the bottom of the plant can only manage the littlies.
However, this is still excellent news for people with waterfeatures which don't have fish or pumps as it will prevent the wrigglers from maturing into mosquitoes. This rare but tough little plant loves the heat and the sun and has gorgeous little yellow poppy like flowers. It provides protection for fish and is low maintenance.
Garden Deva has a small supply which sells for $12 per scoop. So call 0423 385 568 or email if you would like some - it really works.
Another water plant which I wouldn't be without is the magnificent tropical waterlily, Mrs Martin E Randig, pictured below. Mrs Randig must have been a pretty special lady to have this stunner named after her.
It waterlily flowers nearly every day in our frog pond and will continue to do so for 9 months during the warm weather. Her indigo flowers have a beautiful, almost boronia like scent and her foliage provides large flat lily pads for the frogs, bees and other helpful predators and pollinators.
The cost is about $40 or so and these plants are available online or at water plant nurseries throughout the warmer states of Australia.
As far as depth goes, the lily may be situated in its pot 15-45cm below the water level and will reward you with a profusion of flowers nearly all year.
Having a pond makes an enormous difference to pest numbers in the garden as many predators (dragonflies/damsel flies/native wasps/frogs etc) which eat the 'baddies' need water to survive and breed. Even if it is just a large pot with a silicon plug at the base, you can create a mini eco system for the garden and hours of beauty and pleasure for you and your family. So why wait?