Summer is my favorite time of year! The extra hours of daylight, lazy days spent lounging by the pool, evening hikes, beach vacations, and the abundance of local, fresh produce…summer just works for me!
However, summer isn’t all fun and games. Keeping pests away from your home, yard and garden can sometimes feel like a part time job and the sun and heat can take their toll on your skin.
I’ve compiled some of my favorite DIY summer hacks. From mosquito repellant plants to sunburn soothers, I hope these tips will make your summer season healthier and more enjoyable!
MOSQUITO REPELLANT PLANTS
Citronella, the essential oil found in Lemongrass, is one of the most widely used natural mosquito repellents. You’ve probably seen citronella sold in candles and bug sprays.
To help deter mosquitoes from your property, plant lemongrass (in pots or garden beds) along walkways and in locations close to the outdoor areas where you sit and relax.
NATURAL INSECTICIDE FOR PLANTS
Neem is one of my favorite supplements for the skin and GI tract. I was thrilled to learn that it can safely be used in the garden as a natural insecticide as well.
In a garden sprayer, mix ⅓ tsp. natural dish soap into 32 oz. water; then add in 1 tsp. of cold pressed neem oil and gently shake to combine. Follow the instructions on your garden sprayer and spray all the infected plant surfaces (including tops and undersides of leaves) until they are fully saturated.
You can apply this natural insecticide every 7 days. Although it is non-toxic, neem is bitter so be sure to wash your vegetables well before consuming.
We have used this to kill aphids on our kale and found it to be more effective than releasing ladybugs into our garden.
Forget to wash your towels after a long day at the pool?
Place musty smelling towels in your washing machine; add 1 cup white vinegar to the fabric softener compartment (no laundry detergent) and wash on the hottest cycle.
If the towels still smell, wash again. This time sprinkle ½ cup baking soda on the towels and wash (no laundry detergent) on the hottest cycle.
Once the smell is gone, dry the towels.
EASY WASP TRAPS
Wasps, hornets and yellowjackets can make dining outside difficult. We hired a natural pest control company to assess our situation, and one of the things they did was hang wasp traps around the perimeter of our yard.
They told us that when the solution runs out we should use Mountain Dew instead of purchasing expensive wasp trap refills. So that’s what we do!
Pour a couple of inches of Mountain Dew in your wasp trap and add a squirt of natural dish soap. Swirl the trap around to combine.
Set the wasp traps far away from your outdoor living space (ours are along the fence on our property line) because the goal is to attract the wasps.
P.S. This is the ONLY thing this nutritionist recommends Mountain Dew for 😉
Even if we try to protect it, summer sun can be hard on the skin.
Aloe vera can be used to treat minor burns. It is cooling and soothing and speeds the healing process.
Cut a thick leaf off of your aloe vera plant. Slice the leaf open and extract the gel-like substance. Alternately, you can purchase organic aloe leaf gel.
Gently spread the aloe vera gel on the burn until the skin fully absorbs it. You can do this several times a day.
HOMEMADE ANT BAIT
Borax is a mineral salt mainly used as a household cleaner and a booster for laundry detergent. If you have kids, you may have purchased borax to make homemade slime! The chemical compound of borax is similar to boric acid, which is very effective at killing insects.
Combine 1½ cup boiling water with ⅔ cup sugar and 2 Tbsp. Borax.
Pour this mixture over the ant hills around your property. The sugar will attract the ants and eating the borax will kill them. We have only used this outside around flowering plants (not in our vegetable garden) and have found it to be very effective!
For indoor use, soak cotton balls in the mixture, and put them out where you see ants entering your home. If you have small children or pets, be sure to keep these cotton balls far out of reach!
NATURAL POISON IVY TREATMENT
With summer comes poison ivy! And as some of you already know, I am super sensitive to poison ivy!
Poison ivy rash is a type of allergic contact dermatitis caused by an oily resin called urushiol. Urushiol is found in the leaves, stems, berries and roots of poison ivy (as well as poison oak and poison sumac) plant. This resin is very sticky, so it can easily attach to your skin, clothing, objects and pet’s fur.
Poison ivy deserves an entire post of its own and I’ve written here about the best natural treatments I’ve found.
FRUIT FLY TRAP
I love the large bowls of summer fruits ripening on our kitchen counter. Apparently the fruit flies love them just as much!
To get rid of these pesky fruit flies, take a glass mason jar and place a ripe piece of fruit or a few tablespoons of fruit juice in it. Punch a few tiny holes in the lid with a hammer and nail and screw the lid on tightly.
The flies are attracted to the sweet-smelling fruit, fly into the holes, and are unable to figure out how to escape.
NATURAL WEED CONTROL
Our house backs to open space and weeds are a never-ending struggle for us. The best approach has been to stay vigilant, and treat the weeds before they mature and grow thick roots. Our friend, a master gardener, turned us on to using high potency vinegar—and it works!
Put on a pair of work gloves to protect your hands and add 30% vinegar to a spray bottle and label it clearly “VINEGER WEED KILLER.” The morning after you’ve watered, pull as much of the weeds from the ground as possible. Again, wearing gloves, spray the vinegar directly on the remaining root of the weed.
We have used this successfully in rock areas of our landscape—NOT in our vegetable garden and NOT on the weeds that grow intertwined with our flowers.
Please be very careful to wash your hands and not touch your skin after using 30% vinegar. Do not spray this on windy days, as it may come in contact with your skin or other plants.
We store both the spray bottle and large bottle of vinegar in our shed, so it is not confused with culinary vinegar.
Now, we want to hear from you!
Do you have any favorite summer hacks? We’d love to hear about them! Please let us know in the comments below…