9 Companion Herbs to Help Repel Insects

woman in brown sweater displays two rosemary houseplants in wooden basket

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

One thing nobody wants to see in the garden is their beautiful plants being devoured by pests. I mean, the little guys just want to eat too. But, no. The awfulness (and agricultural cost) of seeing our food eaten by insects has given rise to a vast pesticide industry, which in turn is its own environmental nightmare. So what's a home gardener to do?

Use plants. That's right, by plotting out the garden so that companion plants live near one another, all kinds of magic happens. Just like people have good chemistry with some neighbors and not so much with others, planting harmonious plants together can help them thrive.

There are several mechanisms by which plants can help or hinder one another, but one of my favorites is that certain insects really dislike certain plants. So rather than dousing one's garden in poison, one can let the plants do the work instead. And these plants have a built-in bonus: Insects may not have a taste for them, but humans do.

1. Sage

To fend off cabbage moths and carrot rust flies. Plant next to cabbage, and carrots; keep away from cucumbers.

2. Rosemary

Deters cabbage moths, carrot rust flies, and Mexican bean beetles. Plant near cabbage, beans, and carrots.

3. Dill

Another option for repelling cabbage moths – but keep away from carrots. Dill is good for attracting attracting beneficial insects and is a host plant for black swallowtail butterflies, noting, "you will lose a little dill while the larvae feed, but they are not around for long and the butterflies are lovely."

4. Basil

Is offensive to asparagus beetle and the tomato hornworm.

5. Chives

Aphids and Japanese beetles do not like chives, also good to plant near carrots. Be careful here though, chives spread quickly (not a problem in my garden because we eat them up).

6. Parsley

Repels asparagus beetles. Good to plant near asparagus, corn, and tomatoes.

7. Oregano

Repels cabbage moths; is a kind companion to all vegetables.

8. Mint

Deters aphids, cabbage moths, and ants. Also good to plant near tomatoes.

9. Thyme

Deters cabbage worm.

Things to remember: All gardens are different and have their own personalities. As well, different zones will have different needs. The key is to try various combinations and see what works. Some of these herbs may spread like mad given the right conditions, others won't. If anything feels like it is spreading too much, keep it contained and snip branches to place where you would like them to perform their duties. And should things go to flower, not to worry – most of the blooms on these herbs are as delicious (and even more beautiful) than their leaves!