Know what doesn't pair well with a perfectly cooked steak, a glass of red wine, and the quiet peace of your backyard? Pests!
No one wants to deal with buzzing, biting, swarming bugs while they're relaxing around their BBQ in table — but if you don't take precautions, your evening may be ruined by flies, mosquitoes, ants, and more.
Chemical-laced sprays and lawn applications may be effective, but they can leave an unhealthy film on skin and food. Instead, you can keep pests at bay naturally with a few effective backyard practices. Follow these 9 tricks to let bugs know they're not welcome at your next backyard grilling party.
1. Clean Your Gutters
You've probably already checked around your home for overflowing planters or puddles of standing water that serve as breeding grounds for mosquitos. Birdbaths, ponds, and kiddie pools, for example, should have a fountain to keep water flowing or be changed regularly.
But what about your gutters? Gutters that are clogged with leaves or debris not only make it inviting for pests, they can cause a breach that will lead to even more standing water. While you're at it, check your downspouts. If they're not long enough, they can create puddles near your foundation that can cause erosion and create homes for unwanted critters.
2. Move Trash Bins
Is the spot for your trash and recycling bins close by your BBQ in table? If so, you're attracting pests without even realizing it. Sticky substances and food scraps are inevitable parts of a trash heap, no matter how well you tie up your trash or rinse your bottles.
Move your bins away to a side yard so they can still be easily accessible but far enough away from where you plan to dine. Even then, be sure to clean the bins with hot, soapy water on a regular basis to get rid of any residue that bugs like.
3. Keep Food Covered
Bowls and platters of prepared side dishes may look inviting to you, but they look even better to insects. Don't spend energy swatting away flies; instead, use silicone lids or mesh food domes to keep all food covered.
You may even be able to reuse old colanders or carefully stack a bowl upside-down to keep bugs at bay. These free or inexpensive gadgets can save a lot of headaches — and itchiness.
4. Have Tidy Landscaping
Your delicious food isn't the only thing bugs are looking for when they fly your way. Pests of all shapes and sizes are also interested in tall grasses and piles of debris in corners. Weeds and unkept bushes are hiding places and breeding grounds for insects and critters alike. When they're living so close to your BBQ in table, well, of course they'll want to buzz on over.
By keeping your landscaping tidy, you'll naturally reduce the number of unwanted insects in your outdoor living space. While you're at it, make sure to regularly check for wasp nests and destroy them carefully.
5. Plant Pest-Repellant Flowers and Herbs
Bugs are attracted to carbon dioxide and human lactic acid, which is why chemical sprays usually contain a strong scent. You can mask your fragrance naturally simply by landscaping using the plants used in those sprays.
Citronella, which is used in bug-repellent candles, is a pretty herb with a curly-edged, green leaf. Marigolds, a common addition to organic gardening, pop with orange and yellows. Lavender and lemongrass make lovely scents for humans, but discourage mosquitoes, aphids, and other bugs.
6. Build a Bat House
Bats suffer from a bad reputation, but they can be your best friends when it comes to getting rid of insects in your backyard. Did you know that bats can eat between 6,000 and 8,000 bugs a night? You'll barely notice as they feed overhead, but you will notice fewer bugs around your BBQ in table.
You can invite bats into your yard by building a slatted, wooden bat house for them to sleep in during the day. This simple, inexpensive project can be done in a day. Once hung, it won't take long for bats to discover it. In the evening, when they are ready to feast, they'll hunt the pests in your backyard first.
7. Use Your BBQ in Table
Finally, once dinner is complete and you're relaxing around the fire, you can still take action against bugs. Your weapon? Your own table grill! It's just one more reason to keep it lit after your meal is prepared.
Fires can act as a natural pest repellent, but you can add to the effectiveness. Gather and dry rosemary and sage bundles from your garden and throw them into the flames. Bugs will be repelled by the smell, even if you find it lovely.
8. Get High-Tech
You'll find mixed reviews about the expensive machines that use high-frequency sound waves and other technology to keep bugs from a specific section of your yard. But if you've done everything on this list and are still plagued while trying to enjoy your backyard, these products may be worth a try.
However, it's the same with the wearable bracelets, patches, and everything else you'll find on the market today. No product will be able to completely eradicate bugs from your yard. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they fail. Before you throw money at the problem, make sure you're not first unknowingly attracting pests.
9. If All Else Fails … Use Screens
Some places in the nation are simply buggier than others, no matter what precautions you take. If this is your situation, you may have to resort to using screens. Small, screened-in sections of your outdoor living space can provide a back-up dining area during the worst times of the year.
To keep screened-in areas bug-free, you'll want to regularly check for any holes and repair them right away. Doors left open also defeat the purpose, so many sure your hinges will gently allow the door to close by itself. That way, you can close the door on bugs for good.