Does this have a familiar ring to it? You slave nights and weekends through the spring to nurse shrubs, flowers and grass along. Then, when you finally get around to strolling among the flowers one summer evening, you donate blood to mosquitoes who haven't had a drink in weeks. If so, let this be the year of summer survival for you. Here are some hints to get you through the dog days: Bug-free outdoor living. This could be the summer you win the backyard war with mosquitoes. But first some background. Not long ago, you could have sprayed the yard with a harmless chemical and enjoyed almost three weeks' protection against mosquitoes, flies, gnats and such. The common name of the chemical was ronnel, but Dow Chemical sold it under the brand name Korlan 2E. It was fabulous, especially if you sprayed a week before the cookout, patio party or whatever. By the day of the event, not one bullish mosquito would be within l00 feet of the area. Unfortunately, the basic market for Korlan (cattle farming) was not a profit center for Dow, so they discontinued it some five years ago.
Today, the best is 12-hour protection. Eight ounces of Liquid Diazinon in 6 gallons to 10 gallons of water applied to 1,000 square feet offers minimal knockdown of flying insects. Dursban at 5 1/3 ounces will provide superior protection, but the chemical odor is so offensive that you may wind up staying indoors. Finally, there is Pyrethrin (natural and synthetic), which is available in liquid concentrate at the garden shop and has no offensive odor; check the label for complete instructions on application with a hose-end sprayer. Take precautions to spray grass, soil under shrubs and trees, and bare soil near the foundation of the house, but not the leaves of plants. The best timing is in the mid-morning, before your cookout, when no rain is forecast. Remember that mosquitoes are on the wing about 30 minutes before sunset, so time things accordingly. Spraying Pyrethrin on the concrete patio also would be in order, as would spraying the soil below a deck. However, if you come upon a farm supply store anywhere, ask the manager if he has any Korlan 2E salted away; it could be the only time in your life you have your hands on gold. Camping. Private campgrounds usually treat wooded areas with Malathion every three weeks to control biting insects, but you may not like the sulfur aroma. If you are camping in the wild, take a 2-gallon plastic sprinkling can and a small bottle of Dursban. Be sure to treat the soil under the picnic table and the tent's periphery if you see mosquitoes. Don't apply again until the bugs start biting; then whip out the sprinkling can. Insect repellants. There are many on the market, most of which will repel bugs. But a few products do an outstanding job of deterring all kinds of bugs, especially biting mosquitoes. For the best possible insect protection, look for products with the chemical diethylmeta-toluamide (chemical name DEET) on the label; the greater the concentration, the better the protection. Some, but not all, of the repellants containing the chemical are Ben's, Deet, Muskol and Permanone; some are sprayed on the arms, hands, legs and face, while others are applied to clothing. Read the label before treatment.
Another good product is a bath oil from Avon Products ("Skin-So-Soft"). Old-fashioned remedies also work (oil of citronella or mint leaves rubbed on skin). If you're bitten, put calamine lotion, meat tenderizer or baking soda on the area. A drop of household ammonia on the bite, followed by an icepack, will help, too.
The bottom line, however, is not to smell good in the first place. Smelling nondescript is the best approach, in which case bugs will keep their distance. But bodies covered with perfume, cologne, after-shave and hair spray attract insects. It's no wonder some people always are bitten by insects no matter where they are: It's because they always smell good.
If you are allergic to insect bites, see if your doctor will prescribe an "insect attack" kit. Poison ivy. A plant with three leaves could be poison ivy, so keep your distance. If you are infected with poison ivy, you may gain temporary relief by rubbing the infected area with Ban roll-on deodorant; the spray may not work, so use the roll-on a few times, then see your doctor. Instant barbeque. Line the base of the grille with rolled-up newspapers, light them, then carefully position a few pine or spruce cones around the newspapers; as the first tier of papers burns, add more to keep the fire going. The cones picked from the woods will ignite quickly and will assure a high-temperature fire in short order, after which you place individual charcoal briquettes on the cones. In 20 minutes, the grille will be ready for anything. Dehumidifier dividends. Save the distilled water from the appliance, stash in cleaned-out plastic milk jugs, label the containers, then use for watering and feeding acidic indoor plants (citrus, ferns and Norfolk Island pine). This water is also good for plants sensitive to fluorine, namely spider plant, dracaena, cast-iron plant, lily and yucca. Insects indoors. Make an effort to remove grass and brush growing next to the foundation of the house and garage. A neutral zone of some 10 inches to 12 inches next to the foundation will deter crickets, millipedes and spiders from venturing indoors. Avoid mulching next to the foundation, too. Slug control. Look for the chemical name "Mesurol" on products labeled for slugs. Mesurol makes quick and easy work of slugs. Avoid other products that promise slug control. Ants. Indoors, use dried mint leaves crushed into microscopic particles and brushed into cracks and crevices; ants will move elsewhere. Consider growing a small pot of mint indoors on a bright windowsill with no direct sun. Buy a small mint plant from the garden shop, transplant to a larger plastic pot when you bring the plant home, use 1-1-1 soil, and keep soil lightly moist. Check your cookbook for kitchen hints on mint. Country drives. Keep a large plastic bag and pruning shears in the trunk at all times so you're able to take cuttings of wildflowers along the country roads. Summertime wildflowers are cut with long stems, stored in plastic bags for the return trip, then dried at home during the summer. Old boxes can be used, incorporating appropriate drying mixtures. Kitty litter and corn meal are perfect for drying flowers; use 10 parts of either to 3 parts powdered boric acid for drying flowers. If you have a house or garage attic, put up a clothesline to hang wildflowers for quick drying. This works especially well with baby's breath, cockscomb, dock, globe amaranth, globe thistle, goldenrod, Joe-pye weed, statice, strawflower and yarrow. If the flowers are hanging upside down, you should keep checking so they don't overdry, after which they become brittle; the trick is removing the specimen when moisture is out of the cuttings. Fireplace fantasy. Make sure the draft gate is closed and the fireplace is spotless; then move your foliage plants to the lip of the fireplace for the summer. Ideal choices are Chinese evergreen and spathiphyllum (white sails) plants.
Jack Eden hosts "Over the Garden Fence" Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on WTOP Radio (1500AM).