How to Keep Your Outdoor Kitchen Pest-Free, Naturally

Summer’s here and you’re itching to try out your new outdoor kitchen.  You fire up the grill, gather up your condiments, and celebrate the sizzle as the first meat or veg hits the flames. 

And then they start to gather.  Not the guests or the family, but the pests.  Nothing ends a lovely evening barbecue quicker than the buzz of flies, the whine of mosquitoes, or the insistent drone of wasps.

Don’t worry.  You can still spread your feast on those gleaming counters, gather about the new bar to share a bottle of wine, or sit around the island for a quiet family meal. 

All you need is a little information on prevention and deterrence to keep common outdoor pests from ruining your event.  And you don’t have to worry about chemical hazards as there are a number of environmentally friendly and safe ways to control these party nuisances.

Safe Ways to Enjoy Outdoor Entertainment without Those Pesky Pests

Here are some of the most common and annoying outdoor pests and natural methods to keep them at bay.


These biting insects are the elephant in the room at any gathering, but they don’t have to force you inside.  Here are a few methods to keep populations down and deter them from gathering:

  • Prevent egg laying by eliminating standing water.  Keep gutters free of leaf debris, drill holes in the bottoms of outdoor containers (garbage cans, storage bins, etc.), backfill holes in your yard, and change out water in your bird baths once a week.
  • Recent research suggests mosquitoes are growing resistant to DEET, but promising studies have shown that catnip is 10 times more effective at repelling these pests.  Try a few strategically placed plants as a barrier against them.
  • Other natural deterrents such as picaridin (pepper based), soy-bean based products and lemon eucalyptus oil have shown some effectiveness.
  • If you have water on your property, don’t despair.  Dragonflies are natural mosquito predators and their larvae can be purchased online.


Why let your perfect meal be spoiled by flies gathering on your dishes. 
Try these preventives instead:

  • Keep garbage cans tightly covered and wash them once a week.  A small application of borax in the bottom will make the container less inhabitable.
  • Flies are repelled by the smell of basil, so place a few plants in your food areas to keep them off the goodies.
  • Fruit flies can be controlled by putting a mix of vinegar and dish soap in a container.  Cover it with cling film and poke holes in the top.  The fruit flies are attracted to the vinegar where they drown.


While wasps don’t tend to gather in numbers, their potential to sting can make just one insistent insect a real party pooper.  Here’s what to do:

  • Wasps are very territorial and will not build a nest within 20 yards of another nest.  Strategically placing fake nests can keep them from building in your eating area.
  • Rosemary has proven very effective at deterring wasps.  Not only can you hang a few plants near potential nesting sites, but with the power of catnip and basil, why not create an herb garden in your cooking area.  Fresh herbs, great grilling!


Not all pests fly, but these insistent little creatures head straight for the food.  You can stop them before they ever really get started:

  • Ants lay down chemical trails to let other ants know where they can find dinner.  The best start at prevention is to wash areas where you see ants with a combination of equal parts vinegar and water.  This erases the chemical path.
  • Once you’ve shut down the ant highway, you can keep them away with subtle applications of crushed dry mint, ground cinnamon, or cloves.


Creepy, crawly, insistent, and just YUCK!  Avoid the gross-out factor at your next gathering with these methods:

  • A clean space is a roach resistant space.  Keep counters washed, sweep spills up sooner rather than later, and keep food in air-tight containers.
  • You can create homemade roach traps by putting a piece of banana inside a mason jar and coating the inside rim with vaseline.  Roaches get in but can’t get out.
  • Boric acid, a naturally occurring compound will kill roaches.  A spray bottle filled with 2 tablespoons of boric acid powder, 2 cups of sugar and 2 cups of water can be applied strategically to attract and eliminate these pests.  (Be sure to wear gloves when handling boric acid.  Note that boric acid can be toxic, so read precautions here before handling.)
  • Tabasco acts as a roach deterrent.  Add five tablespoons of Tabasco and a 1/4 cup of water in your spray bottle and apply in areas where roaches gather.


Another crawling menace, these pests not only go after food, but can chew cabinetry to find their way.

  • Barn owls are voracious mice eaters.  You can purchase or build an owl box and place it in a tree near your eating area to keep mice populations down.
  • Mice hate peppermint, so spray a mix of 1/4 cup of water and 40 drops of peppermint oil in food preparation areas.