Keep your yard tick free: tick control, tick spray and landscaping

tick free yard

Three quarters of all Lyme disease cases are caused by ticks picked up in the course of common backyard activities such as playing, barbecuing and gardening. You don’t have to go on a hike to encounter ticks. To reduce the risk of contracting Lyme disease there are certain things you can do to tick proof your yard.

In this article you will learn effective strategies that significantly reduce the risk of contracting Lyme disease in your own yard. After reading you will know how to make your yard less attractive for ticks and the animals that carry them, how to use tick spray to reduce the tick population smartly and how to create low risk zones that are used for recreation in your yard.

Disrupt habitat for animals

Ticks need a humid environment to survive and they feed on vertebrate hosts to grow and reproduce. To make the property safer from ticks you should minimize the number of potential hosts and create a drier, less inviting environment for ticks.

Smaller ticks feed on birds, rodents and chipmunks. Larger ticks feed on deer, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits and opossum. Ticks are often transported into yards by deer that browse on plants, rodents that live in stone walls and woodpiles and ground-feeding birds. You should develop strategies to disrupt the habitat for these animals.

You should keep your yard clean from garbage and other food sources that attract rodents, deer and other potential hosts for ticks. Don’t forget to remove leave litter, branches and debris before they can become hiding places for rodents and remove tall grasses and brush around the house and the edge of the lawn.

bird feeder

Remove bird feeders

Bird feeders and bird baths should be removed or relocated away from the house. Unfortunately, as beautiful as birds are, they also transport ticks. Mice are also attracted to the free meal as well as the seed spill that falls to the ground from bird feeders.

wood piles

Relocate woodpiles and stone walls

Relocate woodpiles away from your home and keep them dry. Relocate or seal stone walls because they provide a nesting place for small rodents.  It is no fun to walk further than the patio in the snow and muck to get wood for the fireplace but keeping the wood pile in an area of the yard where people rarely go will help reduce the tick population around your house. Consider placing tick tubes around the wood pile.

deer fence

Deer fence

You can place a deer fence that is high enough to prevent deer and small animals from entering your yard. Deer can jump over a 6 foot fence, so any barriers must be at least 8 feet tall. The fence must be able to stand up to wind, winter storms and snow fall which contributes to expense. Make sure the fence is flush with the ground because deer will try to squeeze under too.

A basic privacy fence can be effective too because deer cannot see what is on the opposite side of it. Not knowing if there is danger on the other side can be a strong deterrent – even if they smell something that is very attractive to them.

If deer fencing is impractical you can also eliminate plants that attract deer to your property. Deer enjoy browsing a variety of vegetation including apple, pear and cherry trees. They also like rhododendrons, mountain laurel, rose bushes, impatiens, pansies, daisies, lilies, tulips and black-eyed Susans.

Plants such as daffodils, marigolds, lily of the valley, honeysuckle, common lilac, forsythia, common boxwood, American holly, Norway spruce, wisteria and American bittersweet are their least favorite food items and will generally not attract deer.

Create low risk zones

You should pay special attention to the property’s most frequently used areas. Drier areas are more apt to create low risk zones. This means keeping play areas, decks and patios away from yard edges and shady, wooded areas. Keep trees, brushes and shrubs trimmed in order to reduce shade and allow sunlight on the property. Place swing sets and slides on wood chip beds. Use flagstones, patio blocks and decking to define spaces for picnicking or barbecuing.

Moving a playground set is not always easy to do for financial or logistical reasons. What type of vegetation is around your recreational areas? Are these recreational areas near the edge of the property where the neatly cut lawn becomes taller grass? Is the area shaded by a tree making the ground damp or filling it with leaf litter?

tick barriersBarriers & walkways

Lay a 3 foot barrier between your lawn and potential tick habitats such as garden beds, stone walls and woodlot perimeters. This will restrict the migration of ticks into your yard. The barrier can consist of gravel or wood chips.

Create gravel, stone or wood chip walkways to connect the house to recreational areas in the yard. Encourage everybody to stick to the paths. Be sure to clear tall grass or brush away from the edges of these walkways.

Tick spray perimeters

tick spray Spray insecticide to the property perimeter, flower beds that are shaded and wooded trails or walkways. Focus on the areas of the property where humans can encounter ticks and leave open, sunny spaces of the lawn chemical free. This approach is better for the environment because it limits the amount of insecticide used.

Perimeter treatments come in both liquid and granular form. They work best when they contain either bifenthrin or permethrin. Microorganisms break both these substances down in the top 2 inches of the soil surface. Neither chemical will leach into the soil.

These insecticides are harmful for bees, water life and cats. Keep cats inside until the treatment has dried. For those not inclined to use synthetic chemicals, natural organic spray alternatives are available, such as cedar oil and a mixture of rosemary and peppermint oils.

Tick tubes

Tick tubes can be used to reduce the population of ticks in your yard. To make a tick tube you take a toilet paper roll and fill it up with cotton balls that you soak with permethrin. This insect repellent kills ticks. Permethrin will stay effective even after it dries such as cotton balls or your clothes.

Mice look for nesting material in a radius of 15 feet from their nest. They will find the cotton balls and bring them to their nests to use as bedding material, thereby killing the ticks that they are hosting. This is a simple way of reducing the tick population in your yard.

Place the tubes in spots where mice are mostly likely to live, hide, or hang around, such as wood piles, wooded areas, areas with a lot of leaf litter (e.g. flower beds, under bushes) and near stone walls or basement walls.

Permethrin is safe for humans and dogs but when it is wet and has not yet dried it is harmful to cats and bees. When cats come into contact with a dog that has been recently treated it can cause seizures and muscle tremors. Make sure you let the permethrin on the cotton balls dry before you place the tubes in your yard.