April 1, 2014

Smart Landscaping to Outsmart Ticks at Home, Part 2 by Bob Oley

April 1, 2014

Smart Landscaping to Outsmart Ticks at Home, Part 2 by Bob Oley

When working to protect the home and surrounding property from ticks, homeowners should deter deer from feeding on vegetation in the yard because deer are almost always infested with feeding ticks. Once fed, these ticks drop off deer wherever they happen to be, whether in flower beds or lawns.

To keep deer from entering private property, residents should install deer fencing high enough (approximately 7 to 8 feet) to prevent them from entering. If this is impractical, residents can try to eliminate plants that attract deer to the property.

Deer enjoy browsing on a variety of vegetation including apple, pear and cherry trees as well as rhododendrons, mountain laurel, rose bushes, impatiens, pansies, daisies, lilies, tulips and black-eyed Susans. While no plant species is completely immune to deer browsing; 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 generally will not attract them.

Research has shown that the majority of ticks found on a property are located in close proximity to a lawn’s perimeter (ecotone) with woodlands, stone walls, shady perennial beds and garden plantings. Thus, perimeter spraying of these particular areas with a pesticide that kills ticks can prove an important component of any landscape management plan.

The most common tick control agents used today for perimeter spraying are synthetic pyrethroids such as permethrin, befenthrin and cyfluthrin. Pyrethroids are organic compounds synthesized to be similar to the pyrethrin insecticide produced naturally by chrysanthemum flowers. When sprayed, these compounds do not leach through the soil, but are broken down over several days within the top few inches. They can prove toxic to fish in small ponds or streams, so caution must be used when spraying in close proximity to water bodies. 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.

Any perimeter spraying should be done three times each year: during the middle of May and the middle of June, to kill nymph deer ticks, and then again in the middle of October, to kill adult deer ticks.

Hardscape and xeriscape landscaping practices provide another beneficial component of a comprehensive landscape management plan. Hardscape landscaping practices make greater use of hard surfaces (as opposed to vegetated surfaces), such as flagstone patios, brick or gravel walkways, wooden decks and other similar features where family members and friends may congregate. Xeriscape landscaping incorporates plants that require less water and are thus more likely to survive in a drier environment, the type of habitat in which ticks cannot survive.

This post is part of a three-part series discussing ways to protect the home and surrounding areas from ticks. In the next article, we will offer quick tips for protecting your landscape from ticks. In case you missed the first article in this series, Part 1, click here.

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