Tag Archives: landscaping

Smart Landscaping to Outsmart Ticks at Home, Part 3 by Bob Oley

When working to make property as tick safe as possible, residents need to pay special attention to the property’s most frequently used areas. They should also keep in mind that drier areas are more apt to create low-risk tick zones.

Other easily implemented measures that can protect homes and surrounding property include:

  • Keep grass mowed short
  • Remove accumulations of leaves and brush
  • Eliminate ground cover such as pachysandra and replace with mulch
  • Keep trees, bushes and shrubs trimmed in order to reduce shade and allow more sunlight on the property
  • Create gravel or hard surfaced pathways to gardens and other commonly used areas; keep pathways free of weeds
  • Use hardscape and xeriscape landscaping practices wherever feasible to promote a drier less humid yard
  • Move children’s swing sets, sand boxes and play stations far away from the edge of woodlands and other overgrown areas, where ticks are known to thrive; relocate them in areas with full sunshine and less shade
  • Use mulch in ornamental gardens and children’s play areas as a ground cover; cedar mulch, which can act as a natural repellent to ticks, works best
  • Provide three foot wide mulch barriers around the perimeter of your property where the lawn meets the edge of woodlands or stone walls as a warning/demarcation line not to cross; maintain mulch to keep it free of weeds and brush

All these practices, taken in total as part of an integrated tick landscape management plan, will benefit you and your family. Being aware of your surroundings and smart about landscaping practices can help keep property safer from ticks and provide peace of mind as you enjoy the use of your property. In case you missed the earlier articles in this series: click here to read Part 1; click here to read Part 2.

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.

Smart Landscaping to Outsmart Ticks at Home, Part 1 by Bob Oley

Over the next few weeks, TBDA will share a three-part series of posts exploring ways to protect homes and surrounding property from ticks through a comprehensive landscape management plan aimed at creating low-risk tick zones within commonly used areas. By reducing the tick population around the home, one can substantially minimize the likelihood that family members or friends will be bitten by a tick and contract one of many tick-borne illnesses, including Lyme disease, babesiosis, anaplasmosis, bartonella, or other viral infections.

These low-risk zones should include recreational, dining, entertainment and gardening areas, as well as areas close to walkways, storage sheds, firewood piles and mailboxes.

Ticks require a humid environment to survive and must feed on a vertebrate host to grow and reproduce. Without these two key elements, they cannot survive. Therefore, to make property safer from ticks, homeowners should minimize the number of potential tick hosts and create a drier, less inviting landscape for ticks.

Unfortunately, ticks feed on a wide assortment of hosts, any number of which can infect them with a pathogenic organism. Immature ticks (larvae and nymphs) prefer to feed on smaller vertebrates, such as white-footed mice, chipmunks, shrews and birds; while larger adult ticks enjoy feeding on larger animals like deer, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits and opossum. Ticks are most often transported into private yards by deer that browse on plants, mice and chipmunks that live in stone walls and woodpiles, and by ground-feeding birds such as robins, finches, wrens and blue jays.

To cut back on the number of hosts found on most properties, residents should develop a strategy that disrupts their habitat. First and foremost, residents must keep their property clear of garbage or other food sources that may attract rodents, deer and other potential tick hosts. This includes bird feeders and the spillage of seeds and nuts that fall to the ground beneath them. Bird feeders should be relocated away from the house or removed entirely.

Homeowners should also eliminate heavy brush and ground cover (pachysandra, ivy, etc.) close to home and replace it with mulch and other less dense alternatives. These areas should be open to as much sunlight as possible. Rodents and other wildlife are less attracted to open and exposed areas, and ticks like these areas no better because they lose the shady, humid surroundings required for their survival.

Residents should relocate woodpiles away from their homes, as they provide nesting places for small rodents, and do away with, relocate or seal old stone walls near homes, which serve as favorite nesting places for rodents. Remember: where there are rodents, there are ticks.

This post is part of a three-part series discussing ways to protect the home and surrounding areas from ticks. In the next aritcle, we will highlight specific types of vegetation that tick hosts find more and less appealing as well as ways to protect property perimeters.