If you live in an area where there’s a large tick population, tick season each year can be a challenge for dog owners. While it is often possible to avoid to an extent walking your dog in areas that you know host a lot of ticks, this is not always viable, such as if your own home itself is bang in the middle of “tick territory.”
If this is the case, you might well find that your own garden tends to host ticks as well, and this can make your life really difficult in terms of caring for your dog, and very time consuming in terms of continually checking them for ticks during tick season.
If just letting your dog out into the garden for half an hour means they might come back in with a tick, it may have crossed your mind to find out if there’s anything you can do to keep ticks out of your own garden.
While you’ll never be able to 100% ensure ticks don’t come into your garden (unless perhaps you concreted over the whole thing and left no foliage or plants in place) there are quite a few things you can do to make your garden less hospitable to ticks, prevent them from thriving there, and reduce their numbers by a significant margin if they’re posing a problem.
Some of these things can be quite extreme in terms of the time and expense involved and how they might change the appearance of your garden; but if ticks are a real issue, then they might be worthwhile in the long term nonetheless.
Read on to find out some of the things you can do to try to keep ticks out of your garden if the surrounding area is very tick friendly.
To make your garden less hospitable to ticks, you have to first know what type of environments ticks live in, and see what areas of your garden, or what it is about your garden, that provides them with a comfortable home.
This can be a challenge because different types of ticks have slightly different environmental needs; and if everything surrounding your home that you cannot change is very tick-friendly, some ticks are going to take a wrong turn and end up in your garden anyway.
But with that caveat in mind, ticks tend to need a combination of factors that are found in certain environments more than others; like woodland or wooded area, wilderness with undergrowth, green spaces that aren’t landscaped and vitally, environments that have moisture and damp in the ground and air, and are not dry or arid.
Ticks live in things like decaying organic matter (think leaf litter) and need a moist microclimate to survive, so wooded areas and undergrowth in marshy land or that doesn’t drain well, or near streams and pools and so on, all tend to be tick-friendly.
Ticks may live in tall mixed grass and undergrowth, around decaying logs, in compost, and in tall brush. They don’t usually like to hang out in full sun, and prefer areas with filtered light such as with tree cover.
If your garden or an area of your garden fits the bill to be tick-friendly, the best way to deter ticks is to make it tick unfriendly! Here are some of the ways to do that.
Ticks need a moist microclimate to thrive, and this is created by things like compost, decaying leaf litter, and other organic material on the ground. If your garden has areas like this or is surrounded by areas like this externally, resolving this issue, clearing the decaying organic matter, and drying things out where possible will help.
If your garden is surrounded by the type of environment ticks like, try to create a kind of firebreak between that and your garden. This might mean paving or putting a barrier of gravel or paving slabs for several feet all the way around the perimeter of the garden where it meets the external land; and cutting any overhanging plant growth that impinges on your own garden, to keep ticks from hitching a ride over.
Avoid using things like wood chip or cocoa shells for tick barriers, as organic materials will themselves harbour moisture. Also, cocoa shells are toxic to dogs.
Consider removing trees or shrubs that shed a lot of leaves to produce leaf litter, and keep open or grassy areas weeded and the grass short.
Ticks don’t tend to do well in gardens that are landscaped, nor will they be able to move around very efficiently if you don’t have tall grasses or overhanging shrubs and trees.
If you do have a compost heap or compost leaf litter, keep this in a very defined area with a “tick firebreak” around it, like paving slabs or gravel, as ticks will be attracted to this.
Also, consider treating your garden at points with a pet-safe pesticide to kill ticks that are present and break their lifecycle. Products containing Pyrethrin are very effective against ticks and also safe for dogs; but they’re very toxic to cats when wet.
This means if you use a product like this, always keep any cats out of your garden and try to use it on a hot day so it will dry quickly.
If you have a large garden and are lucky enough (depending on your views and how destructive they are to your plants!) to see deer coming into it; well, you have a problem.
One of the most common types of UK tick is the deer tick, and this is also one of the ticks most likely to latch onto dogs. This means that if deer visit your garden, they’re almost certainly bringing ticks with them, so if you’re serious about reducing ticks, you’ll have to look at ways to keep the deer out too.
Put up fencing that keeps deer out, and avoid things that may attract them, like fallen fruit.
Certain types of plants can deter deer too, such as chives, catnip and lavender, so planting these things around borders may help too.
Having hedgehogs visit your garden is charming, but they too carry ticks; so don’t put food out for hedgehogs either.