How Do I Protect My Yard Against Fleas and Ticks?

The day may come when your dog or cat greets you and you notice something “extra”…a jumping or crawling biting pest that has taken up residence. As disturbing as it is to discover that your pet has fleas or ticks, it is, perhaps, even more disturbing to know that those pests may be living right outside your door, waiting for the opportunity to hitch a ride indoors on Spot or Kitty.

If you’ve identified that your pet has unwelcome “riders,” it’s important to take action in (and on) three separate areas:  your pet, inside your home and outdoors.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to treating the outdoors is you may have a lot of territory to cover. Depending on where you live, you may have to take action repeatedly during warm weather in order to control reinfestation of fleas and ticks. Even after you’ve taken steps to ensure your pet is pest-free, a wandering stray cat or a wild animal may enter your yard, leaving behind those unwelcome pests.

First, make sure your yard is unattractive to pests. The Centers for Disease Control recommend simple steps for flea control such as the removal of organic debris in flowerbeds and regular mowing and raking. It also recommends the simultaneous treatment of all pets and their (indoor and outdoor) environments.

Because fleas love to hitch a ride on rodents, take steps to ensure that your yard is inhospitable to four-legged, warm blooded pests such as mice and rats (although their cuter cousins, squirrels or chipmunks, can also carry fleas). Eliminate food sources and eliminate breeding and nesting places such as brush piles and trash.

Ticks love to climb to the top of tall grass and brush in order to hitch a ride with a warm-blooded host, so be sure to keep these trimmed and cleared. To restrict trick migration into recreational areas, some experts recommend placing a 3-foot wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between your lawn and wooded areas. It’s also advisable to keep playground equipment, picnic tables and other lawn furniture away from yard edges and trees.

Natural deterrents can include the use of diatomaceous earth (available at garden centers) and/or beneficial nematodes. Diatomaceous earth, made up of the tiny fossilized bodies of diatoms, is not only abrasive but it also helps “suck up” lipids from the exoskeletons of insects, causing dehydration and death. However, rain and watering negates these effects, which means the earth must be reapplied if you are in a damp or rainy area (or season).

Beneficial nematodes are naturally occurring microscopic organisms that attack insect pests. They don’t pose a threat to humans or pets, but they quickly attack pests, including the larval and pupal stages. Because nematodes like moist soil, they may be a great solution if you can’t use diatomaceous earth.

Some plants are believed to help keep insect pests at bay. Lavender is believed to help keep fleas at bay. Mint (and catnip), sage and lemon grass will all help to repel fleas. There are other plants (such as Rue, Pennyroyal and Wormwood) that will repel fleas but they are not safe for use around pets. Do your homework before planting to make sure your selections are hazardous only to pests, not pets!

If your infestation is severe, you may want to take action quickly. There are yard and garden sprays, like SentryHome Yard and Premise Spray, that work fast against not only fleas and ticks, but a host of other unpleasant guests, such as spiders, ants, roaches and other creepy crawlies. Be sure to carefully read and follow label directions before applying any chemical treatments.

-Photo Credit: From flickr by dtydontstop, image cropped to fit space

Tags: ,

  • Print
  • email