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Take Steps to Keep Ticks Out of Your Yard

By Chris Williams on December 15, 2015.

I read somewhere that there are things you can do in your own yard to reduce the numbers of ticks. My kids are always getting ticks and I’d like to put my husband on this project for next spring. Can you get us started please? J. 

P., Menthuen, MA

I believe I can help. We always say that avoiding tick habitat is the best way to avoid tick bites and the risk of Lyme and other tick diseases. However, in so many regions tick habitat is our very own yards. Ticks are especially plentiful in edge areas where woods meet open spaces. That’s because these are often also travel routes for the animals that ticks feed on. For many of us, tick edge habitat describes our heavily wooded lots with a bit of maintained lawn area around the house.

The purpose of a tick management program for your property is to eliminate edge habitat, hiding places for ticks, high weeds or shrubs where ticks wait for a host to pass by, and conditions that attract the mice and deer that are primary hosts for the black-legged (deer) ticks. Many of the steps you take to reduce habitat for ticks will also reduce habitat for their small rodent hosts (see Ticks Should Be Controlled Outside, in Your Yard, and How to Keep Ticks Out of Your Yard).

Set Up Your Own Tick Management Program

1. Keep your property as clear and open as possible – Move leaf litter, brush piles, branch piles, etc. off of your property completely, or far away from the house. Try to avoid creating a new “edge” with debris piles. Keep your lawn trimmed and weeds cut back.

2. Prune to open up spaces – Prune to open up bushes and shrubs, especially those at the edge of the lawn, to let more light in. Thin or cut down smaller trees in wooded areas to open up these spaces as well.

3. Rake leaves – Raking leaves on a heavily wooded property is a pain, but at least rake the areas that your or your children frequent. Ticks like to spend the winter under leaf litter so remove as much as you can.

4. Reconsider landscape plantings – If your plants attract hungry deer to your yard, consider replacing them with deer-resistant plants (check with your local plant nursery). Reduce the amount of dense groundcover plantings, replacing them with open ground or sparse plantings. Use more hardscaping, like pathways of gravel or tile, and fewer plantings.

5. Install an edge border around the perimeter of your lawn –  Install a 3-foot wide border of wood chips, mulch, or gravel between the edge of your lawn and the woods. The border deters movement of ticks into your yard and reminds your children that if they go beyond the border they are entering a higher risk area for ticks.

6. Correct conditions that attract mice and other rodents to your yard – Clean up rotting produce and plant debris left in gardens. Don’t place birdfeeders too close to your house and clean up spilled seed underneath regularly. Don’t leave pet food or garbage outside.

7. Make Colonial Pest part of your tick management program – Call us for expert advice on how to keep your yard tick-free. If mice and voles are common in your yard, eliminating them is a first step in eliminating ticks and we can do that (see What Do Mice in My Yard Have to Do With Lyme Disease?).

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