Ticks are nasty little critters. Not only is your blood their preferred food, but in the process of sucking it, they can transmit Lyme disease into your system. This infection can produce headache, fever, and other unpleasant symptoms. Without proper Lyme disease treatment, the disease can linger on for years with a wide range of side effects from sore joints and memory problems to panic attacks and acid reflux, according to the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society.
It's important to know how to avoid ticks in the woods, but what about at home? While some lawn-lovers turn to chemical interventions to keep ticks out of their yards, there are also natural tick repellents that will help protect your yard — and you.
1. Mow the Lawn
Begin by getting rid of tall grass and brush, especially at the edge of your lawn, to eliminate ticks’ favorite hangout spots. Also clean up leaf litter, and instead of tossing grass clippings and leaves into the garbage, add them to your compost pile and use the rich soil amendment in your garden. After they dry, grass clippings make great mulch that can help keep weeds from sprouting and help the soil retain water.
2. Irritate Their Feet
Ticks don’t like to cross paths lined with wood chips or gravel. Think of it like humans walking over glass—not pleasant. Place a gravel or wood chip buffer zone between lawns and wooded areas to help keep ticks from crossing onto your property.
3. Stack Woodpiles Neatly
Ticks can often be found crawling around sloppy woodpiles in shaded areas. If you keep the wood neatly stacked and in a spot that gets some sun, it’ll dry out faster. Remember, moist, wooded areas are inviting for ticks, while sunny, dry conditions are not.
4. Repel With a Plant
A lotion or spray containing DEET is your best bet, but be sure to follow the instructions closely. If you prefer to skip DEET, there are other ways to stay bug-free. For instance, since you can’t douse your yard with DEET — nor would you want to — you might try planting American beauty-berry bushes. They’re handsome plants and the leaves have been shown to repel ticks.
5. Employ a Tick Eater
It’s not an option for everyone, but consider investing in a few chickens. Raising chickens not only provides you with fresh eggs, but they’ll also peck away at ticks on your property. If you go this route, make sure you research the proper food and shelter these birds need. Robins and some other ground-feeding backyard birds eat ticks, too, so a bird-friendly yard may help keep the tick population down. However, unfortunately, some birds actually carry ticks, so be sure to keep areas near bird feeders and birdbaths clear of brush and debris so any hitchhiking ticks are less likely to survive.