From the Garden: Don't Let Ticks Kick You Out of the Garden

By Erin Breglia

Every time I hear the word tick,” I cringe in fear of the lit­tle arach­nids – and their bite and the dis­eases they car­ry. The recent expo­nen­tial increase in the tick pop­u­la­tion has had a big impact on me, my fam­i­ly, and our way of life because we are all lovers of the out­doors. Stub­born gar­den­er that I am, I decid­ed to learn how to avoid them rather than attract them, and to fig­ure out ways to gar­den, to hike, to just be out­side and still remain safe.

Accord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC), ticks are most active between the months of April and Sep­tem­ber. The main types of ticks in our region are the Amer­i­can dog tick, the black­legged tick, the brown dog tick, and the Lon­es­tar tick. Each of them car­ries an array of pathogens. They live on the ground in areas with thick veg­e­ta­tion and high humid­i­ty, which of course includes forests and fields. 

First the ety­mo­log­i­cal sci­ence. Ticks go through four life stages: egg; six-legged lar­va; eight-legged nymph; and adult. After hatch­ing from the eggs, ticks must eat blood at each stage in order to move on to the next one. It can take up to three years to com­plete a full life cycle, and, on an encour­ag­ing note, most ticks will die because they can’t find a host for their next feeding.

All my research sources rec­om­mend­ed wear­ing light col­ored cloth­ing. Not only is it eas­i­er to detect a tick, it also is less attrac­tive to a tick. Long pants, long sleeved shirt, pants tucked into socks. Sec­ond was the use of Per­me­thrin. Per­me­thrin is an insec­ti­cide in the pyrethroid fam­i­ly. Pyrethroids are syn­thet­ic chem­i­cals that act like nat­ur­al extracts from the chrysan­the­mum flower. They should not be applied to skin but rather on clothes. More nat­ur­al” prod­ucts can be made with ingre­di­ents such as chrysan­the­mum, 2‑undecanone (derived from the stem and leaf of wild toma­to), gar­lic oil, rose­mary, lemon­grass, cedar, pep­per­mint, thyme and gera­ni­um. Both options, syn­thet­ic chem­i­cals and the more nat­ur­al prod­ucts, will repel ticks.

If you are a gar­den­er, you might do sev­er­al things to keep your prop­er­ty less hos­pitable to ticks’ sur­vival. Let neat and tidy” be your mot­to: keep the grass mown short, the beds weed­ed, and leaves and dead plant mate­r­i­al prompt­ly removed. Be wary of wood stacked out­doors – if pos­si­ble, move it into full sun. Cedar mulch was men­tioned as a nat­ur­al tick deter­rent and a 3 foot bor­der can be cre­at­ed to act as a buffer between the lawn and wood­ed areas. Also men­tioned were the addi­tion of spe­cif­ic plants such as chamomile, laven­der, mint, and rose­mary to your gar­den. These plants will help to ward off ticks as well as mos­qui­tos and fleas. 

I also found wildlife and domes­ti­cat­ed birds men­tioned as anoth­er way to keep ticks away. The best tick preda­tors are opos­sum, Guinea fowl, and chick­ens. Oth­er birds, such as wild turkey and birds, are both preda­tors and car­ri­ers of ticks. 

If you feel ticks have already made a home in your gar­den and you need to decon­t­a­m­i­nate, I came across a few recipes that are plant, peo­ple, and pet safe. Please check out the Rose­mary and Cin­na­mon’, Cit­rus Fruits Repel­lent’, and Hot Chili and Gar­lic Repel­lent’ recipes at www​.sproutabl​.com/​p​r​e​v​e​n​t​i​n​g​-​a​n​d​-​r​e​p​e​l​l​i​n​g​-​t​i​c​k​s​-​a​s​-​a​-​g​a​r​d​ener/. Oth­er great web resources cit­ed in this arti­cle are the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion at www​.cdc​.gov, and NY State Depart­ment of Health at www​.health​.ny​.gov.

Summer 2019

Volume 37 , Number 2

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