Although there are tons of beneficial insects we all want in our outdoor spaces, like honey bees and ladybugs, no one wants to attract ticks to their gardens. However, soametimes ticks make it into our lawns and outdoor areas, leaving us wondering – how did the ticks get there, and why won’t they go away?
Ticks are attracted to gardens since they can only survive in dark, damp, and cool places, such as in trees, underneath the foliage of your garden plants, beneath stones and wood, and deep in grass and creeping plants.
I’ll tell you everything you need to know about how ticks get into gardens, what might attract them, and where they might be hiding. I’ll also teach you some tricks and tips to help you get rid of your garden ticks and keep them out for good.
Things You Need To Know About Ticks and Gardens
Ticks can harm our health since they spread illnesses like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease to anyone unlucky enough to become a host. For that reason, we all know to avoid ticks and check ourselves any time we spend time walking through the forest.
However, few people would check themselves after taking a stroll in their gardens. Unfortunately, this would be a mistake – ticks can frequently invade the outdoor spaces in our home, even if your property is not in the middle of the woods.
So, let’s take a deeper look into where ticks live, what they eat, and how they could permanently move into your garden.
1. Ticks Need a Cool, Damp Place To Hide
Ticks are arachnids, like spiders, and although they may try to hitch a ride on anything that has blood, they prefer to dwell in dark, damp spaces, just like spiders.
Ticks generally won’t go anywhere the sun shines, which is why they usually burrow down between the folds of your skin or hair when they choose to make a meal out of you.
They still look for somewhere dark and wet when they’re not feeding. That makes several things – that may or may not be in your garden – appealing to them, such as:
- Dense, forested areas and bordering areas
- Woodpiles and scrap wood
- Stones, bricks, and pavers
- Crawling vines
- Plants such as thyme, ivy, stonecrop, and many common weeds
- Untrimmed grass
- Debris such as fallen tree limbs, fall leaves, and nuts and seeds from trees
While eliminating these elements from your garden would be a good way to get rid of your neighborhood ticks, it would also take tons of work and effort to clear the land completely, and your garden would likely look bland without them.
Plus, in some cases, getting rid of all of these items is impossible, especially if your property borders on someone else’s unmanicured land. That’s where other control methods come in – but more on that later.
2. Ticks Prefer Forested Areas to Gardens
Given a choice between an untamed forest and even the most untrimmed, messy lawn, ticks would choose the forest.
Ticks can find the most hosts in densely wooded areas, and the underbrush keeps them moist and cool, helping them stay healthy.
On the other hand, they are much more vulnerable in a garden, especially if the area is well-maintained and clear of debris, exposing them to sunlight and predators.
3. Ticks Can Only Survive When There Are Animals Nearby
When ticks finally find a host and start feeding, they get carried away from forests and their comfortable woodland homes to wherever the host wants to go. That’s the only way ticks can spread since they are not very fast and cannot jump.
So, if you have ticks in your garden and don’t live near the woods, you likely have some animals living nearby. Perhaps it’s a dog or cat, but it’s much more likely that the ticks came into your garden via a mouse, rat, squirrel, rabbit, deer, or other wildlife.
As I’ll explain below, keeping these animals out of your garden is one of the best ways to keep your garden tick-free. Additionally, keeping these animal pests out of your garden can help to protect your plants from damage.
For example, squirrels are particularly damaging towards gardens. To learn more about how squirrels impact your garden, you can read my other article: How to Stop Squirrels from Eating Your Tulips.
Once the ticks land in your garden, they will be stuck there until they find another mammal to feed on. If they never find a host, they will die out eventually. However, if they find a host and go undetected, they will eat, then hop off and find a new hiding place.
4. Some Plants Attract Ticks More Than Others
Ticks don’t want to be seen, so they avoid plants that don’t have woody stems or dense foliage. That’s good news for some gardeners, especially those who prefer to grow smaller flowers and annuals.
However, if your garden includes shrubs or dense vines, you might invite the ticks to reside in your garden beds.
Anything that grows in a dense cluster will attract ticks. Some common garden plants that might attract them include:
- Rose bushes
- Passion vine
I could go on, but all these plants have two things in common – they attract animals and grow densely and quickly, creating a shady, private place for ticks to dwell until they find their next host.
How To Eliminate Ticks in Your Garden
So, now that you know how ticks got into your garden and why they’re still there, it’s time to discuss some methods for getting rid of them and keeping them away.
Keep Your Garden Manicured and Clear
As I mentioned, ticks need darkness, high humidity, and shade to thrive, so eliminating spots where these conditions exist is the best way to rid your garden of ticks.
There’s a lot of ground to cover here, so here’s what you can do:
- Keep your lawn short.
- Prune or remove ground-covering plants in shady areas.
- Keep bushes, shrubs, and vines pruned back.
- Move bricks, stones, or scrap wood into the sunlight and keep them as far from your home as possible.
- Clear the ground around your garden plants to expose the soil to sunlight.
- Burn or dispose of leaves, fallen tree branches, and weeds.
While reading this list of preventative measures is a lot easier than doing the hard labor it tasks to clean up your garden, doing so will remove the ticks’ natural habitats, forcing them to go somewhere else or die.
Ward Off Animal Pests From Your Garden
Just like all of us, ticks need to eat. This means that repelling and eliminating their animal hosts will kill two birds with one stone.
The most common mammal pests that bring in ticks are mice, rats, and deer, so you’ll need to treat your garden with a repellent that works against all of these animals.
I recommend using a product like Bobbex Animal Repellent (available on Amazon.com), the only animal repellent I’ve found effective against all tick-carrying garden pests. It’s also the only thing I’ll use since it is organic, pet-safe, and won’t affect the taste or appearance of my crops and ornamentals.
When spraying with an animal repellent, concentrate on areas that provide shelter for the animals. Focus on woodpiles, holes in the ground, dense underbrush, and your property line for the best coverage and results.
Without animals to feed on, the ticks will die out, and you’ll also be free of hungry critters munching on your plants. So, keep repelling animals, and you’ll see the ticks die out eventually.
Kill The Ticks With Permethrin or Diatomaceous Earth
I’m never one to recommend insecticides, but when it comes to ticks, insecticidal treatments are often the only surefire way to keep your garden pest-free.
If you grow crops or other edible plants in your garden, I recommend applying diatomaceous earth to the soil beneath your plants. Diatomaceous earth is organic, safe to consume, and pet-safe once you dampen it. It works by dehydrating and scratching open insects’ – and arachnids’ – exoskeletons, killing them once they crawl over it.
However, if you feel comfortable using a proper pesticide, you’ll want to spray a permethrin-based insecticide along the perimeter of your garden. Permethrin is not safe to use around food-bearing plants, though, and you’ll need to keep pets and kids away from the treated areas for at least two days after application. So, this chemical is not for everyone.
However, permethrin kills and repels ticks, making it the most effective treatment.
Most people who use this chemical against ticks opt to hire a pest control expert to apply it since it can be dangerous. Still, it is possible to do it yourself if you are cautious and follow all the directions on the bottle – that includes wearing safety gear and not going into your garden for at least two days after spraying.
Ticks are only attracted to gardens that can provide them with food and shelter. Garden debris, shrubs, bushes, overgrown vines, wooded areas, and ground-covering plants can invite ticks and potential hosts such as mice and deer into your garden, establishing a colony of pests in your backyard.
To eliminate the ticks, you’ll need to deprive them of damp, dark, cool places to hide and ward off animal pests. You can do so using animal repellents, garden maintenance, and insecticides.