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How to plant to discourage ticks

by MAUREEN GILMER Scripps Howard News Service on September 29, 2013 1:20 AM

Every year, more than 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But CDC officials think the infection rate could actually be about 10 times that. Lyme and other diseases, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, are transmitted through bites from ticks.

While ticks are often picked up on adventures into wildlands, they may be just as prevalent in your backyard. For those who love to garden in high-risk areas, or in yards where kids play or pets hang out, planting smart may indeed save a life.

There are certain species of plants that don’t appeal to ticks. Nearly all of them are familiar herbs. Creating herb gardens may be the most effective way to protect your family without using pesticides and DEET.

Herbs are rich in highly aromatic oils, which are nature’s way of deterring plant-eating pests. Citronella and pyreth-rums are both botanical insecticides derived from herbal plants. Check labels of natural pest repellents and you’ll see other herbal ingredients you recognize.

The most common include oil of clove, eucalyptus and lavender.

Oil of cedar is another deterrent that made the traditional cedar chest the safest place to store cherished linens.

Take this knowledge out into the garden and learn how planting herbs can keep your backyard safer. While herbal oils don’t prevent all ticks, they are a great way to create a beautiful landscape with hidden pest-repelling qualities.

Here’s how:


PLANT A “MOAT”: Begin by cr-eating beds along the boundaries of your backyard to discourage ticks from crossing into your space. Use a foundation of herbs blended into lovely perennial flowers so it blooms all season long.

This idea is doubly useful if you live in the country or adjacent to vacant land where ticks proliferate.



PLANT OUTDOOR LIVING SPACES: Herbs make the most rewarding plants for the patio because they’re at your fingertips for use on the grill or to snip a bit of oregano for your pasta dish. The more diversely you plant the beds and borders close to the house, or spots where people often hang out, the better.


PLANT CARPETS OF HERBS: Low-growing species such as chamomile and creeping thyme are a legacy of medieval gardens planted with herbs to be walked upon.

With fleas a common problem in castles, the herbs were crushed by foot traffic to release oils that gathered on shoes and trailing skirts to protect the wearer.

In lieu of lawn in play areas, consider an herbal carpet instead. It may become the most tick-free space of all.


PLANT THE DOG RUN: Dogs rarely fuss with herbs because of their potent odor and taste. Planting them into your dog’s pen means he’ll be brushing up against them or even sleeping on them much of the time.

His fur will become redolent with these oils, which discourage ticks from lodging there to be carried indoors.



PLANT SOME TO CUT: In ancient times, people stuffed their mattresses with certain dried herbs to deter fleas and other undesirable insects.

If you grow enough to cut and dry, such herbs can be stuffed inside outdoor pillows to keep your outdoor seating pleasantly pestfree.

Perhaps the best part of this concept is that you’ll be surrounded by a rich garden of flowering herbs that include your favorite culinary species.

Explore gorgeous purple fennel and a dozen different aromas of scented geraniums. Get to know the herbs personally by planting them in large quantities throughout your yard. Though they may not deter all ticks, Mother Nature’s own pesticide can certainly rain on their parade.

Maureen Gilmer is an author, horticulturist and landscape designer. Learn more at www.Mo Contact her at or P.O. Box 891, Morongo Valley, CA 92256.


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