Three things we did to reduce ticks in our yard

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Living in the Hudson Valley has one draw back: ticks. I know most people in the North East are plagued by these little pests, and want to enjoy being outside during warmer weather. The tick itself is not the real issue, it’s the disease they carry: lyme. I’ve had a few friends get lyme and it is terrible. I’ve seen healthy people confined to bed with joint pain so bad they can’t move. Lyme presents with a lot of strange symptoms, so please, please read up on it so you know what to look for.

The ticks on our property are kinda bad. There hasn’t been a season that’s gone by where we don’t see one crawling on us or our dogs. I’ve done a lot of research about how to reduce the tick population. While the steps I’ve listed below aren’t the only things you can do, they were a starting place for us. Gotta start somewhere!

I should state I fall on the ‘less chemicals the better’ category. I’d rather not spray our yard because we have well water (chemical leaching), but if it continues to be bad, I have to choose between two evils: lyme or chemical sprays. I’m also trying to see if there are any ‘hot areas’ for ticks because maybe just one area is bad and we could spray that area, rather than the whole yard. Until the day arrives we have to make that call, we’re taking these steps:

Fence in our back yard

We’d have deer that would hang out in our back yard – just passing through or sleeping there every night. Sorry deer friends, but ya gotta go. I got talking to a neighbor about the ticks and he told me a story that made my eyes wide and my brain freak out. His story: there was a dead deer that he saw and he said it was so covered with ticks he didn’t know how the animal could see out of its eyes. Its whole face was completely covered. Yupp, no more deer in the backyard. We’ll be friends from a distance.

While fencing in any space is expensive, we opted to DIY and collaborated with Lowe’s. If you want to save on labor costs, it was so much work but worth it in the end. Our dogs enjoy running off leash and it’s helped with our lifestyle – we can open the back door and let the dogs out! Here’s a link to our fence DIY.

Here’s an article about a study that was done about fencing in and tick populations.

How to Build a Wooden Lattice Fence

Tick Tubes

These are kinda new and my new favorite anti-tick product! In real life ticks can only move two feet. The way they make it around your yard are mice and small animals (squirrels, chipmunks, etc). We have so many of these critters running around. Naturally these little animals want to nest, and tick tubes provide them with the perfect nesting material. The cotton in the tubes happens to be treated to kill ticks. You place the tick tubes around your yard in wood piles, under rocks, etc and the animal builds their nest with cotton from inside the tube. It will kill ticks on the animal and their babies. The treatment on the cotton is similar to what we use on our dogs, so it doesn’t hurt the animal or disturb their routine. Early studies of tick tubes have been really promising.

Tick tubes were part of our fence project last year with Lowe’s.

Tick Tubes from Lowe’s

Cleaning up brush and adding a barrier.

When we moved into this house there were parts of the lawn had become really overgrown. Ticks love a moist shady area, and now it’s my job to eliminate those. Some of the areas we use regularly are impossible to even weedwack, much less mow the lawn. We’ve been tackling areas for the past three years now and this year it seems like we’ve made some real progress. We are starting to see the results! That feels great, and leads us to our next step. Ticks can only travel two feet without water or moisture. I’ve talked to neighbors who introduced me to idea of the barrier and it’s worked well for them. You essentially make a three foot barrier our of dry wood chips. (Avoid using mulch that retains water, or it helps ticks!) That way ticks can’t move into your yard and where you hang out the most. We are going to get a chipper so we can make this barrier. A chipper makes sense and will help us keep our property tidy. I thought this article explained the barrier concept pretty clearly.

Other Tips

Keep a tick remover in your first aid kit.

If you do get a tick on you, your chance of getting lyme are smaller if you remove it in the first 24 hours. If we’ve been working outside, we check ourselves and each other. This tick remover is small and effective, we’ve used it on our dogs many times!

Tick remover we keep in our first aid kit. This is from an outdoor store, if you buy from a pet store they are often more expensive.

Dry brush your dogs with essential oils

I find the way we get ticks the most is from our dogs. In high tick season, we dry brush our dogs if they’ve been laying in the grass. Our dogs smell better for it too. Dry brushing knocks off any unattached ticks. Here’s some essential oils you can use to repel ticks.

Our favorite natural bug repellent. This worked wonders last year for dogs and humans. I like wearing a natural bug repellent when working on the patio or grass areas of the yard. Keeps us from having to use Deet.

Spray Your Boots and Pants + Wear a Hat

If we are going to be working outside for a few hours and are dressing to go in the woods, we spray our boots and pants with tick spray, Off Deep Woods or something similar. We also wear a wide brimmed dark hat to keep them out of our hair. Ewwww! Ticks in hair. I’m a city girl at heart.

I expect it will take us three years for us to see a real difference in tick populations on our little piece of property. Each year we try to tackle a little more.

We get the version of Off Deep Woods that says ‘ticks’

I hope this helps as you prepare to enjoy the warm weather. If you’ve had success with a particular tick reduction strategy, please comment below.


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  1. Eli says:

    So helpful!! Thank you for sharing. I had not heard of tick tubes before!

  2. Erin says:

    Thank you thank you thank you for this! We bought an 1840’s farmhouse in Orange County, NY last year and led some friends on a hike in early April only to all come back covered in ticks! I’ve been paranoid ever since so will definitely take these precautions. Side note: I learned about retro modern from your insta and am also forever grateful! We got an amazing line dresser from Marty!

  3. Erin says:

    Pine not line dresser!

  4. Meredith says:

    I’m curious – have you done any research on plantings that might attract tick-eating birds or insects? I’m thinking of doing that but haven’t looked into it yet. I did chat with a landscaper who said a bat house is very effective for tick and insect control!

    • Very light research. We have a great bat population and I know some birds eat ticks as well. We have bat houses and they work really well for keeping the mosquito population under control.

  5. Martha says:

    One suggestion to reduce tick exposure in undergrowth is to remove any Japanese barberry shrubs. It is an invasive species and provides perfect tick habitat. Deer won’t eat Japanese barberry so it tends to spread since they eat so many other things, resulting in giving Japanese barberry more room to grow. You can do an internet search on terms: “ticks” and “Japanese barberry” and find more information.

    • Ye, we have that bush and it’s terrible. I’ve been removing it in sections, which is taking forever, but it will be worth it. We also have a invasive bush called multifloral rose and it’s terrible too. Removing that one as I go! So much yard work.

  6. Vijay says:

    these trick are easy and workable.
    thank! for share.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for sharing! So many great tips! I will be trying the cotton!

  8. Amy says:

    Another thing you could consider for your dogs is giving them garlic. It’s a natural flea and tick repellent. We use ‘bug off garlic’ from for two years now and it worked great!! No nasty chemicals used on our dogs and no fleas/ticks! It’s safe and works.

  9. Thank you – we recently purchased a farm in the Santa Cruz mountains (California) and have that problem with our dog. The property is fenced in, however the deer walk right down our street to enjoy the roses in the front. I am starting to wonder if he gets them along the back our property that backs up to the neighbors chicken coop. Have you heard of them hanging around chickens?

  10. Bob Builder says:

    I have the tick remover for my kids already but will start using all the other great tips!

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