Tickscaping: Preventing Lyme Disease
with Landscape Design

Since an estimated three quarters of all Lyme disease cases are acquired from ticks picked up during activities around the home, I learned how to create a safer landscape where we walk and entertain outdoors in three of the seasons each year. Prevention is key to the acquisition of Lyme disease and other tickborne illnesses. Here are some “tickscape” practices I adopted to create an environment that is unattractive to primary tick hosts and may decrease the abundance of ticks that are present in parts of the yard.

  1. Keep grass mowed.
  2. Remove leaf litter, brush and weeds at the edge of the lawn. This took months of weekend work to rake all the leaves and chop up the brush that had collected for decades near the pond that is at the end of our property.
  3. Restrict the use of ground cover, such as pachysandra in areas frequented by family and roaming pets.
  4. Remove brush and leaves around stonewalls and wood piles. The old stone walls needed to be restored but the clean out came first on the to do list.
  5. Discourage rodent activity. Clean up and seal stonewalls and small openings around the home. Move firewood piles and bird feeders away from the house. The firewood was stored next to the back porch, now it is stacked in a weather and vermin proof place.
  6. Manage pet activity, keep dogs and cats out of the woods to reduce ticks brought back into the home. Asta, our airedale, has a large fenced in “playpen” away from areas where there is likely to be a heavier infestation of ticks and mice.
  7. Use plantings that do not attract deer. Or, exclude deer through various types of fencing. I chose lots of boxwood and planted crab apple trees, both reasonably unappealing to deer. Hydrangeas surround the house “protected”  behind the boxwood hedges. There is a newly planted hydrangea hedge growing to cover the wooden pool fence. Roses and lavender are safe inside the fence around the pool.
  8. Move children’s play areas away from edge of the property and choose places for tree houses and other play areas that are sunny and have either hardscape or closely trimmed lawn as a base
  9. Trim tree branches and shrubs around the lawn edge to let in more sunlight.
  10. Adopt hardscape and xeriscape (dryer or less water demanding) landscaping techniques with gravel pathways and mulches. I used large granite steps from the driveway to the house and from the back of the house to the pool to avoid any contact with the lawn.
  11. Create a 3-foot or wider wood chip, mulch, or gravel border between lawn and woods or stonewalls. This is the project next on the to do list.
  12. Consider making areas with decking, tile, gravel, border or container plantings by the house or frequently traveled areas such as the daily traveled path to the mailbox.

The environment and our exposure to new infectious diseases are changing.  It is important that we know how diseases are transmitted and do what we can to avoid the ever-increasing list of these infectious diseases. Prevention is much less painful than treatment.



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  • lk July 17, 2018 at 8:05 am

    Why don’t you just pave your front yard and be done with it????

    • Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. July 17, 2018 at 11:05 am

      Dear LK,
      Thanks for reading and asking your thoughtful question.
      In order to answer this question, I wonder, did you watch the video of what black legged ticks do to humans in order to get their week of feeding on our blood? That is before we get Lyme Disease from the gift of bacteria and viruses they leave behind in our bodies….I don’t want ticks on my person and plan to do what I can to make the property around my house safe for children, family and friends as well.
      So, you would like to know why I don’t just “pave the front yard and be done with it?” First, I would never pave anything, as in creating a parking lot like area instead of lawn. However, the Husband wouldn’t let me create an attractive and safe hardscape instead of a lawn. So, the granite steps are working for me so far. I stay on those and off the grass. But next year, I have plans…creating a large granite stone patio behind the kitchen porch for outdoor dining. Just don’t tell The Husband. He will like it once he arrives and finds it finished.
      Dr. Pat