It’s a given that we all like to spend time outside at this time of year, and that goes for children and pets as well as grown ups. Whether we’re hosting parties or just engaging in a bit of rough and tumble on the lawn, you can’t beat being outside!
We tend to think of our gardens as pretty safe places, so it can be pretty unnerving to learn that there are potential dangers lurking in the grass. Snakes? It’s certainly possible, but unless the grass is particularly overgrown, you’re not likely to have any adders nipping at your ankles, though of course if you ever do venture into long grass for any reason, you should certainly be aware of the possibility that there might be adders present.
A bigger risk to health that you’re far more likely to come across in your garden is a much smaller, but potentially hazardous critter, the common tick. Ticks are common at this time of year, in much the same way as mosquitoes and other bugs, and although the majority of the time that don’t pose any danger if you find that one has latched onto your skin. However ticks have the ability to carry some pretty nasty diseases that can affect both people and animals, the most well known of which in the UK is Lyme disease. If you venture to other parts of the world you’ll find that ticks carry other nasty pathogens such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Southern Rash Illness, and may even cause paralysis.
Sticking with the threat in the UK, it’s not known exactly how many ticks carry Lyme disease, however ticks themselves are more common in rural areas with large deer populations. To test your lawn to see if ticks are an issue the first thing to do is create a ‘tick drag’. This is just a square of fabric about 150mm x 150mm which you then attach to a broom handle or pole with string or a cable tie. Drag the fabric across the lawn at the most overgrown and ‘rural’ area you have, and inspect the fabric to see if any ticks have latched onto it. If they have don’t panic, but be sure to follow these steps in order to get rid of them.
Always Dress to Protect Yourself
Both before and during the tick eradication process you should make sure you do your best to stop them from latching onto your skin. Wear long trousers and socks and a long sleeved shirt, as well as closed shoes when walking on your lawn. It’s also a good idea to wear insect repellent as a secondary precaution.
Keep Your Lawn Short and Free of Debris
Ticks like to spend their time on long grass as it provides shade from the heat of the sun, and also provides the ideal ‘diving board’ from which to jump and land on an unsuspecting passer by. If you keep your lawn trimmed short (ideally less than 50mm at all times) then the ticks won’t be comfortable living there. For the same reason you should make sure you collect the grass rather than discharge or mulch it, as the clippings will also provide a nice shady habitat for the ticks to thrive
Make a Mulch Border Between Your Lawn and The Wilderness Beyond
The chances are there will be an obvious entry point for the ticks into your garden and onto your lawn, for example an area of wild grassland behind a border fence. If you lay a decent metre wide border of mulch between your lawn and the wild area this should provide an effective barrier to prevent the ticks crossing onto the lawn. Use dry wood chippings rather than grass or leaf mulch which may be damp and favorable to the ticks.
Seek and Destroy
There are chemical methods by which you can kill off the tick population on your lawn, but simply applying pesticides to the lawn might be ineffective and be of more harm to you than the ticks.