5 ways to keep Lyme disease out of your yard

Disease-carrying ticks are out for your blood, but you can keep them off your property.
© Rodale.com // © Rodale.com

Ticks are nasty little critters. Not only is your blood their preferred food, in the process of sucking it they can transmit Lyme disease into your system. Infection can produce headache, fever, and other unpleasant symptoms. If not properly treated, Lyme can linger on for years with a wide range of side effects, from sore joints and memory problems to panic attacks and acid reflux, according to the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society. While some lawn-lovers turn to chemical interventions to keep ticks out of their yards, there are safer ways to make your property less appealing to those wee bloodsuckers. Here's how.

1 of 7 Back yard (© Deborah Harrison/Getty Images)

# 1: Mow the lawn.

Get rid of tall grass and brush, especially at the edge of your lawn, to eliminate ticks' favorite hangout spots. Also clean up leaf litter. Instead of tossing grass clippings and leaves into the garbage, compost them and use the rich soil amendment in your garden. After they dry, grass clippings also make great mulch, keeping weeds from sprouting and helping the soil retain water.

Read more: 7 Quick, Easy Lawn and Garden Fixes

2 of 7 Man mows lawn (© Nicolas Russell/Getty Images)

# 2: Irritate their feet.

Ticks don't like to cross paths lined with wood chips or gravel. Think of it like humans walking over glass -- not pleasant! Place a gravel or wood chip buffer zone between lawns and wooded areas to help keep ticks from crossing into your property.

Read More: Prevent Lyme Disease with Showers and Fences

3 of 7 Gravel path dividing lawn & house (© Carole Drake/Getty Images)

#3: Be a neat freak when it comes to woodpiles.

Ticks can often be found crawling around sloppy woodpiles in shaded areas. If you keep the wood neatly stacked and in a spot that gets some sun, it'll dry out faster. Remember, moist, wooded areas are inviting for ticks. Sunny, dry conditions are not.

Read More: Avert Tick Attacks This Summer

4 of 7 Man organizing woodpile (© Stefanie Grewel/Getty Images)

# 4: Repel with a plant.

While the chemical DEET is a great tick repellent, it also contains ingredients that can harm both us and the environment. If you use DEET, follow the directions to a T. Since you can't douse your yard with DEET -- nor would you want to -- you might try planting American beautyberry bushes. They're handsome plants, and the leaves have been shown to repel ticks.

Read More: Fend Off Pests Naturally

5 of 7 Beauty berries (© Rob Whitworth/Getty Images)

# 5: Own a tick eater.

It's not an option for everyone, but have you considered investing in a few chickens? Not only will they provide you with fresh eggs, they'll also peck away at ticks on your property. Better yet, "get guinea hens," says Therese Ciesinski, senior editor at Organic Gardening magazine. "They love to eat ticks." If you go this route, make sure you research the proper food and shelter these birds need. Robins and some other ground-feeding backyard birds eat ticks, too, so a bird-friendly yard may help keep the tick population down.

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On the other hand, some birds actually carry ticks. Keep areas near bird feeders and birdbaths clear of brush and debris, so any hitchhiking ticks are less likely to survive.

6 of 7 Chicken on lawn (© James Dobson/Getty Images)