The reality of this wooded acre we live on is that there are ticks. Ticks are fond of furry creatures, like visiting chipmunks and squirrels, and this autumn has been tick-full. The dogs are protected by medication, but the humans are not. Even with preventative care, Gertie needed up getting a treatable tick borne disease. Mid-summer, there was no issue, despite us having tall grass and plants. However, in the shoulder seasons of spring and fall, those little vampires are hungry.
Some measures I have taken to get ticks under control:
-Cut the yard to about 8 inches. I hope this still allows enough space for bugs to over-winter. I know that the mice and voles still scurry underneath the mounds since the dogs are still hunting and killing them.
-Dust the entire yard with diatomaceous earth. Wear a mask/cloth over your mouth when spreading since it is a very fine dust. Use food grade. Do not use this around flowering plants. DE will also harm beneficials, so I am only using it once a year away from blooms. Chances are that I am harming some beneficials, but I need to get the ticks under control.
-Spray the entire yard with a mixture of neem, cedar, and eucalyptus oil. This technique seemed to work immediately in my experience. I will likely do this monthly from April til snowfall.
Time will tell if I have controlled the ticks, if I have disturbed the beneficials, or if it is just the right amount to control the yard. These treatments are used in our fenced in back yard only where the dogs roam. Our front yard is free range for deer, coyote, small mammal, and bugs.
We had way less mosquitos this year than last year. Plant wise, I grew a two to three times as many herbs and used them as filler in my beds. I believe the smells of the essential oils are strong enough to confuse the mosquito.
Geranium (what a magnificant scent, rosy and cheerful)
Corsican mint (which is what they use to make crème de menth)
Swedish Ivy (mint family)
Blue African Basil (this was amazing and filled in everywhere with a nice 2-3 foot height and fullness which reminded me fondly of the basil that grew in the tropics)
Mint (all in containers for control)
Extra hint for mosquito control: Cover rain barrels with a fine screen. After rains, dump any open, still water that could be breeding ground.
I failed when it came to organically controlling wasps. We had them living up front last year without issue. This year, they got out of control, and we had to call for pest control/poison.
What began under the dog fountain quickly spread to a household invasion. At first, I placed plants around the fountain to give the wasps safe passage in and out of their underground world. That worked for awhile, but THEN, they moved into our siding. They soon occupied about half of the house’s siding in the back. Apparently, wasps can chew through anything. With cold temps arriving, I worried they would try to get into the house through the insulation and drywall.
Both Rosie and Gertie got stung (who knows whose fault that was). So, we called for help. The “control” came out twice. Not proud to say we used a chemical, but it was definitely necessary with the way things were going. No need to come home to wasps partying inside the house while dogs chase and snap at them (ha!).
In conclusion, I do think that there are successful organic controls, but sometimes, as with the wasps, you have to take stark measures. As it gets cooler and starts to freeze at night, bugs won’t be much of an issue, then we will start seeing the mice trying to get inside :), but luckily these Cinco Perros really love the hunt.