Gardening with Laurie: Beneficial nematodes help manage ticks
I think if I was asked what the one creature is that I find most disgusting it would have to be a tick. Just the name alone is pretty disgusting to me. These tiny creatures can be very troublesome for all types of warm-blooded animals. The past couple of years, I've had many complaints from pet owners with ticks on their dogs and inside their homes.
As with all pests, the best prevention can come from the earliest detection. You never want to let any type of pest get the upper hand. As soon as a pest is seen there should be immediate steps taken to eradicate that population.
I often hear comments from people hoping for freezing weather assuming it will affect the area pest populations. I have yet to read any reports or studies about ticks that verify this as fact in our part of the world. So, let's face it, we have to take responsibility for our part of the world if we choose to live comfortably and safe.
One safe and effective way you can help to cut back on a tick population in your yard is to put out beneficial nematode. During this time of year, when ticks are dormant, in the soil is the best time to treat for them. Beneficial nematodes are safe for all animals and humans but deadly to soil dwelling pests such as ticks, thrips, ants, chinch bugs and termites. Once the temperatures rise, both ticks and thrips will come out of the soil and look for a meal. Once this occurs, it is much harder to safely control them.
Tick populations will usually be directly related to a couple of things. First would be a likable habitat. Ticks are usually drawn to shady humid conditions, like under trees, shrubs, leaves or ground covers. They also seem to like stone and wood areas, which is often used to border flowerbeds and gardens. Wooded areas are prime locations for ticks because of the animal population; deer, mice, raccoons, etc. This readily available host population is the second cause for tick problems.
The massive amount of acorns I've noticed this season could attract large numbers of mice. Mice are one of the major hosts for ticks. Keeping acorns and leaves raked up would help toward your tick removal methods.
Providing a transition area from any wooded areas to your lawn with at least a four-foot-wide strip of mulch (no plantings) will also help to prevent ticks. All play areas should be located well away from wooded areas. Using a natural mulch under all play equipment and play areas is a good idea.
Using beneficial nematodes at the right time and making some alterations in your landscape could hopefully go a long way in helping to lessen the chance of ticks in your area of the world.
Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.
Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.