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MIND & BODY: Landscaping option to prevent pests in your yard

By Jessica Dominguez, Health environmentalist


Mother’s Day is behind us, and many of us now have the green light to landscape our yards and gardens.

This is a great way to revive morale during COVID-19, but keep in mind that, with landscaping, comes many opportunities for pests to enter your home.

Here are some tips to help keep a beautiful yard and a pest-free house.

Consider the placement of plants in your yard.

You will likely find a few insects on your flowers or shrubs. Your plants feed and house insects, but if they are planted too close to your home, they can also act as a bridge for the insects to get inside.

To prevent this, make a space between your landscaping and your home. At least 18 inches will suffice for plants and flowers.

Trees need six feet between the walls of your home and any branches or limbs. Branches near your roof can give squirrels, rats and mice an easy access to your chimney and attic. It’s also a good idea to avoid trees with dense canopies as they harbor rat colonies.

If you already have large trees, prune them regularly, and try to keep the branches from touching your home.

It is also important to keep fire wood away from your home and to fix any plumbing leaks quickly.

While cleaning up your yard this season, be aware of any debris or rotting wood. Pests love decaying wood, standing water and compost heaps. Regular maintenance of the yard will take care of this.

Mowing the grass, weeding, raking and clearing standing water will prevent pests from making a home in your yard.

As any landscape company will tell you right now, mulch is king. Mulch is most often wood chips that are fairly inexpensive, and there are many varieties to choose from. However, the wood debris doesn’t just bring curb appeal.

Wood mulch attracts carpenter ants, ear wigs, roaches and termites.

You don’t have to skip out on mulch. Rubber mulch is a good substitute for curb appeal and pest and weed control.

Rubber mulch is made from recycled tires, which keep tires out of our oceans and landfills. If rubber is not appealing, polished river rock can be used instead.

Neither of these will absorb water meant for your plants, and since they do not break down each year, you will spend less in the long run.

It may be worthwhile to consider planting different flowers this year as some have a pest-repelling quality.

Marigolds repel mosquitoes, aphids and even rabbits. Marigolds are easy to grow, and can also be planted in a vegetable garden near tomato plants to help keep tomato hornworms away.

Chrysanthemums repel roaches, ants, ticks, fleas and many other pesky insects. Flying and crawling insects avoid mums because of a neurotoxin called Pyrethrin, which is toxic to bugs but safe for animals.

Geraniums repel mosquitoes, leafhoppers and Japanese beetles. They come in a variety of colors, and last throughout the spring, summer and early fall.

Rosemary repels mosquitoes and a variety of other insects that can prove harmful to your garden. It’s good for cooking, and can also be burned for a natural form of mosquito control.

Lavender is considered an effective deterrent for flies, fleas, mosquitoes and other unwanted insects. They dislike the oil.

Basil repels mosquitoes and a variety of flies, and as an added bonus, it’s tasty.

Catnip repels most insects. The oil in catnip contains a chemical called nepetalactone, which repels many insects including cockroaches, mosquitoes, mites, ticks spiders and more. The downside is it does not repel cats.

While these plants may repel insects, it is important to know they will not necessarily make your yard insect free.

When it comes to adorning one’s yard, avoid bird baths and standing water. Bird baths can be a notorious mosquito breeding ground.

Mosquitoes seek out still water to lay eggs, which can hatch in as little as 48 hours. They can lay up to 200 eggs at a time, so even a short time having a bird bath can leave you with a considerable mosquito population.

Mosquitoes are known to pass a multitude of diseases to humans including West Nile virus, Zika, Malaria and Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

Plus, many people spend money and energy trying to repel mosquitoes. Preventing them from breeding in your yard in the first place will help tremendously.

If you still wish to have a bird bath, make sure you dump the water and replace it daily.

Keep an eye out for any containers that catch and hold water like buckets, overturned trash can lids, watering cans, etc. Even a small amount of water can harbor a tiny mosquito egg.

Whether planning a new yard or managing your existing landscaping, keeping pests in mind can help protect your home from unwanted pests.

When you pair landscaping with preventive pest control you save yourself not only grief but money and time.

Clark County Health Department provides programs for the entire family, including WIC, HANDS, family planning, well-child care/immunizations and smoking cessation. For more information, call 744-4482 or visit www.clarkhealthdept.org.