Over the years, the harmful effects of chemical pesticide have been well-documented. Several research studies suggest that exposure to pesticide could lead to both short-term and long-term health risks. This doesn’t just apply to humans. If anything, the effect that pesticide could have on pets would be even greater, especially when you consider how dogs love to roll around in the garden.
The start of summer coincides with an increase in pest population. This leads to a dilemma for many homeowners. How can we build a safe environment for our pets that’s not just free of pests but is free of chemical treatment as well?
Fortunately, there are a number of natural pest control methods that one could employ in the garden or in your kennel runs. Here are three to consider.
Over time, many species of plants have evolved and built up natural resistance against pests and rodents. This resistance could come in many forms, such as through a plant’s appearance or the production of chemical or odor that repels the pests. As homeowners, we could use this to our advantage by growing such plants around the garden. The strategic placement of these pest-repelling plants could help form a natural barrier against common dog parasites like fleas, mites, mosquitoes, and ticks.
When creating a shortlist of pest-repelling plants, it is very important to check whether the plant is toxic to pets. A common example is chrysanthemum. This beautiful flowering plant could help repel insects by producing a chemical that attacks an insect’s nervous system. Unfortunately, a large dosage of the same chemical could also be toxic to dogs and cats.
Once you have figured out which pest-repelling plant to grow, determine where you will plant them. We typically recommend growing a bunch around the perimeter of the garden and other common pest entry points, such as long grassy shrubs. If conditions allow, you may want to also keep the plant bed as dense as possible and place a few pebbles around it. This may reduce the likelihood of your dog doing any sort of damage to the plants.
Pest-Repelling Plants to Consider
Here are a few other pest-repelling plants that could help ward off common dog parasites.
- Rosemary: studies have shown that the essential oil from rosemary can act as an effective repellent against a variety of mite species. Some commercial pest control products actually contain this oil.
- Basil: this aromatic herb can be used to repel pests like mosquitoes. Just like rosemary, the essential oil extracted from basil is known to have insecticidal properties.
- Sage: another aromatic plant that can keep away dog parasites like fleas. Sage is fairly easy to grow and will add a nice touch of purple to your garden once the flowers bloom.
The tomato hornworm caterpillar (green) is being drained by parasitic wasp larva feeding off it. (via mother nature network)
Pests give insects a bad rep. In reality, there are plenty of good bugs out there that could help control the garden pest population. These groups of bugs are known as beneficial insects. They generally feed on the pests and leave your garden plants alone.
Common beneficial insects and natural predators include ladybugs, spiders, praying mantis, ants, and ground beetles. Which beneficial insect you choose to attract depend on three factors:
- the species of pest you are having the most trouble with,
- whether the beneficial insect is native to the area you live in, and
- whether your garden provides the conditions needed for the beneficial insect to thrive.
Take the ladybug for example. The ladybug is considered a natural predator of several soft-shelled insect species including aphids and fleas. To attract ladybugs to your garden, you will need to grow attractive plants such as marigold and angelica. You may also want to provide the ladybugs with ground cover by placing mulch in isolated areas of the backyard. Last but not least, if your area doesn’t get a lot of rainwater then it may also be ideal to place a shallow tray of water for the insects.
Bugs aren’t the only natural predators to consider. You may want to also consider other animal species like birds and amphibians. A lot will come down to whether such species can co-exist with your pet. The last thing you would want is for your dog or cat to chase them away.
Other Natural Predators to Consider
Beneficial Nematodes — these microscopic roundworms can help eliminate fleas, ticks, and other mobile pests. Nematode packets should be available for purchase at gardening stores.
Chicken — this may be somewhat of a novel concept but if circumstances allow then you might want to consider raising chickens in your own backyard! Keeping chickens is one of the more effective natural solutions to reducing the backyard tick population. As we mentioned before, if you do go this route then make sure the dog and chicken can co-exist in the same space.
Homemade traps are unlikely to be as effective as chemical pesticide but they could still do a worthy job of keeping the pests at bay. Homemade pest traps can be made with a number of natural ingredients. Common examples include food-grade diatomaceous earth, apple cider vinegar, essential oils, and a combination of oil and something sweet.
So what are some effective ways of using these traps to get rid of dog parasites? One example would be to apply food-grade diatomaceous earth near high-traffic pest zones. While the results aren’t instant, this natural powder can help kill fleas and ticks by piercing their exoskeleton body. Imagine stepping on broken shards of glass. That’s what it could feel like for soft-bodied insects when they are covered with diatomaceous earth.
While the results of these three tactics won’t be instantaneous, they are more sustainable over the long-term and contribute to a much healthier future for not just your pets but for yourself as well. Summer may have already started but that shouldn’t stop you from laying the foundations for the future. Start planning today for a pest-free garden.