Planting a Naturally Flea-Free Garden


Any cat owner who has dealt with a flea infestation can tell you how difficult it is to get rid of them. That’s why prevention is absolutely critical. What most people don’t realize is that, even if you only have a strictly indoor cat and no dogs, you must do your best to make sure you have a flea-free garden. Many cats will run outside unexpectedly as soon as the door opens on sunny days, and even though they may only stay out for two minutes, fleas can find them. And certainly, if you do have a dog, he can easily bring the little critters into your home and pass them on to puss. But you don’t want to spray your yard with poisons, which carry their own risks. There are many chemical-free preventive measures you can take to keep fleas out of your yard. Here are a few.

Fleas will generally stay away from certain herbs and plants, so it’s a good idea to plant rows of them around the border of your garden. “Fleas usually don’t like plants that have strong-smelling volatile oils,” says Mary Wulff-Tiford, herbalist and author of All You Ever Wanted to Know About Herbs for Pets. “Any of the kitchen herbs that are pungent, such as catnip, sage, thyme, garlic, and peppermint, would be beneficial in helping to repel fleas.” Other herbs and plants that have been known to be flea-unfriendly are Canandian fleabane, fennel foliage, juniper, and marigolds. It is extremely important to know, however, that not all herbs and plants are safe for cats. If there is a possibility that your cat can get into the garden, you need to take this into consideration. The essential oil of pennyroyal, for example, has been known to be toxic to cats. So although pennyroyal repels fleas, you would not want your cat to ingest its leaves and you definitely do not want to spray its concentrated oil on your lawn or garden.

There are also a couple of handy everyday maintenance tips you can follow to help prevent outdoor flea infestation. According to Tamson Yeh, extension educator from the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Nassau County, you definitely want to discourage wildlife from entering your yard. “Chipmunks, for instance, are very verminous little creatures,” Yeh says. “They’re cute, but boy, you turn them over and they are crawling with fleas and ticks and all sorts of parasites.” Make absolute sure your trash is not easily accessible to little critters, and certainly do not voluntarily feed them on your property.

Fleas also dislike citrus odors, so you can simply spray the lawn with a citrus-scented dishwashing detergent, such as lemon-scented Joy. Just dilute the soap with water and spray it all around your lawn and garden. You can also scatter lemon and orange rinds around your garden and flower beds. For more helpful tips, contact your county’s extension agent, and always check with your vet before planting any herbs in the garden, to make sure they’re not potentially toxic to cats or dogs.

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