What Are The Best Flea Treatments For Your Yard? (DIY Included)

Fleas usually only get noticed when they are on a pet or if they bite you, but did you know that they can also remain hidden, reproduce and thrive outdoors? Even if you don’t spend much time outside, they often end up in your home and cause repeat infestations. This guide will show you how to treat a yard for fleas, and how to keep them away.

  1. If you are short on time, click here for a quick summary of this guide.
  2. A couple DIY home remedies that can safely kill fleas in your garden.
  3. My personal step-by-step process for getting rid of them in your yard.
  4. Are there any effective outdoor chemical flea sprays that are pet safe?
  5. How often must you treat the yard for fleas, and can they be repelled?

What causes fleas to find their way into your outside areas?

Fleas are opportunistic insects, and if they come across a suitable host, they will try to attach themselves for warmth, protection and to feed on demand. This is is not limited to domestic animals, and often find their way into your yard on rats, mice, raccoons, possums, and feral cats. I have intentionally shortened the list, but suffice to say, if a warm-blooded animal has been in your outside areas, it could have brought fleas with it.

Since fleas are ectoparasites (they try to live on the outside of their host indefinitely), why would they intentionally jump off into your yard? The answer is that they don’t, but unlike the adults who can hold onto fur, their eggs cannot and usually fall off into the grass, etc. Provided conditions are right, they will hatch, progress to adulthood, and start the cycle all over again.

PRO TIPS: Although flea eggs can lie dormant for several months, they are not impervious to the elements. If they are exposed to direct sunlight for enough time, they will dry out, and they cannot survive for long in water. With that in mind, it is not always necessary to treat your yard if you find them in your home, but if they keep coming back every couple weeks, then it is very likely that you have a problem outside. You can also test if they are hiding out in grass by walking around in white socks and examining them afterwards.

DIY home remedies that can kill fleas in your garden:

Although an exterminator can save you time and effort, the good news is that there are plenty of readily available products that can be used to kill fleas in your garden without needing professional help. They are cost-effective, and most importantly, safe to use around your family and your pets. This is a comprehensive list of things that can use, but if you would prefer to skip to my recommended choice (and method), you can click here.

Dawn Soap: Dawn soap (or any other non-toxic dish soap) breaks down their exoskeleton (which kills them). Fill your hose-end container with a few squirts of it and saturate problem areas in your garden, and ideally do this in the late evening so that it doesn’t dry out quickly.

Diatomaceous earth: DE consists of tiny, sharp-edged shards and has the ability to slice into the coating that covers the flea. Use food-grade DE (usually written on the packaging) to dust all over problematic areas, but only during dry spells, as it loses its effectiveness if it gets wet.

Epsom salts: Epsom salts is another dehydrator, and the best thing about using this product in your garden is that your plants will love it. Sprinkle around flowers and shrubs and in shady places where these pests thrive. Repeat every 2-4 weeks, watch flowers bloom and fleas die!

Baking soda: Baking soda can be sprinkled on flea trouble spots, or it can be used as a spray using a hose-end attachment. Half fill the hose-end container with baking soda and spray underneath trees and shrubs. Baking soda also works by dehydrating them.

Agricultural lime: Lime works by dehydrating fleas and is very useful for outdoor control. Please make sure you purchase a brand that is designed for agricultural use, as other types can burn your grass/plants. To use it, simply sprinkle it over problem areas and soak it with water.

Borax powder Borax works by removing moisture from fleas, which results in their swift demise. It is an effective pesticide, but harmful to pets if swallowed, so keep your pets away from the area for twenty-four hours and then water in well until well absorbed into the soil.

Beneficial nematodes: Nematodes are tiny roundworms that will actively hunt adult fleas (including their eggs, larvae and pupae). I will cover this in more detail later, but usage is fairly easy; just mix them into water and distribute them around your yard for very quick results.

PRO TIPS: Some readers question the use of bleach to kill fleas in the garden. While it is true that bleach will kill them, the wrong concentration can have the undesirable effect of damaging your lawn and plants too. There are so many other excellent treatments that you can utilize that I would personally steer clear of this option. Don’t be afraid of combining some of the above solutions for even greater effectiveness (with the exception of nematodes), and if you have any questions, let me know in the comments section.

What is the best way to get rid of fleas in the yard (Step-by-step)

Although there are a number of good options (listed above), the best method (in my opinion) is a combination of beneficial nematodes and a good amount of water in key areas in your yard. I have used this treatment multiple times in the past with excellent results, and it is very affordable and completely safe for pets and your family. Here are the steps that I recommend you follow:

Picture of a garden that needs to be treated for fleasStep 1: Prepare your yard by racking up dead leaves and any other decomposing vegetation. Mow the lawn and trim your tree foliage to let light into problem spots. There is no need to go overboard here, just get as much sunlight in as possible. Fleas hate any forms of direct light, so this will help now and in the future.

Step 2: Take your garden hose and soak your yard. If you have a sprinkler system, you can use this, but make sure that little pools of water are forming before you move it to the next spot. This will have a large impact on the flea population (all stages), as even the food sources needed for their larvae to survive will be washed away.

Step 3: Once the water has soaked away but the lawn and beds are still damp, add some beneficial nematodes into your garden. This should be done in the late afternoon, and focus placing them in shady areas, as they don’t tolerate the hot sun very well.

PRO TIPS: Beneficial nematodes are lethal to fleas, but will not harm useful insects (such as ladybugs, earthworms, etc.) and can be purchased at most local garden stores or online. I have written a detailed guide on nematodes, so please check that out if you want to learn more about them. Lastly, if you can’t get nematodes in your local area, get a garden hose attachment that allows a liquid to be dispensed when you spray, fill it with dawn soap, and just flood your yard with that. This is not ideal, but it is very effective.

Are there any outdoor chemical flea sprays that are pet safe?

Yes, provided you only use EPA and FDA approved products, choose a good brand, and follow the instructions on them to the letter, they should be fine. However, I personally recommend that you keep your pets inside for about 12 hours after the initial spray, just to be extra careful. Additionally, don’t use them if there is lots of wind, as this can be dangerous to you. What are the benefits of using a chemical spray for fleas?

Well, they usually provide quicker results and contain Insect Growth Inhibitors, which interrupts the their life cycle (prevents their eggs from hatching, etc.). They are also often easier to find than some of the natural options listed above, with almost every large store keeping a fairly broad range of products. However, don’t presume that natural alternatives are inferior, as I almost exclusively use them for my yard.

PRO TIP: Please don’t presume that all commercial products at the store are chemical-based. There are plenty that combine plant-based extracts like cedar oil and lavender for your convenience. Although I recommend that you follow my method in this article, buying one of these will save you some time and should give you good results. Although there are hundreds of good options, check out my top picks for 2019. Lastly, although this is usually on the packaging, please be careful when using any sprays, especially around kids.

How often must you treat the yard for fleas, and can they be repelled?

Photo of cedar wood chips that can repel fleas from outside areasThe repeat frequency really depends on the severity of the problem, and how often you find fleas in your garden. If you suffer from a continuous barrage of these pests during the warmer seasons, you can treat it every two weeks using my recommended method.

In addition to actually killing the fleas in your yard, you can easily repel them. This is highly recommended, and this is how you can go about doing it:

Step 1: Get yourself a bag of cedar wood chips (available at most garden stores) and distribute them around your garden, focusing on areas without direct sunlight. Fleas hate the smell, and will not go near them.

Step 2: Go out to your local nursery and buy some lavender, rosemary, sage, or peppermint plants (my personal preference is lavender). The goal is not to plant hundreds (lol), just a 4-6 of them in key areas will deter these pests.

Step 3: Lastly, if you think that the flea problem is coming from your neighbor’s yard (especially if they have pets), you can also go the extra mile and use some concentrated tea tree oil around your boundary fences. This is won’t stop all fleas, but if you put it in a hose-end attachment (30 drops each time), it will make a noticeable difference. I also recommend placing more cedar wood chips in this area as another barrier.

PRO TIPS: These wood chips shouldn’t damage your lawnmower, but if you have a model that deposits cut grass into a holding container, keep in mind that you will need to add more to your yard afterward. A couple of my readers have asked if they can use them in flower beds, and the answer is a definite yes. In fact, this is a fantastic way to repel several other pests as well, and since they are usually very affordable, go wild with them. I have used them for years and they have proven to be very effective.

Quick summary of the article if you are short on time:

Even if you don’t have pets, fleas can find their way into your garden from your neighbor’s yard, or by hitching a ride on animals like rodents or feral cats. They don’t usually leave their host, but their eggs can easily fall off and result in an outdoor infestation if conditions are right. It is even possible for their eggs to last several months, provided they are not exposed to extreme temperatures.

Although using chemicals is an option, there are plenty of natural alternatives available for outdoor flea control. They also have the added benefit of being safer and usually cost-effective. My recommended method for extermination is to soak your yard with water (hosepipe, sprinklers, etc.), followed by a decent quantity of beneficial nematodes.

If you would rather go the chemical route, please only use sprays that are EPA/FDA approved. This doesn’t mean that they are without safety risks, so please follow the instructions on the back carefully. While they do have the benefit of having IGRs, I find the natural approach just as powerful, so please at least consider giving them a try at some point.

Repeat frequencies depend on the extent of their population, and how often they come back. Generally speaking, even bad infestations will subside if you repeat the treatment every two weeks. I also recommend using cedar wood chips, tea tree oil, and growing plants that fleas hate (lavender, peppermint, rosemary, etc.) to repel them in the future.

A couple of FAQs from the community, and my concluding thoughts:

Isn’t DE the best option for fleas? I personally love DE, but since it loses effectiveness when it gets wet, I don’t usually recommend using it outdoors. However, if you live in an arid climate and you can source it affordably, it is a good option. Give it a try and let me know how it works out.

Do you have any other tips that could help? I have covered this fairly extensively, but I just want to stress the importance of mowing your lawn and exposing your garden to sunlight. You should also rectify an infestation as soon as possible, and don’t let it linger for a long time.

I don’t have pets/kids, can I just use chemicals? This is one that I get a lot, and the answer is “your choice”. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking natural treatments are ineffective, and remember that they are more eco-friendly in many cases, will not hurt beneficial insects.

If left untreated, will fleas go away on their own? Adult fleas will die if they cannot feed, and if the garden proves to inhospitable to their eggs, they can go away without your intervention. However, that is a big “IF”, and I have seen yards staying infested for many years due to neglect.

Thank you for taking the time to read my article, and I hope it helps you to see that treating your yard for fleas is not nearly as daunting as you think! I would love to hear about your experiences with using different outdoor treatment options, and as always, I would be happy to answer any questions you might have about this topic. 🙂

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