- Termite control is known to be a concern in your area, or
- You yourself have had trouble with termite control in the past.
"Termite control." The very words are enough to make one shudder, and with good reason. That's why it's best to play it safe and err on the side of caution when mulching near your home's foundation.
Drainage and termite control are two matters to "keep on the front burner" when applying mulch to a foundation planting. Ensuring adequate drainage is relatively simple: grade the ground underneath so that it slopes at least 1/8 inch per foot away from the house, to channel water away from the foundation. But termite-control recommendations are more complex.
Termite Control and the Use of Mulch
Consider the questions involved:
- Should the mulch be allowed to come into contact with the foundation?
- If so,
- How deep a layer of mulch is acceptable?
- And how close should the mulch be allowed to come to a wooden surface?
- Are some types of mulch preferable when it comes to termite control?
Each of these termite-control questions deserves individual treatment.
There's some disagreement over the answer to the first termite-control question above. Some advise against letting the mulch come into contact with the foundation at all. If you want to err on the side of caution for termite control (that would be my choice), then this is the answer for you.
If you're going to be a bit less paranoid and let the mulch come into contact with the foundation, then limit the depth of the layer of mulch to about 2 inches. But how close should the mulch be allowed to come to a wooden surface? Burnett's Landscaping in Salem, Connecticut (U.S.) recommends "at least eight inches of exposed foundation between the top of the planting bed and the wood sill plate of the house structure."
Finally, when it comes to the best type of mulch to use when termite control is a concern, there is a widespread misconception. Folks assume that, because termites eat wood, only wood mulches present a problem.
However, the issue isn't the termites eating the wood mulch, but rather their hiding in the wood mulch, using it as a stop-over before they invade your house. Termites like moisture, and all mulches provide plenty of that. In fact, good moisture-retention is one of the prerequisites for an effective mulch. Your plants enjoy this quality in a mulch, but so do the termites!
Home Termite Control Requires Diligence
So what's a homeowner worried about termite control to do? First of all, if you don't already know, find out what the heck a termite looks like, anyway, using these termite pictures for identification. Next, be diligent and inspect the mulch in foundation plantings regularly, to determine if any termites are present. If you find any, don't procrastinate: contact a reputable professional in the termite-control business.