Lauren of Mom Home Guide
Lauren of Mom Home Guide
  • Hometalker
  • Hightstown, NJ
Asked on Jun 10, 2013

Is It Safe to Add Mulch Against a Home?

Rita HCynthiaLinda T
+19

Answered

Hello! I put in a flower garden on the side of my house a few weeks ago, and I still haven't put down ground cover. I like the look of mulch, but I am afraid of termites! Is it safe to put mulch up against a home? Because of my mulch fear, I've been thinking of putting in red gravel instead.
My flower garden that desperately needs some kind of ground cover!
My flower garden that desperately needs some kind of ground cover!
22 answers
  • Lauren, not to worry about the mulch. The photo shows that you have at least 16 inches of space from the bottom of the siding to the garden area so you should be fine. Ideally one should maintain at least six inches of distance from the top of the garden bed to the bottom of the siding. Mulch is fluid, meaning it moves with wind, rain, doggies and kitties running through it. Termites do not attack this type of material for that reason. Unless its solid like a log sitting on the ground they will not be attracted to this type of material. Ants on the other hand love the stuff. The mulch rots and is damp. Two things ants look for. So use cedar mulch instead of hardwood types. Also do not waste your time with colored mulch. It looks fine for about a week or so, then the sun bleaches out the color and it looks dull again. Cedar mulch contains natural oils that resist insect activity and it tends to last a much longer time then hardwood as a result. Bit more expensive but its worth it. Stone should be avoided because it heats the ground and causes the soil to dry out much faster. If you go that route then plan on watering the plants daily or install a soaker hose under the gravel. Of course use a weed block under what ever you choose. Commercial quality weed blocks are much more money then the stuff you get at the big box stores. And its worth it. Comes is larger rolls and is much tougher then the thin fabric they sell at the local home center. Lastly stone lasts forever. Should you want later on to change up the look, you will need to deal with disposal of the stone. Based upon the photo you will need quite a lot of it as well. Making its disposal even harder. There has been prior posts with people asking how to get rid of the stuff. So think hard on using gravel. Larger rocks as a focal point is fine, but small gravel no so much.

  • Kimberly Barney
    on Jun 10, 2013

    After the first year of mulch, you may find pine straw to be less expensive and a whole lot easier to spread.

  • Mary Insana
    on Jun 10, 2013

    Last summer I put rubber mulch nuggets down on a sloped garden. Not only did it stand up to the harsh Pennsylvania winter, it didn't blow away, slide down the slope or change color. It is a little more expensive but when you add up re mulching every year this is a good way to go. I bought it at Home Depot.

  • Lauren of Mom Home Guide
    on Jun 10, 2013

    Thanks for all the tips! I like the idea of the cedar mulch and the pine straw -- can the pine straw be purchased at a garden store?

  • Not so sure about the pine straw. Have not seen that at the supply centers that I visit. But I would be careful with that material as it is pine and pine does not last all that long and rotting wood with dampness attracts ants. Rubber mulch is also a ok product. But you need to be careful with this. Most of the rubber mulch products come from chewed up tires that contain wire mesh. Most of it is pulled out during the process but on occasion some remains. The result can cut you if your digging weeds and such. All depends upon your gardening abilities and the time you want to spend keeping the garden looking good.

  • Patricia W
    on Jun 10, 2013

    The very best thing against a house is rock! You can get 1 or 2" rock and you never have to replace it. You simple move it a bit while planting. keep your dirt grade so it slopes away from the house. It does not add nutrients to the soil, but you can do that with compost or any organic matter while planting.

  • Lauren of Mom Home Guide
    on Jun 10, 2013

    Thanks for all of your comments .... I am still not sure which material to go with -- so many things to think about!

  • Mary Insana
    on Jun 10, 2013

    The rubber mulch I bought in bags at Home Depot is very clean, no wire mesh or other sharp objects from recycled tires. I did see a few chunks with writing on them though :)

  • Lauren of Mom Home Guide
    on Jun 10, 2013

    Thanks for the tip, Mary!

  • Douglas Hunt
    on Jun 11, 2013

    Hardwood mulch nourishes the soil, moderates soil temperature and conserves moisture, and suppresses weed growth. No other mulching material does all those things. As Woodbridge says, as long as you keep it a reasonable distance from your house, there is nothing to fear from termites.

  • Tina Miller
    on Jun 11, 2013

    I would put stone up against the house ~ maybe 6 inches out then put your mulch down - put a piece of barrier between the stone and mulch so they don't mix with each other. (it looks messy if your stone and mulch mix). I like pine bark mulch myself . . . pine straw can make your soil more acidic and not all plants like that . . . much info online as well. Putting stone against the house help deter termites.

  • Paula M
    on Jun 11, 2013

    Do not go with the red cedar bark.The dye in the bark is not good for the plants.I would not use any dyed product.

  • Leena Milligan-Lanteigne
    on Jun 11, 2013

    It is safe but be sure that your ground level along the foundation is higher than it is further out to prevent water from washing towards your home.

  • Lauren of Mom Home Guide
    on Jun 11, 2013

    Thanks, everyone! Maybe I'll put stone right up against the house, but use bark for the rest. But I am still mulling it over! So much to think about!

  • Katherine Myers
    on Jun 11, 2013

    I'm with Patricia. My exterminator praised my use of screenings against the house! I did it because my beds are wider so having the screenings path against the house lets me garden from both sides of the bed.

  • Judy
    on Jun 13, 2013

    You have a lot of height between the soil level & siding so I doubt you need to worry about termites. I'd lay down a few thicknesses of wet newspaper topped with natural bark mulch. The newspaper will smother the grass around the plants while allowing water through & the mulch will hold the paper down, the moisture in & look nice too. If you're still concerned with termites you can get some plastic bed edging & put it about 6 inches from your foundation then put pea gravel, stones or whatever rock-like stuff you want between the flower bed & the side of the house.

  • Barbara R
    on Jun 14, 2013

    You also need some kind of border, separating your garden from your grass. Your mulch, rocks or whatever you choose will fall into your lawn and make a mess. I used oak logs I had for my fireplace...rocks, anything that won't move will do! Looks better, too!

  • Jossi
    on Jun 14, 2013

    It looks to me like you need to kill off the remaining grass, and for this i'd use shredded newspaper(rip with hands, lay down, water and then put down landscape cloth. You can cut the holes for the plants you've already planted. THEN use mulch. Best to buy in bulk if you have a truck or trailer to carry it. Use the straw(NOT hay !) for winter cover, and gently rake off and add more mulch in spring. For the space right up against the house, use crushed stone, about 1' of it, for drainage.

  • Laura gamroth
    on Jun 14, 2013

    Have you considered recycled rubber mulch? I have used it several times now, it lasts for a LONG time, doesn't fade, doesn't blow away in the wind, doesn't decompose, and it's rubber, so no termites. It really does look like the real thing in a garden bed.

  • Linda T
    on Jun 16, 2013

    Cypress mulch repels termites and other pests.

  • Cynthia
    on Jun 21, 2013

    In NJ you can easily go with stone. Get some various size of river stone and create some bands of color with them as well.

  • Rita H
    on Jun 21, 2014

    My neighbor puts down the chunks. I am always finding it in my garage and on the driveway. I have even twisted my ankle one a single piece. I prefer the shredded kind. And always stay away from the foundation and plants. Impatiens don't like mulch much.

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