The Q&A Archives: Straw or Mulch

Question: My wife and I just purchased an new home and the builder put pine straw in the flower beds. I have a lot of weeds coming thru and was thinking about removing the straw and replacing it with some type of mulch. I have heard that mulch attracts bugs. I have also heard that bugs don't like the mulch. Which is true? Our beds are close to the house so I don't want to make a

Answer: The general consensus among researchers seems to be that organic mulches create favorable termite habitat, and, while most commonly used mulches are low quality termite food sources, termites do consume them to some extent. Although there is no evidence that mulches "attract" termites, they do create favorable conditions for termites near the home. The most important practice for detecting a termite infestation in one?s home is to leave at least a foot of concrete foundation exposed so that mud termite tunnels can be easily seen during regular inspections.

Pine straw will decompose, which will make a good amendment to your soil; rather than removing the straw, I'd dig it into, or cover it with soil to hasten decomposition. You can then use a weed barrier (either spun polyester or perforated plastic) over the top of the soil and then use gravel, wood chips, wood bark, etc. to cover over the top of the weed barrier.

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