The Q&A Archives: Mulch and termites

Question: I am planning a new front landscaping project and am concerned with termites. We have had them in the past and believe they have been taken care of. I previously used a cedar mulch around the existing shrubs. I want to put mulch down around the new plants but am concerned with the return of the termites. Is there a particular mulch that would help keep them away or one they do not like??
Thank you for your help.
Kyle Ott
PS I enjoyed your web site and it helped planning my project.

Answer: Whether or not the termites would return is an open question. Termites could theoretically infest any wood based mulch, however many people use wood mulches around their homes successfully. It is always a good idea to leave a bare, unmulched strip between the planting area and the foundation, in part to keep the area a bit drier so that pests such as earwigs as well as dampness itself are less likely to cross to the foundation. It is always a good idea to inspect your home regularly for pests and smaller maintenance items to catch problems before they develop into major issues, so you would be more likely to notice the termites when they swarm if they do come back. Cedar is one of the most rot resistant types of wood mulch, but it is not especially termite resistant. You could also use chopped leaves, cocoa bean hulls, straw, or any other natural material. Some people use the stone mulches instead of an organic material, however in my experience the stone mulches are not very good for the plants. They do not break down to feed the soil slowly over time and they reflect heat onto the plants, both summer and winter causing undue stress. They also, according to some studies, can harbor as many termites as wood mulch. Your local county extension and pest control company that treated the termites may also have suggestions -- or in the case of the pest company, warranty instructions.

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