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Build a Safe Home Playground

Fences Make Good Neighbors

All About Arbors and Trellises

Deck Design

Green Grass the Professional Way

Mailbox Beautification: Landscaping to the Letter

How to Live with Wildlife

Termite Proof Landscaping

Ornamental Trees are Year-Round Performers

No More Deer

The Arrival of Jack Frost

Parameters of Proper Pruning


Termite-Proof Landscaping

Here's a new twist on landscape design. While you're out getting your hands dirty in the yard, and puzzling over what looks best where, have you ever considered the termite factor? You could be making your home extra-appealing and accessible to hungry hordes of termites, according to The Washington Post. That's especially worrisome this year in many parts of the country that experienced a mild winter followed by a wet spring--perfect termite conditions.

The first step in termite-proof landscaping is to avoid planting close to the foundation. Dead growth on shrubs and trees attract termites. They love cellulose, the main ingredient in plant matter, which means any kind of wood--especially pines, oaks and maples, followed by evergreens. But don't give them anything to munch on. Don't plant anything close to the house, even ground cover. Keep a safety margin of at least 18 inches.

Mulch also can be a problem, forming a nice layer of delectable, decomposing termite food. It may look great but it only takes one wet season for mulch to biodegrade into termite fodder. Use harder, inedible alternatives such as rock or flagstone. Place tightly-butted flagstones around the base of the home, or a heavy-gauge plastic sheet covered by rocks.

Remember, in addition to food, the other thing termites need is a ready source of moisture. Make sure the ground slopes away from the foundation to carry off excess rainwater. That's also a basic precaution for avoiding unwanted leaks or moisture in the basement.

If your home has received a termite treatment from a pest control company in recent years, you'll also want to avoid deep digging around the foundation. The main principle of termite treatment is creating a barrier of pesticide-treated soil that prevents termites from reaching the house. Termite treatments can remain effective for 10-20 years but not if the barrier is disturbed by deep digging or earth-moving near the foundation.

Large trees should not be any closer than 20 feet because the extensive root system and tree stump are enough to form a highway to your home, although some controversy exists over whether the termites are too preoccupied munching the tree to bother with another food source. Of course, you may not have any choice about tree placement anyway if a stately oak or maple already stands next to your home. It's just one of the many considerations in placing new trees.