Termites and mulch

(Question)

I have very sandy soil in the backyard of my new home – it needs lots of organic matter. Normally a pine mulch would be good but because I’m in a termite area, I’ve been advised to stay away from using wood chip mulch because it would provide a welcome mat for termites. Can you suggest alternatives?

(Answer)

Scientific studies have shown that wood mulch has no more attraction for termites than pea gravel.

See Donnan’s Termites in mulched beds (2008) at https://www.donnan.com/termites-mulched-beds.htm and Iowa State University’s Horticultural and Home Pest News: Does landscape mulch lead to termites in your home? (2001) https://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/hortnews/2001/5-4-2001/mulch.html

So, if you really like wood chips, and you keep these away from the foundation of your house as a precaution, go ahead and use them.  However, as you have sandy soil, which tends to lack nutrients, I recommend the “quickest” organic mulch (compost, composted manure, leaf mould) – this will integrate into, and enrich sandy soil faster than wood chips.

You may also like to review our Gardening Guide on different types of mulch and how to use them — Using Mulch in Your Organic Garden.