Don’t Get Bugged Gardening
As Californians we love this time of year. The warm weather is perfect for planting fresh herbs, vegetables (tomatoes and zucchini are our favorites) and an array of beautiful flowers. Rich, black soil properly prepared usually results in cantaloupe sized tomatoes and herbs the can be “nose detected” from the other side of our back yard. We pray that your garden is plentiful and we hope that you will enjoy this planting season as much as we will. Just to be safe, we would like to offer a few tips and precautions that will help to insure your success minus certain consequences.
Soil preparation — including tilling — can be very important to the health of your vegetable garden or flower bed. Tilling helps to oxygenate the earth and enriches the planting bed by allowing a free flow of nutrients and water. However, tilling soil can raise the grade (height of the soil) and also change the way surface water sheds or drains. Both conditions need to be carefully managed to insure that neither one becomes problematic or an outright disaster.
When preparing soil for planting – especially near the foundation of your home – it is extremely important to prevent trapping water. Water must flow freely away from the home without ponding. And although ponding is bad anywhere in the yard, puddles next to the foundation can hydrate the soil and cause it to radically expand. In turn the foundation and floor supports can shift causing several more noticeable problems including:
- Cracks in exterior plaster and interior wallboard
- Windows and doors that grab and bind or that won’t properly close
- Air leaks at exterior doors and windows
- Floor squeaks
- Uneven floors
Use this rule of thumb: To insure (and or maintain) proper watershed at the planting areas adjacent to your foundation the soil height should drop at least one-quarter inch per foot of horizontal distance. It’s called the “quarter-inch per foot” rule.
Wet soil can be a problem even when the surface has been properly graded. Overwatering can cause flooding and dampness that can cause rot and attract termites. And one thing you don’t want is termites.
Termites love wet soil. But even better, they love it when the soil surrounding the foundation comes into contact with any part of the wooden structure of your home. Wood, paper and other cellulose based materials are premium fodder for feeding termites. The sad thing about piling soil up against the house is that the termite population can travel – undetected – into their favorite food source – your wood frame.
Reduce the onslaught of termites by:
- Grading soil so that surface water sheds away from your home
- Reducing watering so that water doesn’t pond or soak the soil
- Keeping soil at least 6 inches away from any of the wood parts of your home
- You may not be able to see the wood that resides behind a plaster wall. So, to be sure keep soil at least 6 inches away from the bottom edge of the plaster. If you aren’t sure ask someone that knows – a termite contractor, a home inspector or a local building official.
Don’t compromise your home’s structural integrity by being an overzealous “green thumb”. Use caution when working with the soil in your garden and not only will your plants love you, but your home will too.
For more home improvement tips and information search our website or call our listener line any time at 1-800-737-2474! All you need to do is leave your name, telephone number and your question.