Excluding Pests Through Landscape Modification
Landscape modification is not the only solution to to keep all pests away, but modifying a landscape to make it less conducive to pest infestation will go a long way to keep out the pests.
Most people enjoy a beautiful home environment full of trees, shrubs, landscape beds and other elements of an aesthetically-pleasing landscape. That’s why most people won’t pave their entire yard with concrete in an effort to keep the pests away, or unlike The Brady Bunch, will not cover the landscape with AstroTurf. There are several considerations when it comes to landscape modification in order to discourage pests:
Pests love moisture. Carpenter ants will nest in areas where moisture is present, often times out of the homeowners sight. Pests such as centipedes and sow bugs enter through small cracks and crevices from moist areas, such as mulch beds. Mosquitoes breed in standing, stagnant water. The list goes on and on, as there is a plethora of pest problems involving water. Anything a homeowner can do to keep moisture away from the home would be of great benefit. Consider the following sources of moistures
- Gutters and Roofs: Clogged and broken gutters and damaged roof shingles/flashing that cause water and moisture to leak or accumulate. Tip: During a downpour, grab an umbrella and go outside. Take a look around the house to see where water may be overflowing, leaking, or accumulating. A rain storm is the best time to do this. Of course, if there’s lightning, it is not a good idea to use an umbrella; wear a poncho instead.
- Bad Grading: This can cause standing water or may allow water to divert toward the home, where it should not be. Check around the foundation of the house, making sure water is being diverted away from the foundation.
- Basements: Look for cracks in the foundation. Check the moisture content in the basement and consider whether a dehumidifier would be a good investment. Areas that Lack Airflow: Check areas where moisture is abundant, such as areas around the home that have moss and other signs of moisture. Improve air movement by thinning out vegetation, pruning trees, etc.
- Mulch Beds: Such landscape beds are designed to hold moisture. However, too much mulch can cause unnecessary moisture problems. Mulch that is too deep holds more moisture. Some mulch types, such as dark, shredded mulch that comes from yard waste, tends to be more conducive to pest infestation; pine bark and pine needle mulch is less conducive.
Are you building or modifying the landscape? Adding to an existing landscape? Consider which plants will
discourage pest infestations before you plant.
Trees, Shrubs and Ground Cover
Trees make a great contribution to a landscape, can also provide an atmosphere ideal for insects or a way for them to enter a home. Some trees with limbs that hang over the roof or touch the house allow ants and other insects to enter the home. Trimming away branches so they do not hang over or touch the home will help keep the insects out. Shrubs should be trimmed/pruned so that they are not crowding the foundation of the house. Making the shrubs less dense will help. The homeowner should also consider which plants to remove, replace, exclude, etc. Some plants lend themselves to attracting more pests than others. Dense ground can contribute to infestation of pests because the ground cover provides harborage for pests such as mice and insects, as well as helps keep moisture in the soil.
Some types of mulch are better than others when it comes to insects. The popular dark hardwood mulch is more conducive to infestation of insects than pine bark or pine straw, for example. There are other alternatives to mulch, such as rocks.
Siding to Ground Contact
Whether the house has brick, wood or vinyl siding, it should not be touching the ground or mulch. One of the worst landscape practices is to pile up mulch so that it touches or covers the siding, making an easy entry point for insects into the home. The farther away the ground/mulch is below the siding, the better. Try to keep the mulch a good six inches below the siding. Pest control professionals, especially termite inspectors, often warn homeowners of the dangers of mulch and soil being too close to the siding since subterranean termites enter the home through the soil. In addition, leaving a few inches between the soil/mulch and the siding allows termite inspectors to more easily monitor termite activity in order to prevent an infestation. Wood Piles and other Piles Wood piles should be moved away from homes, not just because they bring the possibility of termite or carpenter ant infestation, but many other insects live in wood piles. Spiders, snakes, mice and many insects find the area a great place to set up shop. Similarly, piles of other items, such as toy bins or landscape tool storage boxes (?), can have the same result as a pile of wood. Tree stumps also provide an environment for carpenter ants and termites. While stump grinding does not remove the dead roots from the ground, it will help remove another condition conducive to insect infestation.
Landscape modification is not the entire solution to pest control, but is a crucial part of it. Even a well-planned landscape does not ensure the pests will stay away. A pest control professional can do several things to help eliminate pests around the home, including:
- Design a pest control program utilizing integrated pest management to help keep the pests out.
- Inspect your home for conditions that are conducive to infestation.
- Consult with home and business owners on how to modify the landscape and structure to help keep pests away.
When designing and installing a landscape, most homeowners simply do not take into consideration the pest infestation conditions. How much someone considers pest implications during the planning and maintenance stages of landscaping may play a large role in how many pests will affect his or her home. Taking action early and often can make a huge difference!