Intense heat, frequent droughts and wildly inconsistent soil conditions can all be headaches for the average Australian landscaper, but there is one menace that landscapers both amateur and professional fear above most others: termites. A fertile, well-watered garden or commercial green space can be a haven for these voracious, wood-eating termites, and even a small termite infestation can destroy a cultivated landscape in a matter of weeks.
You might think that the best way to keep termites away from your landscapes is to avoid using trees since termites feed on wood. However, termites only ever feed on dead wood, so the most vulnerable part of a landscaped garden or green space is usually the decorative mulch used to cover patches of exposed earth.
However, not every kind of mulch is attractive to termites, and some types of mulch can actually act as an effective termite defense. If you are planning a landscaping project in an area vulnerable to termites, keep the following mulch guidelines in mind:
Consider non-wood mulches
Mulch made from wood and/or bark chips is by far the most commonly used decorative mulching material in commercial gardens and green spaces, and if you are a contractor doing landscape work for commercial interests, you may be required to use 'classic' timber mulch as part of your design. However, if you have more control over your project, there are decorative mulches you can use that contain no termite-attracting wood at all.
Cocoa chip mulch is a popular choice of termite-resistant mulch; the small chips of dried cocoa bean husk have an attractive, deep red colour and a pleasant scent in wet weather. However, coca mulch is a high maintenance choice, as the chips rot relatively quickly and can be blown away in high winds.
Rock mulch can be made from a variety of decorative stones (such as slate or lava rock) and provides excellent stability for windy areas. It is less suitable for landscapes in areas exposed to full sunlight, as the stones retain heat and can burn plants during particularly sunny days.
Choose a wood mulch made from termite-resistant timber
If you are required to use timber mulch on your project site, or simply prefer the look and moisture-retaining qualities of timber mulch, you can avoid termite infestations by choosing mulch made from naturally termite-resistant wood. As a general rule, hardwoods with fragrant natural oils tend to make a poor meal for termites, so wood mulch made from redcedar, tallowwood or redwood timber and/or bark should be a good choice.
Many of the standard, commercially available wood mulches are made predominately from cypress, and this can be a good or bad thing. While cypress sapwood is vulnerable to termites, the heartwood taken from the inner tree is thoroughly resistant. If you are ordering your mulch direct from timber yard or mulch manufacturer, mulch made mostly or entirely from cypress heartwood can be an inexpensive option that is easier to obtain than specialised mulches.
To learn more, reach out to your landscaping supplies provider.
For many years, I didn't give much thought to my garden. However, all of that changed when I retired from my job working as a lawyer in downtown Sydney. I suddenly discovered that I had a lot of time on my hands. I didn't know what to do with it. After a few weeks, I started to become slightly depressed. My wife could see what was happening and she suggested that I take up gardening so I called up my sister who is an expert with the plants and trees. She came to stay with me and my wife for a couple of weeks and taught me everything she could.