Raised beds make gardening easier by lifting the bed surface to a more manageable height. The height of the bed also serves to protect the plants from insects that invade from ground level. But what about termites? Will a raised garden bed attract termites or limit their impact on the garden bed?
Raised beds attract termites when they are made with wood and that is damp. This happens when you water raised beds and they don’t have good drainage. Decaying organic matter, moist environment, and protection of raised beds attracts termites.
Termites are a nuisance in any garden, and once they become established, it is difficult to get rid of these pests. Prevention, in this case, is better than the cure, so you want to avoid gardening practices that will attract termites to your garden. How does raised bed gardening fit in with this prevention strategy?
Are termites attracted to raised garden beds?
Many people think that termites only eat wood, but this is not entirely true. Termites will feast on any decaying vegetation and, in some cases, even the roots of living vegetation. This will cause the plants to die and give the termites even more food.
Essentially, raised garden beds will attract termites. The decaying plant material in the bed, the moist conditions, and even the material the bed is made from will be irresistible for any termites in the area.
This does not mean that every raised bed will be predisposed to termite infestation since the infestation will also be determined by the number of termites in your vicinity.
Why are there termites in my garden bed?
What features of a raised garden bed will attract termites into your garden? This will largely depend on how you build and fill your raised garden bed.
The first aspect to consider is how you fill your raised bed. Many people using raised beds practice hügelkultur in which large pieces of chunky vegetation such as tree stumps, branches, and logs are stacked at the bottom of the raised bed.
This provides a long-term breakdown of organic matter in the bed and a slow release of nutrients into the soil. Smaller organic matter such as leaf litter, compost, and soil is then added to fill in the gaps and provide a top growing layer for your plants.
The mulch that you use on top of your raised garden bed, such as wood chips, straw, or even dead leaves, can entice termites to the garden bed.
All this buried wood and organic matter ring the dinner bell for any resident termites in the area! The second point of consideration for termites moving into your garden is the raised bed itself.
If your raised bed is constructed from timber, even if the timber portion is only the corner props, the termites will get wind of this and begin their migration to your garden.
So, what is the solution to keep termites out of raised garden beds and make your beds less attractive to the local termites?
How to check for termites in a raised garden bed?
The best way to check for termites in garden bed is to start in your garden before you even inspect your raised garden bed. Raking any areas where organic matter has been lying dormant for a while will quickly expose termites hiding below.
Trees in your garden may also start showing signs of degradation and the telltale signs of termite mud-tunnels being built up the trunk of the trees.
Check any timber structures in the raised bed by tapping them to hear if they still sound solid. Termites eating the wood from the inside will hollow the wood out, creating a hollow sound when your knock on the wood with your knuckles.
If plants in your raised bed die off for no apparent reason, dig down a little way in the soil inside the raised bed to see if you can find any termites in the soil.
How to get rid of termites in raised garden bed?
If you already have termites in garden bed, you will need to take action fast before they become well and truly established in your garden.
You can use several methods to combat the termites if they have already made headway into your raised bed.
1. Use organic insecticide
A product like orange peel extract is a good organic insecticide and deterrent to termites. The acid in the orange peel extract dissolves their exoskeleton, and they die.
Spray it on the termites to kill them, and around your raised beds as a preventative measure. We can purchase orange peel extract from most plant nurseries. Neem oil extract is another organic insecticide you can use.
2. Use diatomaceous earth
This product is a natural product that can be purchased from pretty much any plant store or nursery.
The only problem with diatomaceous earth is it will also kill any earthworms and other beneficial bugs in your raised bed. However, you can re-populate your beds with earthworms once the termites have been eradicated.
3. Introduce beneficial nematodes
Nematodes are tiny predatory worms that eat termites and other insects. The nematodes will survive as long as there are termites to feast on!
4. Get rid of infested wood
Termites will use infested wood as launching platforms to further their foray into your garden. Burn any termite-infested wood.
5. Use wet cardboard as a termite trap
Termites love damp cardboard. Place some cardboard on your raised bed and soak it thoroughly with water. Check it over the next few days. When the termites have moved into the cardboard, pick up the cardboard and burn it along with all the termites.
This is not a long-term solution since the queen will still be buried somewhere in the depths of your raised garden bed.
6. Contact an exterminator as a last resort
As a last measure, should all other attempts fail, you can contact an exterminator to get rid of the termites. Try as far as possible to get the exterminator to use organic methods.
You may need to relocate your raised bed to a different location if the contractor uses potent chemicals that will stay in the soil for a long time.
How do you keep termites out of raised beds?
You can limit the attraction of termites to your raised garden bed by applying a strategy from the beginning to keep them at bay.
Planning and sourcing the right materials to build your garden bed and using the right gardening methods can help limit a termite infestation.
Use the following strategy as a preventative measure to make your garden less attractive to termites.
1. Don’t put raised beds close to your house
If your raised beds become infested, by the time you notice the termites, they will already be in the foundation of your house.
2. Keep your garden tidy
Leaf litter and other garden debris attract termites in the garden. Once they are in your general garden space, the raised bed will further attract them to that location because of the moisture and abundance of food.
3. Put down plastic before you build your raised bed
Put a layer of plastic on the ground before starting your raised bed. You could also put some bricks on the plastic to keep your bed off the plastic. This will create a barrier to prevent termites from accessing the bed.
4. Use termite-resistant wood
If you make your raised bed from wood, use a wood species that termites don’t like. Termites love pine but dislike cedar, so rather use cedar or cypress or treated lumber as the timber for your raised bed.
5. Don’t use wood to construct the bed
Use galvanized sheeting and concrete pillars or metal stakes to secure the sheeting. These materials will not attract termites at all.
6. Use the correct mulch
Likewise, use a mulch that will not attract the termites. Pine bark is a common mulch material, but this will attract termites. Rather, use cedar wood chips or similar termite-resistant wood.