What's a good groundcover to use for landscaping around the foundation of a brick home?

Asked by Julia Harrison
Tullahoma, TN

We live in the mid-South, where termites can be a problem. We also have all kinds of weather, from drought to flooding, and from 20 degrees in the winter to over 100 degrees in the summer. I am concerned that using stone would not be good for the plants and that extraction of stone could cause erosion to our beautiful mountains. Plus, I see weeds growing through the rocks that would have to be killed with chemicals so as to not pull up the earth through the rocks. My husband thinks rock would be better because it may not have to be replenished like hardwood mulch. I think hardwood would be better for the plants and is reusing the trees that have been cut down, etc. Which is more eco-friendly and better for our home and for our plants?


Answered by Bryan Bailey

Portland , OR

Bioscape Pacific

April 6, 2010

You ask a great question. Although I am not from Tennessee, I understand the extreme weather conditions you describe, as I grew up in a similar climate. Let me try to answer your question:

When using stone as a groundcover there are a few things to consider. First, where did the stone come from? If the stone comes from your own property and no harm is done to the environment in retrieving it, then it may be worth considering. Secondly, what type of stone is it? Light stone will reflect heat, dark stone will absorb heat. In either case, most plants will not thrive in these conditions. And yes, the wind will blow soil between the stones and weeds will eventually take root. So, stone may not be the best choice, especially with the extreme weather in your area.

Wood chips will be much better for plant health. Again, we need to ask the same questions. First, where are you getting the wood? If you can get it from a local source that has sustainable practices, that is best. Second, what type of wood is it? Choose a fast-growing tree that is prevalent to the area (as opposed to a slow-growing tree that is not common to your area). The wood mulch will help keep the foundation of your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, because you will have healthy plants to help shade and insulate.

In summary, I think you will reduce your environmental impact as well as provide the best growing conditions for your plants by choosing the appropriate wood chips for the foundation of your home.

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