Planting a garden right next to your house is an excellent idea. Even if you have a small yard, you will still be able to find at least a small patch of land for growing flowers, fruit, herbs, or vegetables that you love. And if you grow them on a raised bed, you can have better control over the soil and you won’t need to deal with weeds, which is convenient.
However, it is important to plan your garden out in advance so that not only do the plants keep growing well but also the plant roots do not cause any structural damage to your house.
Continue reading to ensure that you know exactly how to plant a successful garden beside your house and that you don’t end up ruining your home’s foundations.
Should Plants Touch Your House Walls? Can Roots Cause Damage To The House?
A garden next to a house can have a lot of advantages, but as good as it may sound, you need to be aware that it can compromise the foundations of your home.
The growing roots of plants, particularly trees and shrubs, are capable of causing serious damage if you situate these plants too close to your home’s foundation.
They can also interfere with walkways, pathways, and the driveway on your property. That’s why it’s so important to know which plants can cause damage and how to prevent it.
In any case, if you’re considering planting a garden right at the base of your house walls, you must remember that these potential locations usually have shallow soil, rubble, and limited access because of cement foundations, drains, or pathway edges. Right off the bat, these locations can limit the growth of broad or extensive plants.
Planting anything along the house foundation, whether it’s a raised bed or a simple garden, can weaken the house foundation through the spreading of plant roots and water seepage.
If you plant trees or shrubs too close to the building, they will establish roots that can harm the foundation or plumbing and sewer pipes, or cause mold and mildew to grow on the house walls.
Plant roots can damage the foundation by causing stress and numerous cracks in it. Water is lost during the transpiration of the plant and the roots put pressure on the walls, and this will cause cracks in concrete.
When the roots absorb water from the ground, they will spread moisture to the walls. Also, the level of moisture underground will be lowered, which will result in shrinkage and subsequent movement of the soil. This way, the soil will affect the house because the moisture from the soil will slowly move up and begin to seep into the house foundation, causing damage.
Trees, shrubs, and vines planted too close to the walls, leave your house vulnerable to pests and water damage. The branches carry water and harmful insects, and if they touch the house walls, water can get in and cause mold and mildew on the walls. Their mulch could also attract pests like termites and carpenter ants.
For these reasons, it is crucial that you provide the plants with enough space so that they can grow properly without harming your home.
How Far Away From The House Foundation Should Plants Be?
You need to properly plan the space between the garden and the house foundation. Some distance is always necessary for the health of plants and your house.
Although the amount of space required can be different depending on the species and the size of the plant, experts agree on the bare minimum distance of four inches between the foundation and the flower bed.
Small plants with limited root systems, for example annual flowers, can be grown as close as 6 inches away from the foundation. As an added layer of protection, it’s good to install the flower bed 12 to 24 inches away from the house.
In the case of trees and shrubs, they should be at least half the distance of their mature span from the house foundation. Thus, if a shrub is expected to grow 20 feet wide, you will need to provide a distance of at least 10 feet from the house walls.
Since plant roots cause cracks in the house foundation, it’s recommended that you build your raised garden bed between 1 and 2 feet away from the house so as not to allow the roots to affect the structure.
It is good practice to leave 1 foot of open space around the foundations to prevent moisture build-up that could lead to dampness and mold, and also if you want to avoid giving pests direct access to your home.
Small shrubs should be planted at least 1 to 2 feet from the foundation while medium-sized shrubs at least 3 feet. Leave a few feet of space, a minimum of 5 feet, for tall or large shrubs such as viburnums.
Trees require a 15 to 20-feet distance away from the house.
How To Protect Your House Foundation From Damage?
In essence, all plants will eventually cause problems to a house structure, foundation, or plumbing and drainage system. However, certain species are likely to do more damage than others, due to their shallow, flexible, or extensive root systems.
Thus, to prevent any potential problems, ensure adequate space away from the house, as described above, or avoid planting them altogether in your yard.
Some of the different types of trees and shrubs that cause the most damage include:
birch; oak; magnolia; willow; poplar trees; citrus trees like lemon, orange, and mango; boxwood shrubs; holly bushes; or ivy plants.
There are various steps you can take to prevent further damage to your house:
If you put a garden against your house, the soil can cause the building to weaken as a result of moisture and the penetration of plant roots into the foundation. But you can safely install a garden bed by placing a barrier between the soil and the walls.
Install surface drains on your garden beds and make sure that drainage is adequate to take excess water away from the house.
If there’s topsoil on the garden bed to allow for an adequate slope, don’t let any vents in the walls be covered by the soil.
Also, if you decide to replace the soil or add topsoil when planting next to a house wall, make sure to keep it somewhat lower than the damp-proof layer.
Avoid any low-level spots on the ground where water would accumulate and the soil remained wet, for example after rain.
It’s best to build your garden on the side of the house that’s receiving plenty of sunlight. This will help your plants, especially the sun-loving vegetables, grow fast.
To keep tree roots from damaging your house, install a root barrier before planting the tree. Such barriers can direct roots deeper into the ground and divert them away from foundations, plumbing, or walkways.
It’s important to ensure that the house foundation is protected against seepage of water from underground and outside. For this, install a waterproofing system so that water and moisture do not enter the walls.
Some of the most used methods include:
– Using a pool liner before adding soil and other organic matter to a garden bed to help prevent water from flowing in the wrong direction.
– Applying epoxy or bitumen paint to the cement-based wall surfaces. They will coat and protect the walls against the ingress of water, moisture, and dirt.
– Using fiber cement board, as this is a great building material to prevent water from entering the house foundations. The pores in the fiber are smaller than water molecules and therefore will not allow water to get in and cause a problem.
Finally, removing as much of the offending root system as possible, or even cutting down the entire tree or shrub, would be a good option.
What To Plant Right Next To The House Foundation?
If you’re wondering what you can plant around your house perimeter, here are some ideas:
You can definitely grow grass anywhere around your house, right down to the foundation. The grass won’t harm your house foundation in any way.
In addition, ornamental grasses are a very practical choice for foundation plantings. For example, Switchgrass is an extremely durable, drought-tolerating plant. It can also withstand strong winds, heat, as well as brief periods of flooding.
If you’re firm on having trees in your yard, go for smaller ornamental trees that have shallow roots. They will pose little risk to your home while being a great addition to your foundation garden.
For example, the Japanese maple tree is safe enough to be planted relatively close to the house. Its roots are not invasive when it comes to foundations or intact underground plumbing.
Small columnar shrubs such as arborvitaes can be planted close to the building to add height and interest to your foundation garden.
Arborvitaes have a shallow, fibrous root system that will only spread to the edges of their canopy, therefore, they are not considered invasive and are not likely to pose any issues for your house foundation.
You can plant roses next to your home to add color and perfume. Rose roots are weak and not invasive, so they won’t damage the foundations, intact plumbing system, or concrete walls of your house.
As a rule of thumb, keep a minimum of 8 inches between the rose bush and the foundation. A foot (12 inches) would be even better for easier access to the plant for spraying and pruning.
If you decide not to have an abundance of plants, create a rock garden. Rock garden plantings are typically low or widely spaced, and when used next to the house, they will visually enlarge or add substance to your entryway, pathway, or driveway.
Just remember not to lay gravel beside the foundation in places where the ground is not already sloping away from the house. Gravel works like a dam and prevents water from draining quickly and evaporating from the soil surface.
Also, you shouldn’t be putting sand or mulch too close to the siding or foundation. The sand or mulch will drain water directly through and around the foundation, which can cause a problem for your house foundation. Instead, use dense soil, preferably clay.
A foundation garden will look great growing in front of your house. However, sometimes it can be difficult to create the perfect garden with the plants you wish to have.
To make sure a tree or another plant doesn’t become a problem as it grows and ages, think about what size it will become before you start planting it. An ideal place for a seedling may not be a suitable place for a big tree a few years later.
You should be particularly aware not to plant trees too close to the house foundation and walls as the expanding roots can cause damage.
When it comes to planting next to a building, the most important factor to consider is spacing as the plants must have enough space to grow freely while not interfering with the structure of your house.