Can You Put A Garden Against Your House?

If you are contemplating putting a garden against your house, you are one of many homeowners considering this. Like everything else in life, there are some advantages and disadvantages in putting a garden against your home, and proper care should be taken when installing one.

You can put a garden against your house. You need to ensure that your garden grade is correct, that the soil is healthy, and that an effective drainage system has been implemented. The right type of plants needs to be selected, and most importantly, the foundation needs to be protected from moisture.

A garden put against a house, with the right selection of plant material, can aesthetically uplift any home. The debate of whether it is a safe or good thing has been raging on for quite some time, and the only thing professionals tend to agree on is that you should not plant plants right next to the foundation. Let us delve into how you can safely install a garden against your house.

Can You Put A Garden Against Your House?

You can put a garden against your house, and you should if the option is available to you, as it does make for a nice visual display. A nice little garden close to a house makes it feel alive and inviting. But there are certain things to consider when sprucing your property up a bit.

These garden beds against the home sometimes referred to as foundation plantings, can be done in many different styles and designs and positively complement your home’s design elements.

Gardening against your house requires precise planning to prevent various possible problems that typically come with putting a garden against your foundation.

When Putting A Garden Against Your House: Do The Following

Whether installing a flower/garden bed, the most important thing you must ensure is protecting your foundation against water and growing plants. 

Get To Know Your Garden

Before you even start building or preparing your garden bed, you will need to establish the following first:

  • What type of soil are you dealing with, and how does the ground react to moisture?
  • How much sunlight will your new garden be exposed to daily?

Answering these questions will help you choose the right plants to plant and help you understand the water requirements of your new garden. Only with this knowledge will you be able to improve your soil, ensuring that your new garden will bloom and be healthy. 

How To Test What Soil You Have: Type And pH Levels

There are many ways to test what soil you have in your garden, from taking a sample and sending it away for testing to doing it yourself:

Step 1:

  • Take a tall empty glass jar (with a tight-fitting lid), marker, and distilled water.

Step 2:

  • Dig down to about 6″ into the earth (root level), and fill the jar halfway up with the soil.

Step 3:

  • Fill the rest of the jar with mineral water, leaving 1″ of room at the top.

Step 4:

  • Place the lid on the jar and shake the jar thoroughly for about three minutes.

Step 5:

  • Place the jar on a level area, wait for 1-2 minutes and mark the level of sediment collected at the bottom of the jar: this is the sand layer.

Step 6:

  • Wait an hour, mark the next sediment layer; this is the soil’s silt layer.

Step 7:

  • Let the jar stand for 24-hours (until water is relatively clear) and mark the sediment: this is the soil’s clay layer.

Step 8:

  • Proceed to calculate the percentages of the sand, silt, and clay to reflect 100 percent.

Healthy soil will have the following percentages:

  • Sand: 40 percent
  • Silt: 40 percent
  • Clay: 20 percent

Taking your test results into consideration, you can see how your soil will react to moisture:

  • Soils high in sand will be well-draining.
  • Silt and clay soils are harder to wet, but they tend to cling onto moisture, leading to pooling when exposed to heavy rains.

You may need to amend your soil accordingly when the results come through:

Type Of SoilHow To Amend The Soil
SandAdd manure/humus, sawdust, peat moss, extra nitrogen, and heavy clay-rich soils.
SiltAdd coarse sand/gravel, compost, or well-rotted horse manure, mixed with fresh straw.
ClayAdd coarse sand, peat moss, and compost.

If your soil is high in sand or clay, till the area to a depth of 8-10″, removing half of the tilled ground. Before returning it to the soil bed, combine the removed soil with the aforementioned ingredients and additional topsoil. 

You can also create loam sand, considered the best garden soil.

Testing the soil for acidity and alkalinity should be done, so you can create the perfect soil pH levels for plants that you want to use in your garden. The pH scale ranges from 0 (most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline), 7 representing neutral.

Plant roots access nutrients the best when the pH level is in the 5.5-7.0 range, as microbial activity flourishes in this range. If you want a more reliable testing method, use a soil pH tester, and amend your soil’s pH level accordingly:

  • Acidic soil (sour) can be counteracted by applying finely ground limestone.
  • Alkaline soil (sweet) can be counteracted by applying ground sulfur.

Try this 3-In-1 Soil Kit to test and amend the pH levels in your soil.

Follow The Sun

Time to follow the sun, a little bit of star gazing if you like, and record how many hours of direct sunlight your new garden will receive. Take notes of morning and afternoon sun, and get a total of direct sunlight hours.

This exercise aims to indicate the most suitable plants to plant in your new garden space depending on exposure to the sun.

Garden Bed Preparation

By this stage, any soil issues should have been addressed, and your plant selection made according to the type of soil, exposure to sunlight, and pH levels of the patch of earth next to your house. 

Many people decide only to landscape their front yard. However, choosing to go this route may lead to foundation issues, as the foundation garden on the front side will receive more water than the side that does not have a garden.

The soil in the garden area, receiving more water, can expand. When expansion happens, the soil will push against the foundation and cause damage. You can avoid all of this by implementing gardens on each side of the house. 

Soil expansion can crack foundations, resulting in settlement, also distorting structural elements. With this information in mind, now is the time to prepare your plant bed(s.)

Step 1:

  • Use a garden hose or a long rope, and mark out the bed by digging the edge with a spade-following the hose/rope you have laid out.

Step 2:

  • Add 6-8″ of organic material on the soil and till it for approximately 6-10″ into the ground- cultivating the organic material creates a rich planting medium for most plants.

Step 3:

  • The most important step when building a garden bed against your house is to ensure that proper grading is followed (most building codes demand a minimum of 6″ of fall for the first 10 feet of horizontal distance from the wall.)
  • Ensuring a slope of 9″ per first ten feet would be a smarter grade to install and maintain, as this will allow water to flow away from your house and not towards it.
  • 95% of water penetration and water accumulation problems stem from surface problems, like in-proper grading, that are not managed properly.
  • Negative grading can be repaired, and it can be as simple as shoveling soil toward your house or filling up the area with topsoil, or grading soil. Be careful not to cover the existing siding, as that opens your home to other potential problems like termites.
  • Do not use sand to grade soil for a garden right next to the house as water flows through it easily, sand is not good in this application.

If your soil is hard that grading it may be difficult, in this article we explain how to make it easier.

Step 4:

  • When you are happy with the grade of the garden, take your time to decide where you are going to plant your plants. 
  • Planting flowers and plants that do not require excessive water is an excellent choice, lessening the chance of water damage to the foundation over time.
  • Always follow the planting instructions provided by the nursery. When no instructions are available, dig a hole as deep as the plant’s pot and two times wider than the plant’s root ball.
  • Remember, the more depth you assign to each plant, the closer they will grow together, as vertical root growth is encouraged.
  • Plant the plants in their designated spaces, ensuring that no plant is closer than 2 feet from the foundation. 
  • Keeping at least a 2 feet barrier will ensure you have space to do foundation inspections in the future, and that moisture, when watering the plants, is located away from your home. You also want air to move freely around your house.
  • If you want to add mulch to the garden, the no-vegetation space (2 feet barrier) can be filled with non-organic mulch-like landscape rock. Organic mulch will provide a moist natural environment for numerous pest species. Although mulch does help with drainage as we explain here, it is not as good as what we mentioned above.

Drainage Management

Creating a drainage system that improves how your new garden handles water is a very important factor to consider. You don’t want to damage your home’s foundation, just for the sake of having a beautiful garden installed next to it.

Here are a few ways to ensure that water doesn’t pose a risk to your foundation structure:

  • Installing a french drain is optional but can help tremendously with any drainage issues going forward, encouraging big and beautiful plant growth without damaging the foundation.
  • Installing a micro drip irrigation kit will ensure that your new garden gets the absolute right amount of water. Because water is supplied slowly, it gives your garden a chance to absorb the water, drain off the excess without causing soil erosion.
  • Adding a layer of gravel at the bottom of the planting bed can also help with drainage.

The greatest problem with a garden next to a poured concrete foundation is when excess water is retained in the soil. 

Many garden owners opt for an automatic watering drip system to ensure that the above situation does not occur, also for peace of mind that their plants get the necessary moisture at all times.

Why Certain Trees Should Not Be Planted Around The House

Tree and shrub roots can affect footings by removing the moisture from clay soils underneath the house, causing subsidence as the clay shrink due to lack of water. A good rule to remember when it comes to planting trees is that a tree root system can potentially spread in the lateral distance, equal to the tree’s height. 

It is never a good idea to plant trees in a garden bed close to your home. When trees are planted in rows or groups, their roots may spread up to twice the height of each one as the roots compete and search for water. 

Please consider that when planting small trees, they will grow and form a massive invasive root system underneath your lawn, depending on the species of tree you choose. Proper care should be taken when selecting trees to plant in your garden: trees should not be planted within a distance of their mature height from the house.

How many times have you personally observed homes, boundary walls, and fences damaged due to trees that were planted too close to a building structure? Don’t underestimate our tree friends. They are powerful entities with a will to grow, lifting structures in their search for the elixir of life: Water!

Why Planting Certain Trees Close To Your House Is A Bad Idea

As discussed above, tree roots can take water from the foundations surrounding soil, making the soils shrink due to lack of moisture (reactive clay soil), leading to subsidence. 

Subsidence will lead to less support of your home’s foundation, ultimately increasing the chances of the following: 

  • Cracks or fissures in the foundation 
  • Cracks or fissures inside of your house
  • Flooding in the basement
  • Plumbing problems
  • Uneven floors

Other negative effects of planting trees, or big shrubs, next to your house:

  • Branches will damage the roof and walls when rubbing against them.
  • A tree’s symmetry can be affected by the proximity of a structure, growing at an angle instead of growing straight up.
  • When a tree’s branches start protruding above the house, there will be a constant shedding of leaves/dead branches that can clog your gutters.
  • Worst case scenario the tree can die and end up falling on your house and if it is large than this can do some serious damage. These are some signs of a dead tree so you can catch it early.

Don’t Plant The Following Trees

The following trees are known to affect a house’s foundation when planted to close or to have them in a yard:

  • Willows
  • American Elm
  • Norway Maple
  • Silver Maple
  • Aspens
  • Poplars
  • Cottonwoods
  • Black Adler
  • Black Locust

Do Plant The Following Trees

The following trees (evergreen tree-form shrubs) are known to have little to no negative effect on a house’s foundation and can be options when you want to plant trees in your foundation garden:

  • Wax Myrtle
  • Cherry Laurel 
  • Ligustrum
  • Star Magnolia
  • Japanese Map
  • Redbud
  • Crepe Myrtle
  • Dogwood

Do Plant The Following Shrubs

Low growing shrubs can be good for the garden, helping with erosion prevention, and some of the following can be used in your new garden:

  • Juniper
  • Boxwood
  • Holly

If you find yourself having trouble keeping your shrubs alive, check out this article to explain why.

Do Plant The Following Vining Plants

The following vining plants are excellent ground covers and can be used in a foundation garden:

  • Creeping Juniper
  • Liriope
  • Ivy
  • Periwinkle
  • Sweet Woodruff


A garden against a house can uplift the property and hide foundations that do not present well to the naked eye. Proper planning should go into a foundation garden project to ensure that you do not develop structural issues down the line.

After reading this article you should have some practical knowledge of planning this new addition to your house, and I hope that all goes according to plan. Happy gardening!

Manny Moore

Getting my hands dirty and building a place that me and my small family love is a driving factor for what I do and how I do it. I want to share what I have learned and practiced so that it is just that much easier for everyone to have another tool in their tool belt. Your home should be a place that you love and feel comfortable in and your backyard should be no different.

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