Can I Plant a Fruit or Vegetable Garden Next to My House?

Whether you’re moving into a new house or simply looking to get a little more out of your backyard, a fruit and vegetable garden can seem like a convenient and rather ‘productive’ hobby. However, productivity doesn’t always mean that it’s the perfect hobby.

Take your fruit or vegetable garden, for example. There are a lot of intricacies involved with these gardens; from the compost to use to which plant will be able to grow. However, a common question people ask is “can I plant a fruit or vegetable garden next to my house?”

Yes, planting a fruit or vegetable garden next to your house is a very good idea – even better if you do it on a raised bed. You won’t have to worry about weeds, you’ll have more control over the soil, and most importantly, it’ll be convenient. However, there are some intricacies involved. This article will discuss those in detail.

Planting a Fruit or Vegetable Garden Next to Your House

What Is a Fruit/Vegetable Garden?

The traditional fruit or vegetable garden is also known as a kitchen garden. It is basically a space separate from the rest of your garden or backyard dedicated to growing fruits or vegetables and doesn’t usually include ornamental plants. Think of these gardens as miniature versions of farms. They are a good source of herbs, vegetables, and fruits.

A garden planter with loose top soil
A garden planter with loose top soil

Raised beds are usually used to separate the same from your residential garden and for more control over the soil and fertilizer used. The beds can be made of wood or concrete, as we’ll discuss in a later section.

Raised beds are much better than planting in the ground because this way you know what you’re getting and have more control over the weeds. However, is a raised bed a good idea near your home?

Yes, but only if you use proper insulation and material that doesn’t invite termites; particularly concrete.

The most important things to note about gardens that are close to home include, but aren’t limited to: 

  • The heat produced by the house
  • pH leaks
  • Your house’s shadow
  • The foundation of your house and the effect of water on it
  • Termites

Let’s consider each of these elements in more detail.

Your House as a Thermal Mass

Thermal imaging of the outside of a house
Thermal imaging of the outside of a house

The thing to note about gardens near – especially those connected directly to your house – is that they store heat and dissipate the same into the ground. This can have a positive as well as a negative impact on the plants in your garden.

The house itself is a thermal mass – especially in the UK where the houses are made of bricks or concrete blocks. If this is the case, you will find that your garden bed will stay warmer than other parts of the garden – or when compared to other gardens.

This is actually a very useful thing in winters, particularly in areas where the ground freezes over. If you plan on planting citrusy fruits, spinach, tomatoes, chilies, or others of the like, your plants will thrive not only in the summer but in the winter season as well.

Most problems you’re likely to face, however, would be during summers. Since the garden bed will be warmer than usual, you will find that you’re going to have to water much more frequently (or heavily) as compared to other seasons. You’ll also have to invest in more mulch since the beds will dry up much quicker.

Beds near houses don’t receive much dew either, further increasing their water needs. This is good news for succulents and other stubborn plants including dragon fruit and mangoes. You’ll have to water a lot if you’re planning on growing watermelons.  

pH Leaks

When you’re planting directly against houses – particularly brick or concrete structures, you’re likely to face some pH leaks. These aren’t exactly leaks, but more of a leach. Mortar is the primary culprit here. This isn’t that big of an issue if you’re simply planning to plant vegetables such as spinach, thyme, mint, coriander, radishes, potatoes, and more.

This only becomes a problem if you don’t do anything about it. Plants such as garlic, carrots, blueberries, citrus plants, grapes, and the like, they might struggle. One plant that will particularly suffer in this case is that of roses. They are particularly pH sensitive. Planting next to your house may lead to little to no flowers.

We recommend you keep an eye on the pH levels at least twice a year, adding the necessary nutrients occasionally.

The House’s Shadow

This is something that can be mitigated rather easily, but one that can present a lot of problems. When planting a vegetable or fruit garden next to your house, it is a good idea to survey the site first. Look at how many hours of sunlight the place gets before you start raising the bed.

For optimal growth, plants need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. If the place gets 4 hours of sunlight, you can still get away with it. You’ll just experience slightly slow growth. However, anything less and you’re setting up a stunted garden.

We learned this via personal experience. We planted tomatoes in a raised garden bed that got 2-2.5 hours of sunlight every day. 3 months later, it was still a small plant, let alone giving ripe fruit.

The Effect on Your House’s Foundation

If you raise a fruit or vegetable garden right next to your house, it will have some impact on your fruit/vegetable garden. The severity of that impact depends on several factors:

  1. How much you water. If you water too frequently and there is nowhere for the excess water to go, it will seep into the concrete foundations of your home and therefore, lead to cracks. The water will also have an impact on the soil.
  2. How compact the soil around your foundation is. If the soil isn’t compacted properly, watering your garden without insulation will eventually seep through the soil particles and force it to settle. As it does, your foundation may become loose, leading to cracks in walls and even sink holes! So, remember to add a layer of insulation to direct water away from the foundation.

Termites

Whether or not termites attack your fruit or vegetable garden next to your house depends entirely on what you use to make the raised bed. Options for that include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Decay-resistant wood
    • Cedar
    • Black cherry
    • Oak
      • Bur
      • Chestnut
      • Post
      • White
    • Black locust
    • Osage orange
    • Redwood
  • Non-wood material
    • PVC
    • Synthetic lumber
    • Bricks
    • Concrete blocks

Both of these gardens will be safe from termites – one uses decay-resistant wood, the other is made from concrete blocks:

A wood and masonry planter garden next to each other
A wood and masonry planter garden next to each other

Wood is by far the most cost-effective solution for a raised bed, but even decay-resistant wood can invite termites. If your garden is near your house, any termites on the bed’s wood will invite them inside as well. Your plants will most likely be fine, but the rest; not so much.

It is important to remember that termites don’t usually attack living, healthy wood except if provoked.

If the raised bed invites termites, the best way to get rid of them is to remove the damaged wood and treat the garden with liquid termite solutions.  Unfortunately, termite treatment has chances to impact your plants as well.

Having a fruit or vegetable garden next to your house is a good idea because of the convenience and proper use of space it offers. Some plants that require shade such as kale, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and more can actually thrive in such circumstances.

Before wrapping up, it is important to note that metals from air pollution often accumulate in the top 2 inches of the soil and tend to stay put; particularly carbon and lead. Not only that, as you continue using insecticides, the arsenic content of your fruit and vegetable garden may also rise. The best way to reduce the risk of these entering your garden is to apply mulch and compost generously. Remember to wash your fruits and vegetables thoroughly before consuming!

About Charlie D Paige

Charlie is a massive DIY fan, with dozens of DIY projects under his belt - ranging from tiling to electrics, and concrete pads to walls. Charlie loves tinkering, seeing how things works, the outdoors and playing with power tools... so is it any wonder that he's completed so many DIY jobs over the years?

Charlie loves spreading his hard-won DIY experience with the world via this blog.