Fire Safe Landscaping

    • Pansies and snapdragons can be planted now to replace summer annuals. They will give you color this fall, winter and next spring.
    • Cool season vegetables should be planted right away to insure good crops this fall.
    • Take house plants outside and wash down dusty leaves. Let them dry in the shade before bringing them back inside.
    • Lilac bushes will bloom better next spring if you cut back on the watering now.
    • Keep apples picked up from under the trees to help control the spread of codling moths, which make wormy apples.

Fire Safe Landscaping

If you live in a hilly, rural area of Mendocino County, fire protection is a major concern, and landscaping around your house is an important factor in fire safety. Landscape design, plant selection and maintenance of landscaping immediately around a home are critical considerations.

First of all, clear all brush, dead leaves and debris at least 30 feet from your home, and at least 150 feet if you’re on a hill. Dry grass should be mowed within 100 feet of structures.

A fire safe landscape doesn’t mean a ring of bare dirt around your home. When establishing your landscape, keep trees furthest from your house, shrubs can be closer, and bedding plants and lawns are nearest the house.

Landscape with fire resistant plants that are strategically planted to resist the spread of fire to your home. Develop a greenbelt of well-watered landscaping around the house for at least 30 feet. Lawns or low-growing groundcovers provide good protection. Add color with flowering annuals and perennials. Keep this landscaped area maintained with regular irrigation, pruning and cleanup.

The mid zone, 30 to 70 feet from the house, should contain mostly low-growing, fire-resistant plants. Shrubs should be planted in clumps or islands with walkways between to provide fuel breaks. Keep the landscape clean: remove litter under trees and shrubs, prune out deadwood, and remove dead and dried portions of ground covers.

Layers of flammable material that allow a fire to move from the ground to the tree canopy create a “fire ladder.” Pine needles on the ground can ignite and burn shrubs which carry flames into the tree canopy. Use only small shrubs beneath trees to lessen this danger. Keep tree foliage at least 10 feet away from buildings.

In the outer zone native vegetation can be maintained though dense brush must be cleared and crowded trees thinned. Trees should be spaced so that fire cannot travel across tree canopies.

In many cases, water shortages do not allow for well-watered landscapes, but leaving the existing, natural growth can be very dangerous. Unwatered chaparral plants become highly flammable under summer drought conditions. They should be removed and replaced by low ground covers that will produce less fuel.

Some plants which are far more fire retardant than most include rockroses, California lilac (Ceanothus), oleander, Santolina, Echinacea and woolly yarrow. Italian buckthorn, native oaks and maple trees are good choices. Heavenly bamboo, pineapple guava, Escallonia, daylily, cotoneaster, and star jasmine are just a few of the plants to choose from.

It is worthwhile to install an irrigation line that will operate sprinklers to wet down surrounding vegetation in an emergency. Such a system can be operated from a single manual valve.

Remember, all plants will burn if there is enough heat and if other conditions are right. But following these suggestions will make your home a safer place.

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