Fire Safe Landscaping

Saturday, September 9th, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • 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.

Flowering Rockroses

Friday, June 12th, 2009 by Jenny Watts
    • Azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons can be pruned now without sacrificing next years bloom. Ask at your nursery if you need help.
    • When you finish cutting asparagus, feed the bed with good, rich compost that will also act as a mulch this summer.
    • Cover cherry trees with bird netting to protect your crop.
    • Finish planting the summer vegetable garden. Seeds of early corn, and beans can go directly in the soil and plants of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash, cucumbers and basil can be set out.
    • Red, white and blue petunias or combinations of these with lobelia, geraniums, impatiens and salvia will make a nice display for the Fourth of July.

Tough, Colorful Rockroses

Well-known for their showy spring flowers, rockroses are sun-loving, fast-growing, drought-resistant shrubs that are tolerant of poor, dry soil. They are ideal plants for informal plantings, rocky hillsides or along country driveways.

Since rockroses grow wide, they are at their best where they are not confined to small areas. Use them on hot dry banks, tumbling over rocks, or in a planting of drought resistant shrubs. Given plenty of room, they are beautiful, picturesque shrubs.

Rockroses, or Cistus, are Mediterranean natives that have a long flowering season in late spring. Scattered flowers begin to appear in April; by the end of May the plants are covered with large petaled single flowers; then the blooms taper off through June.

The flowers drop their petals when they fade, so they don’t leave brown, dead flowers on the plant.

Rockrose flowers come in white, pink and lavender-rose, a very striking color. Some plants will grow only thirty inches tall while others reach four to five feet with little effort. Another genus, Halimium, are called yellow rockroses, and they have showy flowers as well.

It is important to choose a variety which will fit the site chosen as rockroses resent severe pruning. Prune only to protect a path from encroachment or to eliminate dead wood or occasional lopsided growth.

Rockroses keep their leaves throughout the year, and are effective at preventing erosion on banks and suppressing weeds underneath them. They are drought tolerant, thrive in rocky soil, and are generally deer-resistant. They also make a pleasant background for flowering bulbs.

There are two requirements for growing rockroses: good drainage and very little summer water. They will often appear at first to respond to frequent irrigation, but the excess water greatly increases the chance of die-back, induces lanky growth and shortens the life of the plants. Plants grown in more natural settings may live for 20 years or more.

Plant rockroses in full sun and add a little lime at planting time. Irrigate deeply and infrequently for the first season. By the second year, most plants can survive without water.

These are truly carefree plants that will delight you every spring with their showy flowers.