Wed February 23, 2011
Garden Report

Fire Wise Landscapes a Must for Mountain Dwellers

Throughout the region there are more homes in rural foothills and mountain areas.  Mountain Pine Beetle has killed a large percentage of trees in those areas.  More homes are at risk if wildfires start.  Anyone living in a rural area should have a fire-wise landscape. 

The most important aspect of a fire-wise landscape is a defensible space around structures.  Defensible space allows firefighters room to work.  This doesn’t have to be an area cleared and sterile.  Defensible space should be well designed and add to the beauty of a home. 

Plants in a defensible space should be widely spaced.  Small clusters of plants make it harder for fire to spread.  Use lower growing plants close to buildings.  Use decorative rock or stepping stones to break up plant material and other fire fuels.  Defensible spaces are great areas for garden art and hardscape features. 

Maintenance is another aspect of fire-wise landscaping.  Grass should be kept short around structures and other plants.  Mow regularly to keep grass eight inches or shorter.  It is most important to cut grass that is dry and dormant from drought or the time of the season. 

Mulched rings around trees and shrubs create a fuel break.  Don’t use bark, pine needles or other mulches that can catch fire.  Native or decorative rock is a fire-wise mulch.

Keep debris to a minimum.  Rake up leaves as they build up through the season.  Deadhead and cut back wildflowers as the flowers fade and the stems go dormant.  Prune damaged plants.  If possible keep all landscape plants well watered. 

Trees growing naturally or installed in a rural landscape need to be defensible too.  Defensible trees have at least ten feet between the edges of their crowns.  On slopes the space between trees should be even greater.  Prune low branches off trees so fire can’t jump from the grass to the branches. 

Where there is fire danger, protect your rural interests by being fire-wise.  Design a defensible space that is attractive.  Maintain your landscape to minimize fire fuels. 


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