Focus on 8 Factors for Firewise Landscapes
It’s difficult to deny the appeal of living in an area adjacent to or surrounded by wild areas. Unfortunately, the very things that make these locations so desirable make them especially vulnerable to the threat of brush and wildfires.
If you live in such a setting, it’s wise to take precautions to protect your family, home and community. One smart strategy is to install a firewise landscape that incorporates eight key factors:
- Fire resistant plants and shrubs. As the name implies, fire resistant plants resist ignition and help slow a spreading fire. Specific plants vary by region, but they share common traits. Succulents feature fleshy stems and leaves that store water. The leaves of deciduous plants and shrubs contain moisture during the growing season, and offer bare branches and less fuel for fires during dormant seasons. Many drought tolerant plants and broadleaf evergreens feature leathery leaves that retain moisture and resist ignition, so they can also be a good choice. For color and interest, choose fire resistant plants, shrubs and trees that feature seasonal blooms and attractive growth habits.
- Fire resistant trees. Minimize the use of conifers, junipers and pines, and instead plant deciduous hardwoods such as maple, poplar and cherry trees.
- Fire resistant fences and walls. Unlike wood fences that burn, metal fencing and masonry garden walls offer little or no fuel for the fire, so they function as firebreaks.
- Inorganic mulch. All mulches help reduce water use and retain moisture in the soil, but plant-based mulches are flammable. Instead of pine needles, cocoa shells or shredded bark, use inorganic mulches such as gravel, crushed rock or crushed shells in planting beds and areas where turf won’t thrive.
- Masonry curbs, planters and retaining walls. Instead of wood timbers, opt for metal or masonry curbing, and install stone, brick or concrete planters and retaining walls.
- Open lawns. Open lawns are crucial in firewise landscapes, because they function as firebreaks. Install traditional turf, keep it mowed and irrigate it regularly, or plant hardy, low-growing ground covers. Space planted beds at least 10 feet apart to retain the open quality.
- Paved surfaces. Instead of highly flammable wood, choose brick, concrete pavers, poured concrete or stone for driveways, patios, porches and walkways that are attractive, long lasting and fire resistant.
- Water features. In drought-prone regions, it can be a challenge to maintain water features, but in addition to adding interest, fountains, ponds and waterfalls offer no fuel for a fire and may function as firebreaks.
While the primary goal is to improve your family’s safety and protect your home, a well-planned firewise landscape should also be visually appealing. If you don’t know where to start, contact a local landscaper who has experience in this field, and arrange to have your firewise landscape professionally designed and installed.