Plan, plant and maintain for drought-tolerant landscaping.
Those 3 steps will get you far – and they’re extremely important. In a few states – including Colorado – a large number of people are relocating to rural areas, which means they’re putting themselves and their homes more at risk of wildfire damage. In our state alone, wildfires have burned through some 75,000 acres of land making fire mitigation more important than ever. The still-spreading blazes can largely be attributed to the dead or dry vegetation created by climate and environmental changes over the years.
While you might not be able to prevent the spread of a wildfire to your area, you can utilize proper planning to help save your home. Designing your landscaping to be drought-resistant or drought-tolerant – and designing smartly – can be a literal life-saver. Here’s a more in-depth look at how to implement fire- and drought-resistant landscaping around your home.
Design for Defensible Space
If you’re able to really begin at the beginning, start with landscaping design. This is where the “plan” portion of landscaping comes into play. You want to create what’s called a defensible space around your property. Defensible space means two things: designing your home’s landscaping in a way that allows firefighters to easily move in; and creating landscaping that acts as a barrier to impeding flames. Designing with defensible space in mind could save your home from being engulfed in a wildfire. Here are a few tips about designing for defensible space:
- Any plants near the home should be widely spaced out and low-growing. The wider they’re spaced out, the less likely they are to spread fire.
- Don’t plant in bunches. Many American homeowners line their fences with plants. This is a “don’t” when designing for defensible space. Instead, plant so that vegetation is spaced out or on little “islands” around your yard. This also helps prevent the spread of flames from one plant to another.
- Accessorize. Add rock, mulch, and stone and cement pathways in and around your yard among different plants. These flame-resistant barriers can prevent fire from spreading.
Fire-resistant plants are just as important as the right landscaping design. Conditions can be so dry in wildfire-prone areas that just a spark can ignite a blaze. In such conditions, dead vegetation helps it spread. So in order to prevent wildfire from spreading to your home if the conditions are right, you’re going to want to plant drought and fire-resistant plants. While no plant can be defined as truly fire-resistant, those that are flush and healthy – and not dry and dying – are more resistant to the spread of fire. Native species usually serve this purpose the best, as they’re more apt to grow and flourish in the specific conditions. For instance, rock rose, iceplant, aloe, honeysuckle, and maple and cherry trees are all native to Colorado and considered to be the most fire-resistant plants.
Also, don’t be negligent about this one: plant different types of plants. Because certain pests and diseases only affect certain species of plants, a variety of plants ensures that you’ll never lose a whole garden due to one problem. If all of your plants are the same and happen to become diseased, you’ll have a yard full of dead, dry plants. As we mentioned above, dead, dry vegetation = increased flammability. So it’s true: variety is the spice of life.
You’ve optimized your landscaping design for fire resistance, and you’ve planted all the right things. Done, right? Not so fast.
Even the most water-dense plants aren’t immune to flame. So in addition to caring for and watering them as directed, you should also be placing mulch around them. Mulch conserves moisture and deters weed growth. Ask an expert about your mulch before buying: pine needles and bark-type mulches can easily help spread fire.
Plan, plant, maintain…then what? There are a few other things you can do to decrease your yard’s flammability and protect your home from wildfire spread.
- Mow grass short around shrubs and plants. Grasses, especially dry varieties, can ignite easily and spread flame quickly. The taller the grass, the more susceptible to damage your yard will be.
- Rake up leaves and debris as they accumulate on your lawn throughout the year.
- Trim plants and shrubs regularly. The more leaves a plant has, the more vegetation a fire has to spread, so don’t let your plants become overgrown.
- Thatch and aerate your lawn regularly. This helps water and oxygen reach the grass roots, so your lawn won’t require as much water to stay flush – key for dry conditions.
Due to our diverse climate, Colorado residents know that wildfires can occur at any time of the year. Prepping your yard for drought will give you some peace of mind – and some curb appeal, to boot.
If you want some help designing drought tolerant, fire-resistant landscaping, get in touch with us.