Firesafe Landscaping Tips for Santa Cruz Mtns

The landscape is so green and lush in May. Shades of green are everywhere you look –   apple green, grass green, forest green, spring green, pine, olive, lime, jade, chartreuse, kelp, sage. Did you know the the human eye can identify over 200,000 shade of green?  It's hard to imagine that by summer the hills will be tawny brown. Meadows now covered with grasses and wildflowers will have dried up and put on a coat of restful gold. And with summer comes the wildfire season.  A little planning and maintenance now can help protect your property. Here are some guidelines and reminders to make your landscape more firesafe.

Some plants burn more readily than others. Using fire resistant plants that are strategically planted will give firefighters a chance against a fire around your home, especially within the 100 ft defensible space zone.
This not only helps protect your property but defends the firefighters battling to save your home.

Highly flammable plants like eucalyptus, pines, junipers, overgrown coyote brush, large ornamental grasses, Japanese honeysuckle, sagebrush and buckwheat are a hazard near buildings or wooden structures. They contain oils, resins and waxes that make them burn with a greater intensity. Even when given a higher level of maintenance they are still a high fire hazard. Highly flammable plants should be placed, whenever possible, with low-growing and/or low fuel plants. The ideal is to surround the house with plants with a high moisture content that are less likely to ignite and burn.

Plant arrangements, spacing and maintenance are often as important as plant types when considering fire safety. Group plants of similar heights and water requirements to create a landscape mosaic that can slow the spread of fire and use water most efficiently. Use plants that no not accumulate dead leaves or twigs. Keep your landscape healthy and clean. On a regular basis remove dead branches and brush, dry grass, dead leaves and pine needles from your yard, especially within 30 feet from your home and at least 150 ft if you're on a hill. Keep trees spaced at least 10 feet apart with branches trimmed at least 10 ft away from your roof. It's best, however, to keep trees further from your house. Low shrubs can be closer in and herbaceous perennials and groundcovers can be nearest the home.

Choose the right irrigation system. While all plants can eventually burn, healthy plants burn less quickly. Consider drip irrigation and micro sprays for watering most of your landscape. Use sprinklers for lawns and other groundcovers or turf. Even drought adapted species and natives will benefit from watering every month or so during the dry season. Unwatered landscapes generally increase the risk of fire.

Landscaping could be well-spaced, well-watered and fire resistant. It should be low enough around the home that if it does catch fire it won't give the flames a ladder to the eaves of structures or lower branches of trees.

Other considerations may be as important such as appearance, ability to hole the soil in place and wildlife habitat value. Some fire-resistant California friendly plants are western redbud, monkey flower, ceanothus, sage, yarrow, lavender, toyon, Ca.fuchsia, and wild strawberry. Also consider coffeeberry, flowering currant, bush anemone, snowberry, Ca. wax myrtle and evergreen currant. Fire resistant plants from other places include rockrose, strawberry tree, Chinese pistache, barberry, escallonia, oleander, pittosporum, bush morning glory and wisteria to name just a few.

Each home or property is different. and you will need to look at the unique qualities of yours in planning your firescaping. Some of the info for this column was obtained from a

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