3 Tips for Fire Safe Landscaping

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Delosperma Firespinner2
Firespinner Iceplant “Delosperma”

There are a number of resources for firesafe landscaping.  This post summarizes some of the best practices, plus links for more information.

Tip 1: Create Defensible Space

Defensible space is the clearance created between a structure and the grass, shrubs, trees or any natural area that surrounds it. State of California says it is a property’s “front line of defense against wildfire”.

It is needed to slow or stop the spread of wildfire and also protects firefighters.

There are two zones; the first is 30 feet, the second, 100 feet.

Zone 1

  • Essentials are to remove dead plants, leaves, grass, weeds and woodpiles.
  • Remove branches that hang over your roof.
  • Keep tree branches a minimum of 10 feet from each other
  • Separate patio furniture and equipment that could catch fire

Zone 2

  • Keep grass height to be maximum of 4”
  • Vertical spacing between grass, shrubs and trees
  • Horizontal spacing between shrubs and trees.

Tip 2: Landscape Design

Note: no plant is fire-proof, but there are plants more fire resistant.

In addition to plant selection, factors such as size, height, density and spacing between plants are very important.

Marin County Firesafe promotes the use of masonry, gravel, stepping stone or stone walls and decorative rock.

Mulch does help conserve moisture. However, it will burn. Do not use it in garden beds near home our outbuildings. Note: stringy mulches ignite and burn more rapidly.

A Sample list of fire resistant plants (below is a link to the complete list)

Agapanthus

Dwarf lily-of-the-Nile

Liriope

Lily turf

Vinca minor

Dwarf periwinkle

Lavandula angustifolia

English lavender

Rosmarinus officinalis*

Tuscan blue’ rosemary *(when irrigated, free of dead material)

Salvia chameadryoides

Sage

Thymus serpyllum

Thyme

Achillea millefolium

Common yarrow

Ceanothus ‘concha’

Wild lilac

Ceanothus maritimus

Maritime ceanothus

Cistus purpureus

Orchid rockrose

Dietes fortnight

Llily

Lavandula dentata

French lavender

Limonium perezii statice

Sea lavender

Ribes viburnifolium

Catalina perfume

Solanum jasminoides

Potato vine

Tecomaria capensis

Cape honeysuckle

Eschscholzia californica

California poppy

Mimulus longiflorus

Monkey flower

Echinacea purpurea

Purple coneflower

Rosa florabunda

Rose

Rudbeckia fulgida

Black-eyed susan

Erigeron karvinskianus fleabane

Santa Barbara daisy

Festuca glauca

Fescue

Iris douglasiana

Douglas iris

Kniphofia uvaria ‘DWF’

Red-hot poker, torch-lily

Lantana camara

Lantana

Lavandula angustifolia

English lavender

Rhamnus californica

Coffeeberry

Santolina virens

Santolina

For more information

Tip 3: Landscape Maintenance

  • Regular irrigation is important. Plants with high moisture content will be less flammable. We must walk the fine line with enough, but not too much water. Dead and woody branches can more easily catch fire.
  • Control invasive weeds
  • Prune dead branches within tree canopy
  • Thin out dense shrubs to reduce fuel load
  • Clean up of dead branches
  • Selectively remove trees and shrubs to improve spatial separation

Sources include: State of California, County of Marin and Western Arborist

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