Wildfire Background

Fire Fuel Reduction is more important now than ever.  Some people refer to it as Vegetation Management. They mean the same thing – reducing and eliminating any hazardous vegetation that poses the risk of wildfire.  Weed abatement is a part of this process.

What you need to know is – that now is the time to have hazardous vegetation removed or reduced.  It is the first step in wildfire resilience.  Hazardous vegetation includes invasive and/or noxious weeds and plants known to be highly flammable.

This updated post from 2020 is simple with easy-to-digest basics. We guide you through Fire Fuel Reduction and its role in preventing wildfires. 

Our guide covers these essentials

  • What Fire Fuel Reduction is and why it’s more important now.
  • The 3-Rs of Fire Fuel Reduction activities.
  • Methods of invasive weed removal.
  • How to tell if your property is at risk.
Scotch or French Broom

Scotch or French Broom Are Both Severe Fire Hazards

Why is Fire Fuel Reduction more important now?

The wildfire threat is worse because of two factors: drought and warmer temperatures (with warmer temps coming earlier and more prolonged heatwaves). 

Cal Fire says
These continued dry conditions, with above-normal temperatures through spring, will leave fuel moisture levels lower than normal, increasing the potential for wildland fire activity.” 

It’s unnerving to see that grasses are tinder-dry and brown so early in the season.

Here’s what Daniel Swain, climate expert and author of WeatherWest.com, says in a recent post on weatherwest.com. “All signs point toward widespread extreme drought by mid-summer.” Swain has also asserted that the west no longer has a distinct fire season, but rather fire potential “straight through the winter”.   The Big Sur fire in January is one example.

Local Fire Departments are offering more programs to help residents.  Examples include offering grant money to property owners for weed abatement and related work.  Additional programs include chipper days and wildfire preparation workshops.  An example of these programs from Firesafe Marin.

Read on about the 3 facets of fire fuel reduction.


Recipe for Wildfire: Drought plus Heat

The 3-R’s of Fire Fuel Reduction


Of dead fuels (vegetation), grasses, weeds, brush, invasive species, and plants deemed fire accelerants. 
Here are some examples:

Types of invasive weeds to remove

See our previous blog that identifies the top 7 most invasive weeds and includes photos. 

They include:
Broom species (French and Scotch)
Fennel or Licorice plant
Bull Thistle
Cape Ivy
Himalaya Blackberry
Periwinkle or Vinca Major
Ice Plants

Examples of 3 Invasive Weeds

Example of 3 Invasive Weeds – above there is a link to our previous report highlighting these and other plants

Beware of these plants – once-popular – now considered fire accelerants

Italian Cypress


Thinning heavy brush and trimming trees.  Crucial to reduce the spread and intensity of a wildfire.
Pruning shrubs and trees will provide adequate separation between them and away from your structure. 
Check with your local fire department for plant spacing requirements in your area.  The section below has a link on spacing tips for properties on a slope.


Replace with fire-resistant plants.  These plants should be non-oily, deciduous, or have higher water content.  Make sure they are free of deadwood and well hydrated. Because of the drought be aware of your community’s water restrictions.

Below are links to great tips including fire-resistant plants

Example of Plants that are Fire Hazards

Examples of Plants that are Fire Hazards – Juniper will burn even when wet

Vegetation Management Activities

Manual – hand pulling or cutting

For smaller areas, this is sometimes preferred for removing the weed’s roots.

Mechanical treatments

Such as mowing weeds
Selective tree removal

Chemical treatments with herbicides

The least desirable method, but sometimes warranted for large areas as part of an integrated pest management (IPM) plan. For weeds that are invasive and combustible.

Fire Break Work

Work is usually performed on a hillside with equipment that creates a non-flammable gap between vegetation, acting as a barrier to stop the progress of a fire.

Managed Grazing

Generally used for large areas for fire breaks and to clear combustible weeds. Goats, miraculously suited to the job, forage for low lying grasses, weeds, trees, shrubs, branches, and invasive vegetation.  They can also reach upwards of 4 to 5 feet to eat tree branches, which reduces “ladder fuels” and helps to slow spreading of a fire.  It’s a cost-effective, environmentally friendly option and a joy to watch. 

See our website for a full description of these services.

Controlled Burns

The state of California says this about controlled burns:
“Sometimes called a controlled burn or prescribed fire, prescribed burning is one of the most important tools used to manage fire today. As catastrophic wildfires continue to be a growing concern in California, the use of prescribed burning to reduce hazardous fuels is projected to increase. Daily burn decisions are issued based on the forecast of air quality and meteorological conditions that can affect smoke dispersion.”

Managed Grazing

Managed Grazing Project

What you can do now

Know your property and its risk of wildfire
Make sure you have the most up-to-date information from your local fire department.  (See below for links).

Especially at risk are WUI or Wildlife Urban Interface areas
Areas, where wildland and residential communities intersect, are at risk for wildfire.  Categorized as “high” or “very high” risk.  Contributing to this is a trend toward building more homes adjacent to open space. 

Parts of Marin, Contra Costa, and Sonoma Counties are considered “very high” or “high” risk. 

Is your property on a hillside?
Wildfires on a slope burn more rapidly and have longer flame lengths than along flat ground.  The steeper the slope, the more quickly it will travel. 

Clearance between shrubs should be 4 to 40 feet depending on the slope and size of vegetation. 
Assess your property’s risk of wildfire exposure by looking at the slope of the land around your commercial building or home and the direction your building faces.  See these tips from FireSafe Marin if you are on a slope

Begin defensible space planning
The links below have the latest requirements on defensible space.

We will also cover this topic in the summer.

Inspect your property
I recall a letter to the Marin IJ’s editor, written by a Fire Ecologist a couple of years ago.  I wanted to pass along his simple tip. Examine your property for dry debris within five feet of a structure’s foundation, especially under wooden stairs and decks.  The reason – embers from approaching fire target these areas. 

Call us with questions about vegetation management to prevent fires. 
(510) 439-3700.

See the video below on Fire Smart landscaping, narrated by a local Master Gardener. 

See additional links below the video

The links below have up-to-date guidelines on reducing your risk. 


Irrigaiton for Meadow

Photo Courtesy of Boudewijn Huysmans Unsplash

Marin County Updates Water Restrictions

MMWD updates restrictions citing much improved reservoir capacity

Marin Water, reporting that reservoirs are higher than they have been in years, (95% full in fact!) voted unanimously to ease the ban on irrigation.  The district serves both Central and Southern Marin County, except for Novato and West Marin.  See the next section for NMWD updates.

This update means that residents in this district now have the green light to water twice a week.
A list of the updated water regulations below has been copied and pasted from their website.

  • Irrigation using sprinkler or drip systems is allowed two times a week and only prior to 9 a.m. or after 7 p.m.
  • The refilling of a completely drained swimming pool and the initial filling of any swimming pool for which application for a building permit was made after December 1, 2021, will not be allowed.
  • Covers are required for all pools and spas. Liquid pool covers are acceptable. 
  • Do not wash vehicles at home. Use a carwash that recycles water instead.
  • Do not power-wash homes or businesses.
  • Do not wash driveways or sidewalks.
  • Do not wastewater. Flooding gutters is prohibited.
  • Leaks must be fixed within 48 hours of being discovered.*
  • Garden hoses must have a shutoff nozzle.
  • Golf course irrigation is restricted to greens and tees.
  • Do not water grass on public medians.
  • Do not use potable water for dust control, compaction, sewer flushing or street cleaning.
  • Do not refill or top off decorative fountains.

*Heads up – make sure that your system is regularly checked for leaks because the district may inspect periodically.

The Marin Independent Journal, reporting on the updated restrictions, stated that the ban for golf courses remains.  The IJ also reported that unfortunately, water conservation efforts have diminished from up to 25 percent last year, to 10 percent so far for 2022. 

Check here for up-to-date reporting on water supply and usage.

North Marin NMWD eases restrictions for West Marin

Water usage restrictions for Novato residents remain in place.

The message from West Marin’s amendment is copied and pasted below from their website

Water Waste Prohibitions Effective February 1, 2022:

  • Permitting water to escape down a gutter, ditch, or another surface drain.
  • Irrigation that has excessive runoff or unreasonable overspray.
  • Failure to repair a controllable leak of water within a reasonable time.
  • Using water for non-recycling decorative fountains or single-pass cooling systems.
  • Washing down exterior hard surface areas.
  • Washing cars, boats, trailers, or other vehicles and machinery directly with a hose not equipped with a shutoff nozzle
  • Potable water on ornamental turf in public street medians
  • Drinking water other than on request in eating or dining establishments
  • Water for the daily laundering of towels and linens in hotels and motels without offering guests the option of choosing not to have daily laundering.

Reminder – recycled water is exempt from restrictions

It conserves our potable (drinking) water.  In fact, every gallon of recycled water used saves a gallon of potable water.

Recycled water is even beneficial to plant growth because it has higher nutrient levels than drinking water.  It could reduce the need for fertilization.

There are a lot of advantages to using recycled water – consider it.

Gardenerd' Guild Delivers Recycled Water

Description of our Service

  • First, we will discuss your plants and recommend which ones could benefit from recycled watering.
  • The pricing in our proposal is based on the quantity of water needed and labor required.
  • Once you approve the proposal, Gardeners’ Guild will schedule a date and time to deliver recycled water to your home or business.
  • We will transport recycled water to your home or business on a truck that is equipped with a hose for direct application to the plant(s).

For more information – contact us

(510) 439-3728





Erosion Damage

The flooded trees and shrubs shown above are caused by erosion

Temporary solutions that will prevent erosion on your slope

If you have your property has a slope – taking quick action now could prevent damage from erosion.  We will probably have more rain before the end of the season and if your slope is not stable read our post.

It explains erosion in the landscape, the damage it causes, and how to determine if your slope is at risk for erosion.
Our solutions are temporary but effective. 
Endorsed by experts, they will stabilize your slope prevent erosion now, and give you time to plan for long-term permanent solutions.

Permanent methods are a combination of hardy vegetation (plants suited for slopes and its local environment), soil amending, grading, retaining wall(s), terracing, and mulch.  Drainage may also be needed.  We will cover this topic in-depth in future posts.

Erosion – what is it and where does it occur?

Erosion is runoff that occurs on a slope or hillside when the top layer of soil is loosened and worn away as a result of heavy rain and/or winds.  The impacts can be devastating, not just to the landscape but to the environment as well.  

How to know if your slope is at risk for erosion?

The steeper the slope, the higher risk of erosion.
If your hillside has any of these characteristics it will be susceptible to erosion.

  • Previously eroded or exposed soil.  Bare soil – with no vegetation or vegetation just getting established.
  • Vegetation that is not hardy enough to withstand heavy rain. (mature plants past their lifespan or not suited to a slope)
  • Compacted soil.
  • Soil depleted of nutrients.
  • Soil that has been disturbed by wildfire, construction, or human activity like tilling.

The slope pictured below has been damaged by erosion.  

Hillside Erosion Damage

Note the vertical ridges running down the hill. Evidence of erosion damage

Erosion Damage – The Domino Effect

Collecting all of the pollutants in the soil, runoff washes down the slope and into your public waterways, contaminating them.
The sediment produced is a who’s who of hazardous waste including motor oil, detergents, herbicides, and pesticides.
Besides having the potential of damaging structures and endangering people, it can ruin your landscape, particularly high-value trees and shrubs.

3 Temporary Solutions

Straw Wattles

A straw wattle is a horizontal barrier made of compressed straw tubing approximately 8 to 12 inches in diameter.  Designed to block the flow of water down a slope, it’s wrapped (envision a large sausage) in bio-degradable materials such as jute.  As we said, this is a short-term solution to stabilize your slope, controlling erosion.  (See a list of materials below).

  • Straw tubing – You can purchase 6′-20′ lengths at home improvement stores.  (inexpensive)
  • Wooden stakes – 18 – 24 inches per wattle. 
  • Hand tools such as shovels
  • Small machines for plowing trenches (as needed)

Proper installation of straw wattles is critical for them to be effective in controlling erosion.

Wattles are installed in small trenches (3-5 inches deep) across a hillside in a shallow slope.  They should be effective for one to two years.  What’s great about them – they will degrade right into the soil. 

Stake them on each side of the wattle and in the center.
Leave 2-3 inches of the stake protruding from the top.

Make sure there is no space between the trench and straw wattles – crucial for its success

Straw Wattles and Jute Netting on a Slope

Straw Wattles and Jute Netting on a Slope (more about Jute Netting below)


Mulch helps control erosion.  However, it may need to be secured with jute netting.
Scroll down to read about jute netting.

Organic materials are recommended, even though we in the San Francisco Bay Area have the added concerns of wildfire.

Shredded bark is the best mulch for controlling erosion by stabilizing your slope.  (See photo below)
It binds to the soil more effectively.  A benefit – as it decomposes will impart nutrients to the soil.
No large wood chips.  They are attractive but will float down your hillside in the next rainstorm.
Do not use gorilla hair mulch.  This material is extremely flammable.

If your hillside is completely exposed, cover it completely with mulch that is at least two or three inches.  Some experts recommend more.  This lessens the impact of rain or wind.

Other options can include gravel or rock.

Cedar Mulch for Slopes

We recommend Cedar Mulch.  Note: the color and texture can vary depending on the supplier

Jute Netting 

As said above, jute netting may be needed to secure your mulch, depending on how steep your slope is.

Also called erosion control netting, or a jute blanket, this product is a fantastic way to protect your slope from erosion.  Like wattles, it’s all-natural.  Mesh – made of 100% biodegradable material (from the jute plant) that will decompose right into the landscape. The eco-friendly material is beneficial for the soil and the open weave lets in light to stimulate plant growth. Plus, it’s inexpensive.

This erosion control method is not recommended for every slope:  It may not work for slopes that are very steep, sandy, or rocky hillsides, or slopes impacted by wildfire.  Talk to a professional.

You can install jute netting directly on exposed soil of a slope, or on top of mulch, to secure it in place.

Where to purchase
It is widely available online and at your local home improvement store.

How to install
Dig a trench at the top of the slope to anchor the netting (experts say either 6 – 8″ wide)
The trench should be about 2-3 feet from the peak of the slope.
Affix the top end of the netting with stakes and/or staples into the trench and backfill.
Begin rolling the netting down the slope.  The number of jute netting rolls will depend on the width of your slope.
Once the entire area is covered, fasten with anchor pins/or staples.

Note: The link above is to a PDF with instructions on installing jute netting by the US Department of Agriculture.

Jute Netting Project

Jute Netting for Erosion Control – Project in Progress


I used several sources to compile this information.

USDA – They have a downloadable PDF on jute netting

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources – They have lots of information on erosion.

UC Master Gardeners




Delivering joy in red, white, and red glitter!

We will deliver Poinsettias to your office in San Francisco or Marin County.  If you are back in the office, treat yourself to some well-deserved cheer.  In Italian they are called Stella di Natale; in German, Weihnachtsstern.  

They come to you in a decorative foil sleeve.  We can maintain them through the holidays, or you can maintain them yourself.

Limited quantities are available.  Order today.

Poinsettia order options

With or without maintenance
Sizes 4”,6” 8” or 10″ Poinsettia.
At this time 8″ comes only in red and white
10″ comes only in red

See our pricing sheet for more information

Pricing Button

Safe delivery during COVID-19

Our staff follows safety protocols including social distancing and wearing masks.

Poinsettias also help to clean the air.   

Natural air purifiers, Poinsettias help remove formaldehyde, one of the worst indoor air pollutants.

How to maintain Poinsettias.   

Poinsettias need just the right light and moisture to last through the holidays.  Professional maintenance is the best option, but if that is not possible here are some tips.

Maintaining Poinsettias

  • They like indirect light for at least six hours per day.
  • The ideal room temperature is 68-70 degrees F.
  • Water thoroughly when the soil feels dry to the touch. 
  • They don’t like cold drafts (below 50 degrees) or excessive heat.

How to order

Contact Angela Wrath

Phone (510) 439-3707

Email awrath@gardenersguild.com

Read more

Recycled Water Truck

Recycled Water Truck

Recycled Water Delivery in Marin County

Do you have drought-stressed trees or plants? If so, and you live in the County or its surrounding areas you could have recycled water delivered to your door!  Marin Water’s website explains some of its benefits. “Using recycled water for irrigation saves our drinking water supply and benefits the San Francisco Bay”. 

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCANR) recommends getting your trees inspected to find out if they are drought-stressed.  They are your highest value plants and without sufficient water, they’re vulnerable to pests or diseases.  See our recent post that describes symptoms of drought-stressed trees.

This post has what you need to know about recycled water, how it is delivered, and its benefits.

What is Recycled Water?

It is wastewater that has been treated chemically and biologically.  And, it’s highly regulated for safety by the California Department of Public Health. The recycled water program began as a collaboration of eleven North Bay water districts.  Their goal – a more reliable water supply. An increasing number of districts in the San Francisco Bay Area are also offering recycled water as an alternative to potable water.

Why Should I Use Recycled Water?

Marin Water has now restricted irrigation with potable water to spray, once a week; drip twice a week. Because of these mandates, your trees and other high-value plants may be at risk.

What are the Benefits of Recycled Water?

It’s exempt from water restrictions.

It conserves our potable (drinking) water.  In fact, every gallon of recycled water used saves a gallon of potable water.

Higher nutrient levels than drinking water, which is beneficial to plant growth.  It can reduce the need for fertilization.

Who can receive recycled water delivery?

Gardeners’ Guild will deliver to both commercial and residential properties.

Every Gallon Recycled Water Saves a Gallon of Potable Water

Gardeners’ Guild Delivers Recycled Water

Description of our Service

  • We schedule a site visit to assess plants and determine which ones could benefit from recycled watering.
  • We send you a proposal.
    Pricing is based on the quantity of water needed and labor required.
  • Once you approve the proposal, Gardeners’ Guild will schedule a date and time to deliver recycled water to your home or business.
  • We transport recycled water to your home or business on a truck that is equipped with a hose for direct application to the plant(s).
  • Gardeners’ Guild will also provide a sign that says “irrigated with recycled water”.

Irrigated with Recycled Water

Qualifications for Recycled Water Delivery

Any company that wants to truck recycled water must have a use permit issued by the County of Marin.  The application process requires training, the appropriate insurance, and the truck must meet specific requirements to ensure that storage tanks are airtight and are cleaned of contaminants.

Gardeners’ Guild has met all requirements and has a use permit that is visible at all times.

For more information – contact us

(510) 439-3728