Being fire-smart doesn’t mean you can’t have a lovely yard.
Fire-smart means planting smart.
Fire-smart landscaping is more than just keeping your yard well-manicured and free of debris. There are definitely points for neatness (e.g., getting rid of dead and fallen branches and keeping up with pruning are important to safety) but by simply choosing and laying out your landscaping elements properly, you can do a lot to prevent fire from making its way to your home.
Fire-smart doesn’t mean zero foliage.
With everything our community has seen wildfire do, it can be easy to go too far in keeping burnable material away from your house. The good news is you don’t need to create a 360-degree, barren swath of land. There are ways to create a beautiful array of foliage while still discouraging the spread of fire.
Select plantings carefully.
While there are plants marketed as fire-resistant, don’t be lulled into a false sense of confidence by labels. All plant life can burn once the moisture has dried out. Definitely look for plants with high moisture content, but there’s no such thing as a plant you can put in the ground and forget about.
- Avoid plantings that shed bark (e.g., Birch) to minimize burnable debris.
- Look for plants with a loose structure (e.g., Agave) that are less likely to hold embers and catch fire).
- Choose slower-growing plants (e.g., Oregon Grape) that won’t quickly encroach on your defensible space.
- Understand how high a plant will grow so it doesn’t get too close to lower tree branches (the clearance should be at least three times the height of the plant/shrub).
Find more information on selecting plants here and a handy tool for researching trees here.
Make a beautiful and safe plan.
Whenever planning anything that concerns the perimeter of your home, always start with the first rule of defensible space: no flammable material within five feet. That’s a non-negotiable. Those first five feet should be nothing but gravel, pavers, or another no-burn hardscape.
Beyond those five feet, start thinking about your landscaping in terms of beautiful islands or isolated runs placed artfully and strategically around your property, perhaps surrounded by stone beds or low walls. Space between foliage means less chance of embers making a continuous run towards your house.
Check out this article to see some great-looking examples of fire-smart landscape design.