Learn from the experts! Local landscape architecture and planning firm Melton Design Group shares their tips for landscaping in a way that protects your property as best as possible from wildfire!
California plants have always been prone to fire, but many have evolved over time to survive the consistent yearly fire cycles. You can properly prepare your property and landscaping for fire safety through thoughtful design, native plant selection, placement and spacing, and proper maintenance.
Ensuring your landscape is fire-smart starts with the design. Fire-resistant plants offer a beautiful and minimal aesthetic to your yard. Non-flammable items, such as locally-sourced rock, boulders, benches, water features, kinetic wind sculptures, and yard art are a great opportunity to enhance the non-planted areas surrounding your home or entry. Magnolia Gift and Garden in Chico is a great source of both plants and yard art.
Select your plant material from a locally developed planting list, sourced from local nurseries, such as Déjà vu Gardens Galore in Paradise, formerly Mendon’s Nursery. They offer a wide variety of local hardy plants that are locally adapted. Locally adapted native plants have evolved to tolerate local rainfall cycles, fire cycles, and drought conditions. Some local Butte County favorites are oak, rockrose, yarrow and juncus. Avoid plants that are not adapted to your area that are known to drop large volumes of leaf litter/needles and build up dead wood over time.
PLACEMENT and SPACING
Placement of your plants is essential to protect your home. Reduce the quantity of plants, group them together where possible, and leave open spaces between each of the plant groupings. It’s key to keep plants of any kind out of Zone Zero (a.k.a the first five feet around your house), and to use strategic placement in Zones One (5-30 feet) and Zone Two (30 to 100 feet).
In Zone Zero, choose non-flammable material such as gravel, concrete, or decomposed granite instead of bark or other flammable material. You should also plant based on your property’s natural landscape, specifically if you live on a flat or sloped property. Sloped properties require larger spacing between plants to reduce ladder fuels (when fire jumps from one flammable plant to another nearby flammable plant). It’s been shown that reducing ladder fuels promotes less fire travel throughout both your property and your neighborhood.
Proper plant maintenance is vital because it is helpful to the plant and reduces fire risk. Proper maintenance equates to properly watered plants, pest control, and removing dead or diseased plant material. You should also trim branches overhanging any buildings on your property and regularly maintain natural grasses or weeds to reduce fire spreading through ember ignitions.
For more information regarding fire-smart planting guidelines, click here.