Fire-Proofing Your Garden

Fire-Proofing Your Garden

Wildfire! Few natural disasters are as destructive. Landscaping with fire-resistant plants can make a difference. See how. 
Wildfire! Few natural disasters are as destructive as a fast-moving blaze devouring everything in its path. In the past year, I’ve been witness to two out-of-control fires that caused millions of dollars of damage in Florida and California. And, I’ve also noticed how some homes fare better than others simply because they were landscaped and maintained with fire danger in mind.

Here are some helpful tips to help make your yard more fire-resistant.

Keep Things Tidy
One of the best ways to protect your home is to create a defensible space by removing brush, overgrown trees, and grasses from close proximity to your home. This space will allow room for fire fighters to maneuver and protect your home from spreading flames. If possible try to create at least a 30-foot clearance around your home. In my backyard (left), we’ve protected our house with an open lawn area to separate the house from the nearby pine forest.

Prune Every Year
Keep dead and dying branches trimmed at all times and don’t store firewood or other combustible materials against your home. The lower branches of mature trees located close to your house should be pruned to at least 8 feet above the ground. And make sure tree branches are 8 to 10 feet away from your roof.

Use Fire-Resistant Plants
No plant is completely fire-resistant, but there are some perennial flowers that are safer than others for high-risk regions. These include: 
Coneflower (Echinacea)
Daylily (Hemerocallis)
Hens and chicks (Sempervivum)
Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina)
Russian sage (Perovskia)
Lavender (Lavandula)
Blue fescue (Festuca)
Creeping phlox (Phlox subulata)
Ice plant (Delosperma)
Yarrow (Achillea)
Succulents and cacti are also good candidates for fire-resistant beds and borders because they contain moisture, which makes them less flammable. In a California garden I visited, agave, aloe, euphorbia, and echeveria did not ignite after a fire raged nearby.

Install irrigation
Watering your landscape may not be practical in some regions of the country, but if water resources are plentiful, you might consider installing an irrigation system to keep things lush and green. In my Florida neighborhood many homes were saved simply because they had lush green spaces around them.

Written by Doug Jimerson