Our hearts go out to those impacted by the local Valley Fire and the other fires that continue to devastate many parts of California and the western United States. We also want to say thank you to the firefighters and first responders who are working nonstop to protect our communities.

This week, we wanted to share the practice of firescaping. Firescaping is the term used for landscape principles that reduce the risk and spread of wildfires around your home. While any plant will burn under the right conditions, when done well, firescaping can help you create beautiful, healthy, water-conserving landscapes that also reduce your property’s wildfire risk.

It takes time to implement all the practices of firescaping, but here are some steps you can take today to reduce your risk of wildfire and help you save water.

1.    Hand remove dead and overgrown plants.

Keep your plants lean and green by removing any dead or dying vegetation. Pruning reduces the amount of vegetation on your plants, which means that the plant will require less water to thrive.  Hand pruning, rather than hedging, allows you to be more selective with your cuts, which creates healthier plants that will need less water in the future.

Thin plants away from trees and remove undergrowth from trees to reduce ladder fuels. Ladder fuels are plant groupings where fire can spread from a ground fire into a tree canopy. Well-spaced and properly pruned plants reduce the risk of a manageable fire spreading into something more severe.

Remember to remove vegetation that is against or near the home or other structures. Also, avoid using power tools that can create sparks and possibly start a fire.

2.    Keep your plants healthy.

As mentioned earlier, healthy plants require less water and create less dead fuel. One way to get healthy plants is to establish deep roots in your plants. Deeply rooted plants tolerate heat waves and dry weather better, so you do not have to irrigate them as often. Watering your plants deeply but infrequently encourages deep root growth. Schedule shrub and tree zones to 1-2 times per week, and adjust run times to let water move deeper into the soil.

Learn more about plant maintenance for firescaping

Image shows pampas grass

Pampas Grass

(flammable and invasive)

Image shows the invasive plant, artichoke thistle

Artichoke Thistle

(flammable and invasive)

3.     Remove invasive plants.

Invasive plants outcompete native plants and are not as fire-resistant as other plants native to our region. Many of the common invasive plants in our region are incredibly flammable. To reduce fire risks, homeowners should consider removing these plants from their property. These include plants like fountaingrass, pampas grass, artichoke thistle, mustard, tree of heaven and the frond skirts of Mexican fan palm trees.

Removing invasive plants also helps you save water, too, as invasive plants compete for water with the other plants you are watering.

Learn more about invasive plants and alternatives

4.    Get ready for planting season.

Late fall is the best time to plant and establish new plants. Many water saving plants reduce fire risk by holding moisture year-round, giving you green and colorful plants. Additionally, succulents, agaves and cacti are excellent firescaping plants because they retain a lot of water without requiring much themselves.

There are many choices when it comes to what to plant around your home. Sign up for one of our virtual landscaping classes to learn more about plants, landscape design, irrigation and how to maintain your plants. Classes are free and you can learn more from the comfort of your own home.

Sign up now at:

https://www.watersmartsd.org/landscape-makeover-program/introductory-workshop/