Wildfires of seemingly epic proportions plagued the West in 2017, with perhaps some of the most notable fires happening in California, Oregon and Washington.
Wildfires happen every year as the seasons change, and things dry out. But what can you do with your yard if you live in a wildfire-prone area?
Will a Patch of Dirt Do?
It might be easiest to leave everything as one giant patch of dirt around your home. After all, you won’t have to worry about anything burning, right?
Surprisingly enough, this might not be the best option. Plants are beneficial to the surrounding ecosystem for a variety of reasons. They can:
- Provide shade
- Absorb water from the soil
- Prevent erosion
- Release oxygen into the atmosphere
- Act as food and shelter for area wildlife
Besides, if the wind blows, you’ll just have a cloud of dust swirling around if you don’t have plants. So, that brings us back to the original question: How can you landscape your yard if you’re in a wildfire-prone area?
Low-Water Ideas for Landscaping in a Wildfire-Prone Area
Obviously, one of the ways you can keep your yard fire-resistant is by using a lot of water to keep everything green — and wet. But are there other, low-water options? There are, and here are five of them:
- Plant Trees, but Keep an Eye on Them
Wildfires are increasingly dangerous depending on what land they’re consuming and the foliage they come across. Trees can act as a form of wildfire prevention if they’re a certain type of tree and if they’re maintained.
Do some research on those species that tend to be more fire-resistant, and plant them in your yard. Some trees will look better to you than others, but make sure the ones you like will thrive where you live. If they don’t get enough water or sunlight, they’ll instead be frail and perfect for fueling a fire. The good news is that most fire-resistant trees use minimal water, so you’ll still be able to plant a bunch without risking your water usage.
- Invest in Fire-Resistant Plants
When you think of plants that adapt well to dry, hot climates, you probably think of a cactus. Fortunately, though — unless you really want to — you don’t need to fill your yard with cacti to promote fire safety.
There are many fire-resistant plants that come in all shapes and sizes, so you can customize your space how you want it. Additionally, plants and their roots provide a filtration system for water. They’ll help the local environment while they keep wildfires at bay.
- Keep the Ground Clear of Debris
Don’t let debris like dead leaves sit around on the ground. These can be more flammable than the trees and plants themselves, so create a defensible space by regularly picking up whatever falls from your trees.
- Use Stone in Your Landscaping
Houses are commonly made with flammable materials because that’s what cheap and functional. The same goes with landscape designs. Porches, decks and backyard fences are made of wood that can ignite instantaneously.
Instead, consider using stone as a key landscaping concept. Stone won’t go up in flames, which means it’ll act as a barrier to any future wildfires your home may have to face.
- Plan Strategic Firebreaks
Firebreaks are a lot easier to make than you might first think. First, measure 30 feet out from your home — that’s the closest point a firebreak can be to where you live. In a space of empty dirt or grass, lay out rocks, mulch or flower beds so you can have ground cover without inviting the fire close to your house. Learning how to make a firebreak is easy, and it can be woven into your final landscape design, so no one ever notices it until it’s needed.
If you decide to go with creating a firebreak around your home, you also need to know how to keep up with it. Tiny weeds hidden in the dirt or mulch as well as any debris like leaves or dried sticks can be perfect for fueling a fire, so make sure those materials are removed.
We All Have a Part
Preventing wildfires in your area doesn’t have to be done just by the professionals. It’s important that the community does everything it can to help out, too, and one major way you can contribute is by landscaping your yard to keep it as fire-resistant as possible. What plants you pick out and how you design your landscaping will change the way a wildfire approaches your home, so do all the research you can to protect yourself and the ones you love.