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Fire Safety & What To Do About Landscaping

Spring is here and winter weather patterns may soon dry up. Now is an excellent time to think about fire safety and landscape design. In all of my design projects, I find it best to consider all of a site's issues - practical and aesthetic. In this article, I outline the major phases of a typical local landscaping project. Basically, I will remove what my client and I do not want and establish an aesthetic based on what remains. I look to thin out trees and bushes that crowd one another in an unhealthy way and remove deadwood, leaving healthy, well -shaped plants to frame views and keep visual screens. Removal of leaf litter and branches gives me a sense of the natural terrain, geology and natural vegetation that I am working with (To process this, refer to Soil Health...) These steps are crucial as they provide me with a clean canvas to work on. The side benefit is preventing the spread of plant diseases and reducing wildfire risks by creating breaks and higher open tree canopies.

Creativity through recycling. The material I use for small retaining walls, accent rocks and other features can come from the site. There are times when rock purchases are necessary, but my requirements dictate that they match what is already here. I often mimic natural geologic features for effect. The benefit is material cost savings and naturalistic appearance.

In all cases, I import high-quality, organic landscape soil mixes, because existing soil is usually deficient. Sculpting terrain for special effects is one of my specialties. Including high-quality soil will guarantee the best results for plants' health and growth. They hold moisture and also stand up well to erosion. As I design, I think in terms of how to best present the home and/or other structures, create a greater sense of space and do it subtly. I want to unite the designed space with the surroundings. I incorporate seating and play areas, eating spaces, paths and other features to invite people out into their yards as special places to be.

Water features create relaxing environments and serve as potential fire hazard buffers.

My design plant list is spectrum-wide depending on client taste, local ecosystems and design features. Much of what I choose is native, drought and frost hardy or it blends well in the naturalistic spaces I create. Fire safety, healthy vegetation and aesthetic harmony are all connected, and we are better off seeing the whole picture instead of separate components alone. Fire-safe plant list includes natives, non-natives and their habitats.

Do-it-your-selfer tips. Pruning, thinning and cleaning as I have described above makes a great impact as far as fire safety and beauty. Deadwood can be addressed year-round. Keep in mind that it is best to prune living material in the fall, winter and spring before new growth emerges to prevent invasion of disease and insects. Also, by doing this, you create defensible space where fire fighters can control a burn. If you are on flat terrain, this should be at least 30 feet from your home. If you are on a hill, this should be at least 150 feet. The steeper the slope, the greater the distance.

Cleanup. The ongoing task of every landscaped space is the disposal of accumulated grass and leaf waste. Compost! There are numerous ways to rot this stuff down including purchasable compost bins, but I'll address this in a later article. Many people don't have space for large composting operations… the solution? Yard waste recycling by composting is available in many geographic areas. Call local disposal facilities for information on green waste disposal. If you need mulch for garden spaces, the ground up, composted material is available for free or a nominal fee. Mulching reduces moisture loss and prevents erosion. Although chipping, composting and mulching are the ideal solutions for waste cleanup, sometimes burning may be the only alternative due to material size and volume. Admissable burn days occur during the cooler, wetter months of fall, winter and spring. Check with local fire district for burn times and get a permit from the fire department. Burn away from vegetaton, structures, and have running water via hose available at all times. Keep fire piles below four feet high and douse thoroughly at end of day.

Another means of creating a wildfire buffer is vehicle access for fire equipment in your backyard, which also serves as a firebreak (space that fire cannot jump across). Also, effective irrigation systems keep plants healthy and dryness minimized. Drip irrigation is the best for shrubs and perennials. It is water efficient but clogging may be an issue with well water sediments. Traditional sprinkler systems are best for lawns. In any case, a good timing system will save you effort and water. 4 am is the best watering time, because it is cool and there is no air movement. Also, if there is frost predicted, running a sprinkler system during frost spells will prevent freezing, as the ground water temperature is warmer than that of the air.

Goddard Organic Landscape Design

Goddard Organic Landscape Design

Fire Safety & What To Do About Landscaping - Spring is here and winter weather patterns may soon dry up. Now is an excellent time to think about fire safety and landscape design... READ MORE

Fire Safe Plant List & Invasive Plants - ... READ MORE

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