Perhaps one reason people like annual flower plantings is precisely because they change from season to season – and they provide an instant show of color after the gray of winter. Because annual varieties die at the first freeze, each spring offers new opportunities to experiment with new color palettes and flower types.
A fire-safe landscape is not a barren landscape.
“When a wildfire comes through your neighborhood, could your house survive on its own?” A dramatic question, but one we need to consider when living in an environment where wildfire is a common occurrence. “fire-safe landscape design” is a landscape that reduces house and property vulnerability to wildfire. The goal is to develop a landscape with a design and choice of plants that offers the best fire protection and enhances the property. The ideal is to surround the house with things that are less likely to burn. It is imperative when building homes in wildfire-prone areas that fire safety be a major factor in landscape design. Appropriate manipulation of the landscape can make a significant contribution toward wildfire survival.
A fire-safe landscape design integrates traditional landscape functions and a design that reduces the threat from wildfire. It does not need to look much different than your traditional landscape. In addition to meeting a homeowner’s aesthetic desires and functional needs, such as entertaining, playing, storage and erosion control, a fire-safe landscape also includes vegetation modification techniques, planting for fire safety, defensible space principles and use of fire safety zones.
Through proper plant selection, placement and maintenance, we can diminish the possibility of ignition, lower fire intensity, and reduce how quickly survivability. In fire-safe landscape design, plant selection is primarily determined by a plant’s ability to reduce the wildfire threat. Other considerations may be important, such as appearance, ability to hold the soil in place, and wildlife habitat value. The traditional foundation planting of junipers is not a viable solution in a fire-safe landscape. Minimize use of evergreen shrubs and trees within 30 feet of a structure, because junipers, other conifers and broadleaf evergreens contain oils, resins, and waxes that makes these plants burn with great intensity.
Use ornamental grasses and berries sparingly because they also can be highly flammable. Choose “firewise” plants. These are plants with a high moisture content. They are low growing. Their stems and leaves are not resinous, oily or waxy. Deciduous trees are generally more fire resistant than evergreens because they have a higher moisture content when in leaf, but a lower fuel volume when dormant.
Placement and maintenance of trees and shrubs is as important as actual plant selection. When planning tree placement in the landscape, remember their size at maturity. Keep tree limbs at least 15 feet from chimneys, power lines and structures. Specimen trees can be used near a structure if pruned properly and well irrigated.
A fire-safe landscape uses driveways, lawns, walkways, patios, parking areas, areas with inorganic mulches, and fences constructed of nonflammable materials such as rock, brick, or cement to reduce fuel loads and create fuel breaks. Fuel breaks are a vital component in every fire-safe landscape design. Water features, pools, ponds or streams can be used also as fuel breaks. Areas where wildland vegetation has been thinned or replaced with less flammable plants are the traditional fuel break. Remember, while bare ground is an effective fuel break, it is not generally recommended as a fire-safe landscape element due to aesthetic, soil erosion, and other concerns.
A home located on a brushy site above a south or west facing slope will require more extensive wildfire safety landscape planning than a house situation on a flat lot with little vegetation around it. Boulders and rocks become fire retardant elements in a design. Whether or not a site can be irrigated will greatly influence location of hardscape (concrete, asphalt, wood decks, etc.), plant selection and placement. Prevailing winds, seasonal weather, local fire history, and characteristics of native vegetation surrounding the site are additional important considerations.
The 30 feet closest to a structure will be the highest water use area in the firewise landscape. This is an area where highly flammable fuels are kept to a minimum and plants are kept green throughout the fire season. Use well-irrigated perennials here. Another choice is low growing or non-woody deciduous plants. Lawn is soothing visually, and is also practical as a wildfire safety feature. But extensive areas of turfgrass may not be right for everyone. Some good alternatives include clover, groundcovers, and conservation grasses that are kept green during the fire season through irrigation. Rock mulches are good choices. Patios, masonry and rock planters are excellent fuel breaks and increase wildfire safety. Be creative with boulders, riprap, dry streambeds and sculptural inorganic elements. When designing a landscape for fire safety remember, less is better. Simplify visual lines and groupings. A firewise landscape lets plants and garden elements reveal their innate beauty by leaving space between plants and groups of plants. In fire-safe landscape design, the open spaces are more important than the plants.
No two landscapes are alike
That’s why Signature Landscapes installs some of the most diverse, durable and precise irrigation components in the industry. Whatever landscape problems you might have, be worry-free knowing Signature Landscapes has an efficient, hassle-free solution.
PROBLEM: Watering Slopes or Hills
Water can puddle or pool around sprinklers installed at the bottom of slopes or hills, causing soggy areas, which can kill grass or encourage fungus to grow.
SIGNATURE LANDSCAPES SOLUTION
3500 Rotors and 5000 Rotors with a Seal-A-Matic™ (SAM) Check Valve stop the problem of low head drainage and eliminate puddling. Or use Rain Bird Rotary Nozzles which deliver water at a lower rate, allowing sufficient soak-in time to prevent run-off.
It will be easier to keep your dog out of the proverbial dog house if you do what it takes to make your yard pet-friendly.
Here are a few pet-wise accommodations to give your pet a safer place outdoors.
Deal with puddles that lead to muddy paw prints. Dogs don’t walk around puddles and sporting breeds instinctively dig when they see water. So if puddles are your problem, fill in low areas that collect water. If poor drainage is the cause, address the bigger issue. Quick and simple fixes are to place rocks, gravel or bricks in depressions to keep paws out of the mud.
Wipe out well-worn paths across the yard. Dogs often have a favorite path across the yard that stamps out the lawn or the ground cover in beds. It’s unlikely you’ll get your dog to change its route, so place pave stones where he walks across the lawn or in the flower bed. This deals with the unsightliness, helps with mud and lets your pet to stay on its critical path.
Create shade. Female dogs in particular like to dig nests in the cool spaces next to foundations. In wet weather, these holes fill with water, make muddy paws and can lead to foundation problems. If there are no shade trees, make sure the dog has access to the patio or the north and east sides of the house. A dog will duck into the shade of the trampoline or other structures if you make the area accessible.
Don’t deck your dog! We love time out on the deck, but it’s not a safe place for dogs. Wood decks often have splinters if not sanded regularly. Dark woods absorb heat and can create conditions leading to heat stroke. If you’re building a deck, look at the lighter recycled products that are cooler and splinter free. They are also less maintenance for you and sustainable. Unless your deck is well shaded, put the dog under it rather than on it.
SIGNATURE LANDSCAPES SOLUTIONS
Easy-to-set controllers with multiple, independent programs, like the ESP-Modular, allow additional watering times to be programmed for areas with more sun exposure. Low-volume drip allows the customization of precise water delivery to individual plants or groups of plants, based on specific watering needs and exposure to the sun.
Call (775) 827-LAWN (5296) for a quick and helpful phone quote. Or visit SigLands.com and schedule a free consultation. Our team will help you get the most out of your current irrigation system today. We’re proud to use Rain Bird products for a green, healthy lawn!
If you’re tired of outdoor chores, it’s tempting to walk away from the garden with a plan to clean it up next spring. But if you want a great veggie garden next year, you’ll be wise to take advantage of this warm weekend by doing some fall clean-up.
Why can’t you just wait until spring? Leaving leaves and debris in the garden gives diseases, fungus and pests a nice place overwinter and come back with a vengeance next spring. A garden that goes to sleep all cleaned up for the winter will wake up healthier in the springtime. There will also be less need to treat for pests and disease.
Take these steps before you begin the clean-up:
- Harvest root crops like carrots or potatoes that are still in the ground.
- Make a sketch of this year’s garden, before removing any plant debris, that shows what was planted where. Having a sketch of this year’s garden will help you rotate placement of next season’s crops – like tomatoes – that do best when not grown in the same place each year.
- Plant herbs, that will not overwinter outdoors, in containers to bring inside.
Tips for the clean-up
- Remove all old veggies, vines, leaves and other debris from the garden. If leaves from trees blow in, keep them cleaned up as well. All of this decaying plant material makes a nice winter home for insects and disease.
- Remove the weeds, too.
- Most greens, leaves and small plants are fine to pitch in the compost pile. But leave out the weeds whose seeds will get back in the garden when you spread the compost. Also leave out tomato plants as they often carry disease, and large-stemmed vines such as pumpkin as they take too long to decompose.
When the garden is clean, do one last chore that will pay off next spring: work compost into the soil. You can also add straw mulch or grass clippings as mulch on top. Now your garden is nicely tucked in for its long winter’s nap.
Just like any other living creature in Northern Nevada, your lawn can suffer serious heat stress symptoms. Caused by high heat and lack of rainfall, dry summers and lack of humidity, we’re seeing heat stress is really take a toll on our local lawns.
Consistent watering is one of the most important practices in taking care of your lawn right now.
But be alert – temperatures over ninety degrees day after day can cause a slowdown in grass growth. With our low humidity, the blades of grass can experience a daytime wilt which can cause a loss of color normally associated with a healthy lawn. But don’t stress yourself…this does not necessarily mean the lawn is dying or in serious trouble.
Your grass is comprised of 80% water. High heat and low humidity takes some of this away, even with good watering practices – hence the wilting. But properly watered lawns will recover much more quickly than a drought stressed yard when the longer nights and cooler days return.
Water at least 2 to 2 1/2 inches per week. One inch of water should re-wet the soil about 6 inches deep. To determine how much water has been applied, set a straight-sided can under the sprinkler.
In a drought stressed lawn, grass soon turns brown and becomes dormant. An early clue to drought stress is when grassy areas show a dark bluish-green cast. Begin applying water when the soil starts to dry out and before the grass wilts and has a chance to become brown.
A word of caution about limited watering: A single watering during a high heat and/or drought period is likely to do more harm than good. If the grass cannot be kept actively growing with sufficient water, it is best to let the grass go dormant. Inconsistent or “light” watering during extended dry periods will slow the rate of recovery when adequate rainfall does occur. Bluegrass is very resilient and will come out of the heat and drought quickly as long as it is properly cared for and steps are taken to keep insects and weeds out of the stressed or dormant areas of the lawn.
Some things you can do when water restrictions prevent you from watering as much as the lawn really needs:
- Make sure your irrigation timer/clock is set to provide all the water your grass needs this month.
- Water only that part of the lawn where improvement is most important.
- Use a sharp mower blade; the cleaner the cut the less water the grass blades will lose out of the injury done by the cutting.
- Mow regularly until growth slows, but at a higher (rather than lower) cutting height.
- Make each watering consistent and make sure enough water is being applied to moisten soil to a good depth.
- Remember, with our losw humidity, a ten minute watering of most sprinkler systems will not likely get enough water into the soil. This will force the roots to go shallow and weaken the lawn’s resistance to heat stress and drought stress/damage.
If you have questions about your irrigation timer, how to propertly adjust for this high heat, don’t hesitate to call us. Our PLANET Certified Irrigation Technicians can quickly help get your lawn’s watering needs on track.
Call Signature Landscapes at 827-5296 and we’ll come out immediately!
Coming this summer to a Cooperative Extension Office near you! Visit this site to learn all about this summer’s GROW YOUR OWN “back to basics guide to great harvests in Nevada”.
> Here’s a link to the brochure for the Grow Your Own class and price listing: Summer Grow Your Own Brochure
They have outlets in all these Nevada cities:
- Carson City
The significant problem facing large communities this summer is the threat of Cheatgrass igniting in or near structures. Large swaths of the invasive species have raised fire dangers to critical levels over the years. It’s an easily ignited and fast-burning menace to public safety for communities near open spaces
As we all experienced this spring, we had and extremely dry entry into the summer season. It only takes a quick glance outside your window to see the effects this has on our landscapes – cheat grass everywhere you look. We’ve reposted a few main ideas here previously published by many universities and governmental organizations, including some information from the great Ed Smith, of the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.
The cheatgrass invasion of vast areas of the West is uniquely intertwined with fire. Cheatgrass has increased the frequency and size of wildfires, and these fires have in turn allowed cheatgrass to expand its dominance.
Rangeland Ecolology & Management | March 2011
Cheatgrass is one of the most notorious invasive species in the Truckee Meadows, causing dramatic and almost irreversible degradation of natural communities. As temperatures warm and cheatgrass growth rises… and the threat of enhanced fire activity rises right along with it.
It quickly colonizes disturbed arid lands and, once established, creates the conditions necessary for it to flourish. Growing quickly over the winter and dying after setting seed in early summer, cheatgrass leaves a dense cover of fine, highly flammable fuel. This abundance of fuel increases the frequency of fires, prevents the re-establishment of native plant species, and makes more space for cheatgrass. The cycle continues until large areas are covered with nothing but a cheatgrass monoculture.
Some level of cheatgrass presence may indeed be inevitable in the LTB, but ignoring the threat of further invasion and the factors that abet it could lead to serious ecosystem consequences. The most effective way to reduce the impact of invasive species is to identify new occurrences and eradicate them.
Predictive Modeling of Cheatgrass Invasion Risk for the Lake Tahoe | 10-2010
Cheatgrass typically completes its life cycle as a winter annual. It produces highly flammable standing dead biomass in early summer following seed production, greatly increasing the likelihood of subsequent fire.
Drier sites, especially those highly disturbed (e.g., close to roads and urban areas), were more suitable for cheatgrass than wetter, undisturbed sites. Quick action should be taken if cheatgrass establishment is documented.
Seed mortality is greatest with fires that burn while seeds are still attached to the plant, especially just before seed shatter in the summer. Removal of the grass before seeds begin to drop is always preferred.
Control and Management:
- Manual cheatgrass control – Fire, mowing, grazing, tillage, and inter-seeding of competitive native plants have all been shown to reduce populations of cheatgrass.
- Chemical cheatgrass control: Cheatgrass can be effectively controlled using any of several professionally applied herbicides. But its effectiveness is limited by the environmental conditions during the cold early spring and early fall when pre-emergents should be applied, mainly lack of a suitable water supply to activate chemicals. This is when a competent landscape management company can really make a dent in the application of these herbicides.
It’s really about managing the threat. We’ve found a combination of labor, herbicides and time can effectively keep cheatgrass out of the large open areas near neighborhoods, schools and commercial buildings. As long as we’re constantly on top of the threat, we can one step closer to a FIRE-SAFE landscape.
Lebo Newman, Owner/Partner, Signature Landscapes
Visit this site to get all the info!