Many houses throughout the county are located either in back country areas where there is a lot of natural brush in the vicinity or even in urban areas where houses are next to canyons. In their natural cycle, most native plants depend on fire to regenerate and/or restore nutrients to the soil. Because of this, people living in these areas must take into consideration potential hazard of fire to their homes, particularly during the late summer and fall months when brush is high enough and dry enough to present a potential threat. It is during the autumn months that scorching Santa Ana winds take their toll on summer dried brush to create major risks to home and property.
No amount of care can completely eliminate the threat of fire, but there are steps to take which decrease the potential. Everyone knows to clear dry brush from around buildings, however consider that if the ground is left bare the following rainy season will cause erosion problems. One of the primary plant materials used for fire retardation and soil erosion prevention are hardy ground covers. An excellent ground cover for this purpose is ice plant. A perennial succulent, ice plant comes in many attractive varieties and colors including Rosea Ice Plant, Sea Fig Ice Plant, Red Apple, Disneyland, and several trailing and creeping ice plants. Other good ground covers include Capeweed, Gazania, Algerian Ivy, African Daisy and Verbena.
You may want to select trees and shrubs that won’t necessarily protect you from fire, but won’t add to the situation either. A good choice would be Aloe, Bougainvillea, Prostrate Acacia, Rockrose, Mexican Fan Palm, Yucca or California Laurel.
Remember to water and fertilize regularly so plants maintain their vigor and moisture content. Installing an irrigation system is one way to ensure plant material around the perimeter of the property has a high enough moisture level to keep it from burning.
Once landscaping is established, don’t let things get overgrown, particularly with excess dead foliage. Trim and prune regularly to keep plants contained and in a desired shape and density.
Brush fires don’t happen every day, but when they do they are destructive and potentially deadly. One can’t landscape to eliminate every fire hazard, but taking a few basic precautions may protect you from major damage even if only by slowing the burn rate. With the variety of plant material available today, landscapers and homeowners need not sacrifice an attractive garden for a safe one.