March is right around the corner and this is generally the time when homeowners return to their yards and gardens to get ready for the growing season. While you are cleaning away leaves and debris and trimming plants, it’s also a good time to be FireWise in protecting your home and vegetation.
Austin has had an interesting winter with several severe freeze periods, interrupted by some lovely warm days. As a result, many of your plants and trees have been affected by these dramatic changes in the temperatures. The first thing to do is to clean up your area – rake and remove leaves, clean out planter beds and pots, remove leaves and limbs from roofs and gutters, replace dead plants or supplement with new plants. When putting in new vegetation, remember to put in plants that are considered Firewise – non-waxy, non-resin or oil-containing plants that sustain combustion and fires; trim trees (but not Oaks until July) up to 6-10 feet from the ground and over roofs. Trim dead limbs and twigs from around your property. Remove or relocate bushes or vertical vegetation that is directly in front of any window. Trim all vegetation from around buildings on your property out at least 18 inches from the walls. You can amend this area with a bed of river rock, gravel, granite or other non-combustible material. It is recommended that you remove any vertical bushes or trees under the roof eaves and overhangs. A good rule of thumb to remember is that vegetation can have a flame length of approximately 3 times the height of the plant which can endanger wooden exterior walls and eaves.
The water shortage issues in our area are not going to disappear any time soon. Consider using native plants that are suitable for the soils in this area and require less water. You can reduce large lawn areas by adding a garden or segmented area of river rock or gravel contained with metal edging, interlocking bricks, stones, etc. If you have an irrigation system, be sure to make an adjustment for this new xeriscape area to avoid overwatering.
Most locally owner nurseries in this area are very familiar with drought-resistant plants and the use of multi-landscaping materials. These can provide attractive outside spaces while saving water and reducing the spread of fire.
If you have a wooden fence that is adjacent to your home or any structures on your property, now would be a good time to remove a section of that wood fence against the house and under the roof overhang/eves area. Replace the wooden section with a metal gate, stone/brick post or other non-combustible separating material giving space in this vulnerable area.
Periodically inspect your property and clean out dead wood and dense vegetation throughout the year. Good luck and enjoy a safe and enjoyable summer.
More information can be found on the NWACA web site, www.nwaca.org and at these links:
- Native Plants for the Area: UT Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: www.wildflower.org
- Firewise landscaping in Texas at http://pfire.tamu.edu/Files/Resources/FirewiseLandscapingInTexas.pdf