Ann Wright: Firewise choices for dry summers |

Ann Wright: Firewise choices for dry summers

Fire-resistant plants are typically drought-tolerant, deciduous, slow-growing and have a high moisture content in their leaves.
Courtesy of UCD Repository

As we bask in these glorious days of spring, past dry seasons and horrific fires have taught us that we live in an area that presents favorable conditions for the spread of wildfire. Grasslands, brush and forests create an environment that is different from an urban setting.

As gardens are planned this spring it is important to be aware of, and to practice, specific firewise landscaping guidelines. Incorporating fire safe principles into home landscapes before fire season begins (typically April through September) is one of the most important ways to protect our homes from the threat of wildfire.

Plants are the primary fuel during wildfires — both living and dead plants will burn. The plants we choose to have near our houses has an enormous influence in determining the survival of a home during a wildfire.

Prepping for summer

There are a number of benefits to practicing firewise landscaping in our area — not the least of which is reducing the risk of catastrophic loss of homes. Firewise landscaping may also increase property values, provides wildlife habitat and conserves water.

A hallmark of firewise landscaping is creating defensible space, where vegetation is selected with the purpose of decreasing the risk of wildfire and reducing the amount of fuel around structures. Defensible space is a buffer zone around homes within a 30 foot perimeter.

Although there are no “fireproof” plants, there are certain plants with characteristics that make them less flammable than others. With a few exceptions, plant condition is more important than plant species because a healthy plant will always be more fire-resistant than a struggling plant.

Fire-resistant plants tend to be drought-tolerant, slow-growing, deciduous and generally have high moisture content in their leaves — the single most important factor affecting plant flammability. Some plants that are considered more fire-resistant include coreopsis, iris, lady fern, monkshood, bleeding heart, carpet bugle (Ajuga reptans), sweet woodruff and foxglove.

To learn more about firewise, or fire-safe landscaping practices, join Nevada County Master Gardeners for a free workshop, “Firewise Landscaping,” from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 14, at the Elk’s Lodge in Grass Valley.

For more information on fire safety, check the Cal Fire website at

If you are new to vegetable gardening or would like to review basic principles, join Master Gardeners today for the workshop, “Introduction to Vegetable Gardening” from 10 a.m. to noon at the Elk’s Lodge in Grass Valley, 109 South School Street.

This presentation is suited to new gardeners, those new to foothill gardening, and those desiring information from the ground up. Starting at the very beginning from seed and plant selection, the workshop will cover:

Planning, the most important step. Wondering what to grow? Grow what you like to eat.

Find out what basic tools are needed for vegetable gardening.

Learn about building the soil, amendments and use of fertilizers.

Discuss planting, harvesting and irrigation techniques.

Bring your questions and gardening challenges.

If making plant purchases is on your agenda this spring, plan to attend the Nevada County Master Gardener’s Spring Plant Sale on Saturday, May 12, just in time for Mother’s Day.

A list of plants to be offered for sale is available on the website at

For more information about Master Gardener workshops and events, go to the website at or call the hotline at 530-273-0919.

Ann Wright is a Nevada County Master Gardener.

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