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Firewise gardening

Throughout winter and spring in South East Queensland there is one thing that all gardeners, farmers, city councillors and bush care groups agree on… it’s the dry fire season.

In southern Australia the fire season is associated with dry summers.

Understanding your locality in relation to rainfall and fire sensitivity is important for all gardeners, landscapers, plannners, farmers and councils.

Signs beside the roads indicate fire hazard but what how can landscaping your garden reduce fire damage to your property?

To begin with, there is no such thing as fireproof plants. However there are plants that are less susceptible to burning and these are best called Firewise Plants.

Firewise plants can help reduce the movement of bushfires by providing a buffer.

Firewise Plants have the following characteristics:

  • contains a high level of moisture in their leaves (such as rainforest plants, cacti, most fruit trees, succulents)
  • have very low volatile oils (avoid all pines, conifers and most sclerophyll natives such as gums, Melaleuca and Callistemon)
  • do not accumulate litter within its own canopy or on the bark
    stays short, compact and low to the ground (eg. Liriope, Rhoeo, most groundcovers)
  • high salt content (such as mangroves and salt bushes)
  • slow growing

A wide carpet of turf around the yard creates a fire safe zone.

Some mulches may assist in the travel of a fire however this is dependant on moisture content, intensity of the bushfire, wind velocity and direction and even the age of the mulch material.

Pine barks such as slash pine and hoop pine generally only smoulder and travel for a short time then self extinguish.

Some of the newer mulches on the market such as forest mulch, cypress mulch, tea tree mulch and sugar cane mulch do not fare as well.

When planning to mulch, consider all the factors and make the right decision after consulting with the landscaper.

Some simple strategies to employ around the garden for Firewise landscaping:

  • in bushland areas, keep native grasses cut low
  • remove leaf litter and loose branches away from home foundations, decks, rain gutters and generally from around the yard
  • prune off dead limbs from trees (consult an Arborist)
  • plant trees singularly or in clumps so that fire will not be able to travel through the canopy
  • avoid shrubs under trees. If the shrubs ignite it could set the tree canopy ablaze. It is best to remove the middle storey of foliage in fire prone areas.

Other fire prevention steps can be sourced from your local Fire Brigade or Forest Service office.

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