Garden tip from Harry Thompson, co-owner
Torrey Pines Landscape Company
5560 Eastgate Mall, Miramar District
Torrey Pines Landscape Company’s eclectic team of landscape design, construction and installation professionals are dedicated to creating unique outdoor environments. Landscape projects are personally supervised and pros are on hand to answer questions and address concerns.
San Diego County water-wise and fire-resistant landscaping is the key to protecting your home. The goal in fire protection is to reduce the potential fuel for wildfires. Those of you who have homes next to “wild-space” or chaparral are in jeopardy because much of the native vegetation is dry and highly flammable. Homes with slopes are particularly vulnerable to soil erosion when the native vegetation is removed for fire control. Torrey Pines Landscape Co. has worked with many homeowners to protect their properties by installing “fire-resistant” plantings that help control erosion without wasting water. The closer one’s home is to wild space, the wiser it would be to solicit help from a professional to create a fire-resistant landscape.
General Fire-Protection Landscaping Guidelines:
Remove highly flammable native brush and vegetation
Stabilize slope areas by planting deep-rooted groundcovers and adding widely spaced groups of shrubs and trees
Don’t use plantings with innate combustible oils that can cause fires to spread rapidly close to any structures
Keep shrubs and trees thinned, well maintained and, in general, away from any structures
Install succulents, such as the one pictured, and other plants with a high-moisture content close to the home to create a line of defense
Zone 1 — the area closest to the home
Choose low-growing plants with low-fuel volume and remove plants that would give fire a ladder to climb from the ground into a tree. Ideally there shouldn’t be any tall plantings.
To help make this area aesthetically pleasing install hardscape such as brick, stone or concrete patios and walkways, masonry seats, decorative walls and rock mulches.
Shade structures and decks should be constructed of fire-resistant materials.
Keeping the gardens around your home well irrigated and neatly pruned is a good defensive strategy as well. Remove combustible materials like dried pine needles or leaves from the grounds. We suggest using gravel, pebbles or river rock as mulch instead of flammable materials. Groundcovers for this zone could include succulents such as sedums, senicios, crassulas, aeoniums or any of the various iceplants.
The focus here is to reduce the fuel for a fire with low-growing groundcovers that are resistant to fire which, when properly maintained, may halt a fire before it reaches the house. Examples are perennials such as Fragaria chiloensis (beach strawberry), Ajuga reptans (carpet bugle), Dymondia margaretea (mini gazania), Verbena peruviana, Salvia sonomensis (Sonoma sage), Santolina rosmarinifolia (green lavender cotton) or Thymus pseudolanuginosus (woolly thyme)
Zone 3 — the transition area between the garden and wild space
Introduce a mix of low shrubs and perennials that may be native or drought-resistant in this area. Examples are Prunus ilicifolia (Catalina cherry), Ceanothus thyrsiflorusrepens (creeping blue blossom), Portulacaria afra (elephant’s food), Heteromeles arbutifolia (California holly), Cistus (rock rose) or Carissa macrocarpa ‘Green Carpet’ (natal plum).
Zone 4 — the area farthest from the house
Thin native vegetation to reduce fuel volume and clear away plants that prevent spacing between native shrubs and trees.