Maintaining and managing your garden for the bushfire season...

Part 6

 

Establishing a new garden takes time, and to ensure that is effective in the years to come it will require regular ongoing maintenance to protect the defendable space around your home.

 

Regular maintenance actions for the garden as part of your Bushfire Survival Plan should include:

 

  • Clear ground fuel from underneath plants and around the house.  
IMG_3786.JPG

 

  • Re-mulch with non flammable materials, such as stone, shells or other non-flammable materials.
IMG_1855.jpg

 

  • Prune plants with low hanging branches, providing separation of at least 2m from the ground.

 

  • Replace diseased, stressed or dead plants.  Ensure to replace with low flammable plants as per my previous post.
IMG_6955.JPG


  • Keep plants well hydrated through watering and mulch.  Watering less frequently but for longer encourages the plants to develop deeper roots and therefore reducing moisture loss during hot spells.

 

  • Remove other flammable objects from within your defendable space.
IMG_5832.JPG

 

  • Remove any fine, dead material that has accumulated within plants.


  • Remove weeds from the defendable space.
IMG_3783.JPG


  • Mow lawns and keep regularly hydrated.

 

 

(source: CFAVIC Landscaping for Bushfires, 2011)

(all photos in this article by: Kerri Fennell)

 

Please stay safe for the rest of this bushfire season.  That is the end of this series of posts.  Im really looking forward to sharing with you over the next few weeks some other things I have been working on lately.  How to make a pallet garden for your herbs, filing cabinet planters, design lessons learned along the way, and my week in Bali.

 

Perfect plants to reduce the intensity of a bushfire near your home.

Part 5

The next task, after planning and designing your home and garden, is to choose suitable plants. Selecting plants with some intrinsic characteristics, that reduce the likelihood of ignition, could help reduce the bushfire risk within your garden.

There are several characteristics that influence how flammable a plant is.  These are plant flammability, plant moisture content, branching patterns, texture, density, leaf size and shape, bark type, oils, waxes and resins, and the retention of dead materials.

 

Plant Flammability

Some plants are more flammable then others and the flammability can vary in unpredictable conditions.

Plant flammability can be described as a combination of

  • the time taken to ignite
  • how readily it burns
  • how much material there is to burn
  • how long it takes until all the available fuel is consumed

Flammability will vary depending on 

  • a plants age, health, physical structure and chemical content
  • the daily and seasonal climatic changes
  • location of the plant in relation to other vegetation and flammable objects
  • the specific part of a plant (some parts are more flammable than others)
Great spacing and plant selection, along with a stone mulch make this style of garden perfect. (Photo: Kerri Fennell)

Great spacing and plant selection, along with a stone mulch make this style of garden perfect. (Photo: Kerri Fennell)

 

Plant Moisture Content

Plants, such as succulents, with a high moisture content will not burn until the moisture has been removed.  Plants can dry out as a result of radiant heat, especially if they are exposed for long enough.

 Dry plants will ignite more rapidly and continue to burn until the source is removed.

Moisture content depends on a number of factors

  • Time of day - before sunrise, plants are typically at their most hydrated.  As they transpire during the day the moisture content decreases until the plants stops after sunset.  Most plants are most flammable in mid to late afternoon.
  • The season - In summer the soil dries out and the moisture content decreases
  • Part of the Plant - Leaves and new growth generally have a higher moisture content than stems and branches.  Dead leaves and twigs have little moisture and become highly flammable on hot, dry days.
  • Where it is planted - The sun and shade, availability of water, drainage and soil type will affect plant moisture.
  • Environmental conditions - High temperatures, low humidity and periods of drought will increase the flammability of plants.
  • The age of the Plant and its growth stage - Plants start as moisture rich shoots and become woody as they age.  The older the plant, usually the drier.  New growth is generally soft and fleshy.

Branching Pattern

This influences the distribution and density and foliage with the plant.

  • Choose plants with an open and loose branching as well as leaves that are thinly spread, as plants with closely packed  leaves and branches have more fuel
  • Plants with branches at least 2m above ground are better than those with foliage to the ground and stops the foliage acting as a ladder for fuels.
IMG_1851.jpg

Texture

Coarse textured plants are less flammable than those with a fine texture, because they have a lower surface area to volume ratio.

Density

A plant that is hard to place a hand into, or see through is very dense.  These are often more flammable due to the higher fuel load.

Leaves

The fineness, size and shape of leaves affect their flammability.

  • Wide, flat and thicker leaves usually means a higher moisture content, so therefore less flammable.
  • Small, thin narrow leaves have a high surface area to volume ratio, which tends to make them more susceptible to drying out.
  • Leaves with high levels of oils increases flammability.
  • The shape can influence how easily they are caught in vegetation when they fall off the plant.  If leaves are caught in the plant this can increase flammability.

(source: CFAVIC Landscaping for Bushfires, 2011)

Agaves are perfect with large wide succulent leaves (Photo:Kerri Fennell)

Agaves are perfect with large wide succulent leaves (Photo:Kerri Fennell)

Bark Type

Some bark types ignite more readily than others.

  • Bark that is loose, stringy or fibrous will ignite easily and can also act as ladder fuels.
  • Bark that attaches tightly or is smooth in texture is less likely to ignite.
  • Some smooth barked trees shed their bark annually and trap large ribbons of bark in their canopy.  These ribbons are highly flammable and can be carried as embers and can act as a ladder fuel.
This bark is rough, but is held tightly.  As it starts to shed, it should be removed to avoid the hazard. (Photo:Kerri Fennell)

This bark is rough, but is held tightly.  As it starts to shed, it should be removed to avoid the hazard. (Photo:Kerri Fennell)

Oils, Waxes and Resins

Natural chemicals found in plants can increase their flammability.  These plants often have a strong scent when crushed.

These plants should be limited and placed carefully within the garden.

Retention of Dead Material

Dead leaves, twigs and branches that remain on the plant, or accumulate on the ground increase the flammability of an otherwise fire wise plant.  

Regular pruning and maintenance of all trees and shrubs to remove these fuels is necessary.

 

(source: CFAVIC Landscaping for Bushfires, 2011)

Dead leaves accumulating at the base of the plant increases fuel.   

Dead leaves accumulating at the base of the plant increases fuel.

 

List of Plants and Trees suitable for a garden in a fire prone area.

Trees, Groundcovers, Climbers and Succulents

trees2.jpg

Plants

shrubs.jpg
Note that some plants may vary in size and growth, depending on the growing conditions.

(source:http://www.dfes.wa.gov.au/safetyinformation/fire/bushfire/BushfireProtectionPlanningPublications/FESA%20Plant%20Guide-BP%20Zone-Final-w.pdf)(source:http://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/school/principals/infrastructure/bfpronelandsc.pdf)

Garden styles suitable for a bushfire prone area....

Part 4

 

In this weeks blog you will find some simple, practical examples of how you can apply the design principles outlined in last weeks blog, to some typical garden styles....

 

HILLS GARDEN

The hills of Western Australia generally provide excellent conditions to grow gardens.  The conditions allow for a wide range of plants to be grown successfully.

As a result, hills gardens often display great diversity and layers of vegetation.  Many gardens are located adjacent to national parks and native forests that are highly flammable.  The local site and context should be taken into careful consideration with each design.

This property is nestled into the side of a hill with national park beyond. This property required substantial retaining walls, which in turn would help to create barrier to a fire coming through.   

This property is nestled into the side of a hill with national park beyond. This property required substantial retaining walls, which in turn would help to create barrier to a fire coming through.

 



COASTAL GARDEN

Strong seasonal winds, coupled with salt  can make establishing and maintain a coastal garden particularly challenging.  Along with sandy soils with poor water and nutrient retention, the addition of organic matter and mulches is critical to garden success.  Creating microclimates is the key to a successful coastal garden, by providing shelter and screening to maximise these problems.

This house, very close to the beach is subject to constant high winds.  Any fire coming off the dunes needs to be quickly stopped before it consumes the house.   

This house, very close to the beach is subject to constant high winds.  Any fire coming off the dunes needs to be quickly stopped before it consumes the house.

 



SUBURBAN GARDEN

Recently, severe fires have moved beyond the rural fringe and into our suburbs, especially as many of our new  suburbs are creeping into the outskirts of the city.

The planning principles from last weeks blog, should be followed as closely as possible, given the limited suburban space you may have.

Luckily for this house, they have quite a substantial sized block, compared to a lot of the new suburbs being currently built.  However, the same principles apply.   

Luckily for this house, they have quite a substantial sized block, compared to a lot of the new suburbs being currently built.  However, the same principles apply.

 

 

RURAL GARDEN

Many rural gardens are on large farming properties and the house and garden location should be considered carefully, along with the placement of other structures, elements and services.

Paddocks surrounding a house can quickly dry out over summer causing fire to spread rapidly. The defendable space around the house is the most critical component, along with good planting and design strategies.

 

Also note that the house position is relatively close to the roadway and the driveways give fire trucks and other services plenty of room to access the property.  This property also has a 5m wide fire break around its entire perimeter.  The neighbours each have the same, therefore creating a good sized 10m fire break around their properties.

Also note that the house position is relatively close to the roadway and the driveways give fire trucks and other services plenty of room to access the property.  This property also has a 5m wide fire break around its entire perimeter.  The neighbours each have the same, therefore creating a good sized 10m fire break around their properties.

 

In next weeks blog we will look at what plants you can put in your garden that will reduce the chance of ignition, or lower the intensity  of the blaze.

 

Planning your house and garden to prevent bushfire....

Part 2


Reducing bushfire risk is most effective when considered early in the planning process, and there are a number of factors to consider.

Source: Lifestyle.com.au - Grand Designs Australia - Bushfire House

Source: Lifestyle.com.au - Grand Designs Australia - Bushfire House

 

New Houses

The first thing you should be aware of,  is your local building and planning requirements.  These vary from council to council and could influence where the house can be built, the level of construction required, and even how they want the vegetation managed on your property.

One of the most effective ways to reduce bushfire risk is to locate the house in the most appropriate location.  Ideally the house should be located away from unmanaged vegetation, steep slopes, saddles or narrow ridge tops.  Ideally as close to public roads and accessways, as you can.

You should also look at the risks from surrounding properties and if the existing vegetation within or close to your property could pose a significant risk.

The design of the house plays a part too.  Anywhere embers can lodge or enter a house can pose a risk.  Things like decks, windows, doors and roof areas or complex designs that create little nooks and allow leaf and plant debris to accumulate can all contribute to the overall risk.

Hollingworth House at Point Henry, Bremer Bay, Western Australia.   Photo: Andrew Halsall    Read more:  http://www.watoday.com.au/wa-news/was-bushfireproof-housing-project-thats-designed-to-be-burnt-20131028-2wc3l.html#ixzz2qujU5HUM

Hollingworth House at Point Henry, Bremer Bay, Western Australia. Photo: Andrew Halsall

Read more: http://www.watoday.com.au/wa-news/was-bushfireproof-housing-project-thats-designed-to-be-burnt-20131028-2wc3l.html#ixzz2qujU5HUM

Defendable Space

This is an area of land around the buildings where the vegetation is modified and managed to reduce the effects of flame contact and radiant heat.

This is comprised of an inner and an outer zone with different vegetation management requirements, careful garden design considerations and requires regular maintenance as part of your Bushfire Survival Plan.

Essentially this is a clearance zone around your home, and the size will depend on the planning scheme of each council. This does not mean clearing all plants and trees.  

Some plants are lower in flammability and are suitable to be closer to the house.  Locating things like lawn, ponds, pools, tennis courts, concrete, gravel and paving, close to the house is helping to create a defendable space.

We will look into this further in the next blog.

(source: CFAVIC Landscaping for Bushfires, 2011)

Construction

Construction standards are linked to defendable space and the greater the defendable space, the lower the construction requirement under the Australians Standards (AS3959-2009).

Provision of Services

Water is essential for firefighting.

In all areas the water supply must have appropriate pressure, access and fittings and the amount and reliability is critical.  Sometimes the mains water supply is cut off, so it is essential to provide a water tank and link it with a pump or generator.

Any roads within the property must be capable of accommodating fire trucks, and which also require specific construction standards.

Source:  Pinterest - Breuer/Lundberg Cabin. LUNDBERG DESIGN livestock tank pool. 25-feet diameter and 14-feet deep .

Source:  Pinterest - Breuer/Lundberg Cabin. LUNDBERG DESIGN livestock tank pool. 25-feet diameter and 14-feet deep.

 

Existing Houses

Much of the information above also applies to existing homes.  The resilience of an existing home can be improved by retrofitting  some building elements, such as a dedicated water, reassessing the gardens and landscaping within the defendable space and ensuring that fire trucks can access the property.

Landscaping

Gardening is a personal activity and when planning any garden there are many things to think about apart from bushfire.

Some features that home owners generally want incorporated in a garden can reduce the spread of fire by placing them between the house and the bushfire hazards.  These can be paths and hardscaped areas, pools or water features, tennis courts and vegetable gardens.

Source: Lifestyle.com.au - Grand Designs Australia - Bushfire House

Source: Lifestyle.com.au - Grand Designs Australia - Bushfire House

Whatever the style of garden is chosen, it must be appropriate to the local risk.  Consider the bushfire risk early in the planning process by incorporating some of the design principles, which I will talk about in the next instalment of this blog.