Saturday, 7 April 2012

Season is changing at last

We can now begin to relax as the threat of wildfire diminishes with the cooler temperatures and the few showers that we have had over the past few days.  Here in Balingup, South West, Australia we have even had a couple of mild frosts in the more open parts of the property.

Nonetheless, because it is more pleasant working in the garden and around the house, it is a good time to continue to make the property more firewise and defensible in the case of a bushfire.

A garden in Bridgetown, in South West, WA,  is landscaped to minimise
the risk of bushfire.  Note the stretch of green, moist lawn, the wide gravel
path and the selection of plants that are low in flammability.  
These include: roses, agapanthus and several varieties of deciduous trees, 
such as a liquidamber on the left and a Chinese Tallow tree, centre.
An excellent web site has been created in Napa Valley, Southern California, which has a similar mediterranean climate to ours, i.e., long, hot, dry summers with cool, moist winters.

The website is part of the Firewise Communities network which spans many parts of the fire-prone areas of the US.

Here is a link - Napa_Firewise - to a whole section on Defensible Space - that important area immediately around the home which we sometimes call the Building Protection Zone, BPZ, or the Circle of Safety.

It usually measures 20 m or more from the external walls of a house depending on terrain and whether near tall forest areas which can be highly fire-prone or to more open country which may present less of a risk. This defensible space is aimed to provide an area for easy access to the dwelling for fire fighters and to have little or no material in this space that is likely to catch fire or dry out and become inflammable.

The choice of plants near a dwelling can have an impact on to how vulnerable a property is to a bushfire.  For example, green, moisture laden grass in the form of a lawn is unlikely to support a fire, whereas a hedge of 2 metre-high evergreen shrubs containing dead leaves and twigs may help fuel a fire, especially if the leaves contain volatile oils.  A hedge of rosemary or of melaleucas near a house is to be avoided.

For more information about this the Australian Victorian Country Fire Authority has created an online Plant Selection Key which I have found extremely useful and illuminating.

It will help you redesign your garden to be more firewire.