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Landscape For Defensible Space – Master Gardeners Show You How

COULTERVILLE – The hillsides are beautiful now, but it won’t be long before all that green turns to brown and fire season is here.

Mariposa County Master Gardeners will present a free, public workshop on fire-safe landscaping on Saturday, Apr. 13, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Coulterville School and Community Clubhouse at the corner of Cemetery and Broadway.Master Gardeners Jim Johnson and Jack Welsh will talk about CalFire’s regulations for 100 feet of defensible space and how you can landscape for an attractive yard while meeting those regulations.

The 100 feet of defensible space includes a 30-foot space immediately around your home that’s as fireproof as you can make it. The next 70 feet is called the fuel reduction zone. Grooming your property to help prevent fires is not only a good idea, it’s the law.

But that doesn’t mean you have to cover the area around your house with concrete. The Master Gardeners will tell you about plants that are naturally fire-resistant, as well as how to choose and arrange plants so your landscaping is a pleasant oasis.

California foothill natives are a good idea because they have adapted to good health without a lot of pampering – and watering. But any plant that has high moisture content, low fuel volume and a low-growing habit is a good bet. But don’t bet on plants with lots of resinous sap, volatile oils, waxes or pitch or those that produce a lot of debris.

Presenters will talk about the fire ladder, where low grasses catch fire, then jump to higher shrubs, which in turn jump to trees. The strategy is to choose plants that defeat that ladder. Creating a fire-safe space between plants helps; so does having pavers, walls or other decorative elements between plants that can burn.

Of course, common sense tells you that fire can’t spread without fuel. What that may mean in landscaping is removing dead trees, pinecones, bark, pruning debris – anything you might use to start a fire – from your 100 feet. That includes dry grasses. So clean up after your plants. It makes your home look more tidy and helps you meet CalFire regulations.

An exception may be a downed, hollow tree that can be a welcome home to bats, bees and birds. Just be sure to have a fire break around it.

Register on the group’s website, cemariposa.ucdavis.edu/Master_Gardener, or call (209) 966-2417. There will be ample time for questions, and handouts will be available.

Elizabeth Gabriel is publicity chair for Mariposa Master Gardeners. 209.966.6476

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