Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
March, 2008
Regional Report

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Glass mulch makes a dazzling carpet in your garden, and it won't burn.

Fire-Resistant Planting

At the edge of town, just past the last subdivision, our communities meet the native habitat. That is the wildland-urban interface, and it deserves your attention. How we structure our relationship with the wildlands adjacent to our urban centers obviously determines the quantity and quality of wildlife and habitat surrounding us.

This interface offers a sense of place, a continuing connection to nature, local biota, and terrain prior to development. Perhaps most important, we have the choice of what to build and plant to insure its survivability and our own. Firewise Communities, as part of the National Wildland/Urban Interface Fire Program, work to reduce the likelihood that vulnerable homes will be burned in wildfires.

The Big Idea
From management of wild areas to home landscapes and commercial sites, agencies, homeowners, businesses, and emergency workers get involved to develop local plans and events. You can get information for your community about participating in Firewise from the Forestry Commission in your state. Taking the backyard perspective, every gardener can get the lists of best plants for the 30-foot safety zone recommended around every structure. The program and its resources are that wide ranging because wildfire prevention should be everyone's concern.

Plants and Mulches
Firewise urges gardeners to forego pine straw and other readily combustible mulches in the 30 feet directly surrounding homes that might face a wildfire. Possible alternatives include permanent mulches such as glass, pebbles, river rock, and ground mulches made of recycled tires. This last choice should be used carefully in our region, since its black color will absorb heat in direct sun.

Plants in this zone should be chosen wisely from fire-resistant lists, irrigated in drought, and spaced to reduce the chance they will be sparked by embers. For example, popular wax myrtle and juniper are among the most flammable landscape plants and should be kept a safe distance from your home. Each state's Firewise program has plant lists available, and the University of Florida has a very good publication at:

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