Archive for Fire

Ten Tips for Saving Water in your Yard

It’s easy to spend a ton of money on watering grass and other plants here in Southern California.  Places like Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, and Northridge can experience extreme heat that can turn your grass yellow and dormant.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, except that it looks bad.  If you dislike spending extreme amounts on water, or you just don’t like how your lawn looks in the summertime, consider these ten water saving tips:

1.  Try planting native grasses.  While these won’t look the same as your current lawn-type grass, they use up less water and can look really beautiful.

2. Install pavers with dymondia margaretae or some such grass growing between them.  This will give you the grassy look without the maintenance.

3. Considering changing your yard out to include California natives. Some great native ground covers are: Pacific Mist, Carmel Sur, Monterey Carpet, Ceanothus Gloriosus, California Lilac, Ceanothus Hearstiorum, Squaw Carpet, Silver Carpet, Tufted Hairgrass, Cape Sebastian, Wood Straberry, Mountain Strawberry, Penstemon Heterodoxus, Salvia,  Yerba Buena, and Gaultheria Shallon.

4. Instead of using flower borders, plant bright succulents.  These are beautiful and water resistant plants that don’t need much water.  Some lovely succulents are: Spiral aloe, Afterglow, a variety of Agaves, or Ice Plant, Stonecrop

5. If you don’t want to change your yard up at all, consider mulching your plants.  Mulch can help the soil retain water and provide nutrients to your plants.

6. Install sprinklers or a drip irrigation system.  It’s easy to accidentally water your sidewalk or miss spots when you are watering by hand.  Additionally, having a programmed system will help you water earlier in the morning – before the heat of the day.

7.  Make sure your plants have healthy soil.  Years and years of the same plant living in the same soil can cause the plant to die faster, as the nutrients are leached from the soil.  Get your soil tested to find out exactly want needs to be done to make it the optimal place for your plants to live.

8. Looking for a good garden accent that won’t take up too much water?  Consider planting a citrus tree or a deep rooted tree.  Such trees actually prefer to be watered only once a week or so once they are well-established.  Do consider, however, that you should generally wait until the weather gets cooler to make such an improvement to your yard – and it will take about a year for the tree to properly establish its root system.  This is a longer-term fix.

9. If you want a lawn that looks great year round and doesn’t need watering – consider installing a faux lawn.  Your grass will be green all the time.  The only downsides are that it’s a rather expensive fix and your grass will not get cool.

10. Consider watering less often, but more deeply. Running a sprinkler in the wee hours only a couple of days a week for a longer time period will tend to drive water deeply into the soil where it won’t evaporate easily.

There are a ton of fixes for your water bill.  Some may include changing your yard’s look – and this may be for the better.  If you want to go this route, consider talking to a professional landscaper for assistance.

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Last Minute Mother’s Day Ideas

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day!  While I hope you thought of your mother early enough to get her a present, her are some last minute ideas that may be great for an entire gift, or just icing on the cake!Mother's Day Concept

Plant Flowers

Every year you buy your mother cut flowers or some other short-lived gift.  Why not buy your mother plants that will continue to remind her of your love for her?  Buy some flowers or flowering plants and either plant them around her yard, or put them in pretty pots and give them to her.

Favorite picks: Love-in-a-puff, Lilac, Lavender, Roses, Morning Glory, Sunflowers, Artichokes, Aster, Catmint, Forget-me-not, Coneflower, Salvia leucantha, Hyacinth, Bee Balm, and Zinnia.

If your mother is very particular, take her to the nursery with you on Mother’s Day and buy her the plant she’s been yearning for.

Help Her in the Yard

As we get older, yard work gets harder and harder.  Take the time to help your mother out in the garden this Mother’s Day. If she is an avid gardener, but her knees or back pain her, discuss installing raised beds and help her do it.

If you can’t help her on Mother’s Day, or have other plans with her, give her an IOU that she can cash in at any time for yard work.  This gives you and her future reasons to spend time together.

Get Her Yard Landscaped

If your mom doesn’t want to have to deal with her yard anymore, pitch in on getting her a professional landscaper.  This may mean she wants to hardscape over the back, or get sprinklers and sod installed for the grandkids.  Either way, it will make her time at home more enjoyable and create a place that you can visit and enjoy alongside her.

Fireproof Her Yard

With the recent fires alarming people all around Southern California, helping your mom create a fire-proof environment gives her the gift of a nicer yard and you the gift of peace of mind.  Some fire proofing actions are:

  • Pull dead leaves, weeds, and branches
  • Get her sprinkler schedule consistent
  • Turn her compost
  • Clean up the back area – especially around a firepit or barbecue
  • Clean out any ponds or water features

Pick a Bouquet from Your Own Yard

Explore your own yard for flowers that can be arranged into a gorgeous bouquet.  You might get a better group of flowers than you would have found in the store!

Here’s to mothers everywhere!

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Fire Prevention Landscaping

While it doesn’t seem like there’s any need to think of fire season at the moment, there are actually things you can do starting this Spring to help prevent fires around your home:

– Create a succulent and cactus garden.  Succulents and cacti retain water, so they Succulent Plantdon’t need to be watered much in general, and they aren’t likely to go up in flames very easily.

You can change this theme up by planting a succulent ground cover in empty patches of garden that would normally collect weeds, dried leaves, and other eye sores and possible fire starters.

– Plant a variety.  Having several different types of plants means that you have something in season all year round.  This helps with fire prevention as you are unlikely to have dead wood or dormant plants.

– Invest in hardscaping.  If you don’t really have the time to keep a yard of plants up, try hardscaping areas you’d rather utilize for relaxation, parties, family gatherings, etc.

– Keep up any plants you have.  If you have a tree, ensure it gets trimmed at the appropriate time.  Make sure to pull up anything dead, and clean up around your plants to keep them healthy and happy.

– Think about waterscapes.  Waterscaping is not only gorgeous, it is a natural fire-prevention tool.

– Ensure you understand proper fire control procedures.  This has a double meaning: 1. Ensure you have the proper tools and equipment available if you have a firepit or some kind of outdoor fireplace, and 2. Research your local requirements for a fire-free neighborhood.

Here’s to a fire-free year!


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Autumn-time To Dos

Happy first day of fall!  The temperatures certainly doesn’t seem to know it’s autumn yet, but there are still things you can do to prepare for fall weather.

– Remove anything dead from your yard.  This can be a big task if you have a large yard, but removing dead leaves, dead plants, and dead limbs from your yard you are helping your plants and you are helping fire fighters with their task in fire prevention.

– Keep your plants watered and healthy.  Watering your plants consistently, as well as mulching them will help keep your plants happy during this hot time and can keep your soil healthy.

– As soon as it gets cool, make sure to plant any trees or bushes, as well as transplant anything you need to move.

– Get your lawn furniture ready for storage, or get them stored if you are done with them.

– Change out any bulbs for your outdoor lighting for those early nights.  If you don’t have outdoor lighting, get some installed.  It’s helpful for early autumn nights, and for days like Halloween when others will likely use your walkways and steps.

– If you enjoy being outdoors, try getting a permanent covering installed over your patio area.  Another idea is to get any outdoor space you have enclosed in glass so you can beat the heat in summer and stay warm in winter.

– Last, but not least, plan your yard out and see if there are any changes or plants which will make your life enjoyable.



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Fire Season Rolls Around Once Again

October is the classic Santa Ana winds season, which means it’s the time to make sure your yard and landscape is as fire-proof as possible. Here are some ways to do just that:

– Install a sprinkler system. Your local landscaper can install a sprinkler system, including automatic controls that you can set seasonally.

– Keep your greenery green. Some great ways to do this are: pulling out or cutting down dried out plants, scheduling your sprinklers to make your plant’s roots grow deep, replant or overseed any kind of dead lawn. Additionally, right now is a great time to plant some young trees and get their root system established – which will also help keep your home cool and green.

– Remove any underbrush. Dried up underbrush can be considered tinder for flames – so pull that up.

– Think about hardscapes. Since hardscapes are not alive, you can often use hardscaped pathways as good firebreaks, as well, you can install great hardscapes and plant up pots – which are far less likely to light up.

– Trim your trees. Along with any other plants, your trees need dead limbs trimmed off.

– Make sure anything in which you might light a fire is safe. Check your barbecue, ensure your fire pit is safe and ensure the area in which you will have fire has a clear area surrounding it.

Here’s to a safe and fun autumn!

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Time to Get Planting

It’s getting chillier and, as the season changes, the prime time to plant or move plants around begins.   This is because, as the weather gets cooler, your plant itself doesn’t do much growing, but the root systems continue to grow and cements your plant in the ground.  Your plant’s roots will continue to grow until the ground freezes, which – in some parts of SoCal – may not even occur.

So, as you consider what plants you want to put into your yard, consider, what is your yard’s purpose?  Here are some ideas:

1. A place for your kids to play, and/or for you to entertain friends and family.  What accomplishes this?  A row of planters lining a kid-friendly path?  A firepit and barbecue?  An enclosed or open patio area?  A vast lawn for slip n’ slides, picnics, and child’s play?

2. Do you want to be able to eat what you grow? What accomplishes this? Do you want rows and rows of raised beds? Are you going to line your driveway with fruit trees? Would you like clusters of vegetables or fruit plants, or do you want them in the traditional rows? Do you like to put plants in big buckets or pots, or do you want them in the ground? Does your soil need amendment to support the kinds of plants you’d like to grow?

3. Are your goals to have a beautiful place to look at an enjoy? What accomplishes this? Are you trying to attract a certain bird or butterfly? Do you like local plants more, or would you prefer foreign ornamentals, or do you want a mix? How much work do you want to put into this garden?

4.  Do you want a beautiful place for swimming or water activities?  What accomplishes this goal?  Do you want a garden around your swimming area, or just a cement area to put out lawn furniture?  Are you looking at also doing a barbecue in the area?

5. Do you want a combination of all these factors?  How can you accomplish this?  Do you want a veggie garden separate to your pool and entertainment area?    Would you like a gorgeous garden surrounding your firepit?  What works best for you?

6. Do you have a strangely shaped yard?  If so, what do you want to do with it and how can you go about accomplishing your goals?

Now is a great time to look over your goals, consult with your landscaper, and get your goals accomplished!

Here’s to a perfect yard!

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Fire Prevention

It’s about that time of the year again, when the hot Santa Ana winds sweep down, some kid throws a careless cigarette into a pile of dried out weeds and fire interrupts our lives .  I explained to a friend from Oregon once that in Southern California we have three seasons, Flash Flood, Summer and Fire.  Last year demonstrated my point perfectly, with part of the Los Angeles National Forest decimated by wildfire.  The year before, fire swept through Malibu and a year before that, San Diego was hard hit with fire.  Already this year, there was a fire in Griffith Park – an area recovering from a fire set just a couple of years ago.

So, enough said about the ravages fire can cause in our Southern California dry season.  What steps can you take to protect your landscape and home from fire?

1. Make sure all plants are pruned back and dead ones are pulled out.  Don’t let those dead, dried up husks just lay around.  Get out there and yank out any plants which were under watered or are annuals and are just dead due to their regular life cycle.  Same goes for plants with dried, dead leaves or branches.  Prune those back.

2. Keep up regular watering.  I’m sure you have a watering system in place.  If so, keep that up.  If you’ve been letting your lawn do a rolling brown out, try reseeding – either dyi style or by hiring a landscaper.  You can get insta-green lawns by buying sod, but that’s a much bigger project for which you will definitely need professional landscaping help.

3. Turn your compost regularly.  It hasn’t been too hot, but that sun is still glaring down at us and heats the ground and your compost.   The inside of those piles get extremely hot from both the heat and from the bacteria breaking down the vegetation in your mulch pile.  Make sure to turn that pile so the heat doesn’t build up too bad and so the wet, rotting stuff in the middle gets to dry out on the outside – and your dry stuff gets wet and rotting.

4. Keep your outdoor fire pit well maintained. Debris lying around your fire pit could catch fire and go out of control.  Even if it doesn’t go out of control, fire damages things quickly.  Unless you really really want to replace your back patio, you don’t want to have scorch marks all over the place.

5. Make sure your water features are clean and well-maintained.  Water features aren’t a fail safe for fire prevention, but they don’t help much if you need water quickly and they are weed choked.

6. If you have trees which drop leaves, rake those up consistently.  Same principle as cleaning out dead plants or pruning plants – you don’t want anything dry or dead lying around. 

7. Have an evacuation plan.  If the worst happens and your home is at risk, realize that your life and the life of those you love (your spouse, your children, your dog or cat) are more important than the things you own.  Make sure you have an evacuation plan in place – including a friend or relative in a completely different location who you can move in with temporarily.  Evacuation staging points are fine, but it’s nicer to be around those you love when the things you own are threatened.

So, here’s hoping you have a fire-free fall!

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