The world became a witness to how devastating bushfires were when the international news covered the fire season which started in late November 2019 and ended last February 2020.
The truth is, dealing with bushfires is a fact of life here in Australia. While fireproofing your home and garden isn't entirely possible, there are things that you can do to mitigate the risk:
Tidy up your garden
This involves cutting away dead branches, removing all old, dry leaves that have fallen over the colder months, trimming back any overhanging trees and plants; and cleaning gutters for houses surrounded by large trees.
Also, consider installing fire irrigation on your roof or some extra hose points. Being able to wet down your house and put out spot fires created by embers from multiple angles can make a critical difference.
Knowing your plants
Plants aren't entirely fireproof, but some are less flammable than others. So it pays to have even a basic knowledge of what's in your garden – and how flammable.
Tea trees, cypress, pines, eucalypts and various other natives are known to ignite quickly. Well-established eucalyptus trees in your garden (which might also be home to local wildlife) don't necessarily need to be removed. Still, they can be made safer by pruning it back (especially any dead branches) and clearing the area around the trunk. This also helps reduce the fire risk said trees might pose.
Be sure to check with your local council as to how much of a tree you can remove each year. Consider engaging a professional to help you identify all the trees and plants in your garden.
Choose less-flammable greenery
When planting new varieties in your garden, seek out ones with higher moisture content. Fire-retardant plants will usually have large, thick leaves rather than fine, hard ones.
Some less-flammable species to consider are Moreton Bay figs, Scaevola fan flower, Cyathea, grey or silver mulga, wattles, lily pilly, kangaroo paw, palms, Dianella, native frangipani, saltbush, lavender, hydrangea, white cedar, myoporum, Senecio, Syzygium viola and various species of flax and pigface.
However, some of these plants may then still burn when they dry out.
Adding a vegetable patch, one that a pathway or pebbles border it, is another smart way to reduce the flammability of your garden.
Plant for fire resistance
Try to create a buffer zone by planting fire-resistant trees and plants in a shield layout before starting your garden. This is especially important if your home borders bushland.
Choose plants with smooth bark rather than plants with rough bark, and low-level shrubs rather than tall trees or hedges. Make sure to check with your local nursery that they are suitable for your area before buying new plants though.
Consider fire breaks
Fire breaks are created by including paved sections such as pebbled, tiled or concrete pathways or barbecue areas. This can be done in several ways:
- Avoid overhanging trees or having trees clumped together, as they can create a canopy to carry fire.
- Plant trees at least 10 metres from your house.
- Use stones, gravel or pebbles when mulching instead of combustible wood chips.
- Considering vast stretches of lawn between bushland and your house, with a pool or a tennis court for instance or something else to keep a distance from bushes.
Add water provisions
Your lawn can act as a physical fire barrier, so try to keep it green. Boost your water provisions by installing water tanks now or putting in a drip-watering system. These are a cost-effective and straightforward way to water your garden.
You may also consider constructing a bore for watering. This will require correct approval/licensing which can be a bit of a costly process, but it is very worthwhile.
Adding water provisions can also support local wildlife, especially in places affected by bushfires. Leave out buckets of water or incorporate features with fresh water like birdbaths, for instance, that can complement your garden design.
By knowing which animals are in your region, you can have an established look at which plants and garden feature that wildlife can seek refuge in and use as a food source. You can also buy seed to feed birds and other animals in extreme situations.
When encouraging wildlife into your garden, be more vigilant with cats and other domestic pets that may hunt displaced fauna seeking refuge in your outdoor spaces.
If you are in need of a professional who can be by your side from planning to construction of your new home, Superdraft is here for you.