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Landscape and Garden Tips: How to Recover from Wildfires

Chantel Wakefield
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Wildfire with tree

Wildfires, also known as forest fires or wildland fires, are typically classified three different ways: crown, surface and burning. Crown fires are the most severe and dangerous, as these cover larger areas and burn trees from top to bottom. Surface fires are limited to the top layers of soil and are easier to extinguish. Ground fires feed on dry vegetation below the soil’s surface.

These fires can occur organically in nature or be ignited by human beings. Depending on the duration of the fire and severity of the burn, your garden and landscape may suffer significant damage. Here’s how to prepare your yard for a wildfire and recover from one.

Follow Safety Protocols

Landscape brush burning

Make sure to follow all safety protocols outlined by your local government. Contact FEMA or your nearest disaster recovery center if your home has experienced significant damage.

Long-Term Wildfire Prep

Outdoor landscaping for fireproof landscape

If you live in an area that is prone to wildfires, start by reviewing local building codes and weed abatement laws to make sure your yard and deck are in adherence. This is especially important for those near wooded areas. Some municipal authorities have restrictions on the types of plants that can be sown residentially, so confirm these details when planning your garden setup.

Choose fire-resistant bushes and hedges for your landscape, and mow the lawn regularly. Water these often to encourage moisture and growth.

Use fire-resistant materials for decks, greenhouses and garden beds, and treat any wooden fixtures in your yard with a fire retardant treatment during periods of drought.

If you keep fresh firewood in the yard, place it further away from your home’s exterior.

Last-Minute Wildfire Prep

Use hedge clippers to trim shrubs

If a wildfire is already threatening your area, there are a few last-minute things you can do to help shield your lawn and garden.

  • Trim your shrubs and hedges and carefully cut down tree limbs lingering near power lines. You may need to call a professional to perform this task. Dead branches should also be cut down since they’re highly combustible.
  • Rake fescue trimmings, dead leaves and small twigs away from your yard. These can feed the fire and cause more damage.
  • Consult an arborist about shaving down the space between tree crowns in your yard. This can lessen the chance of fire spreading.
  • Moisten shrubs, budding veggies and other plants in your garden with a garden hose. Harvest herbs and ripe edibles immediately.

Note: Severe wildfire threats will likely result in evacuation orders. In these instances, your safety is the top priority and there may be fewer options for protecting your landscape.

Immediately After a Wildfire

Landscape grass after wildfire

Once the wildfires are controlled and eliminated, it’s time to assess the damage. Depending on the severity of the fire, it may be a while before you can see the full scope of damage. Wildfires can alter the condition of your grounds, leaving them susceptible to flooding if heavy rainfall follows. Be prepared to restructure your layout as needed.

When evaluating your yard, watch out for low-hanging and fallen branches or downed power lines. Report these to the appropriate authorities, and wait until they have been cleared to start your recovery efforts.

It’s also important to beware of ash pits. These are hollow ditches full of ash from trees and stumps that were burned by the fire. They can be extremely dangerous so proceed carefully.

Recovery

Vegetation after a wildfire

After the ground has settled, it’s time to check the stability of trees in your yard. Inspect the trunks and roots for deep burns and call a tree removal service if any need to be cut down.

Trim scorched branches on otherwise healthy trees and give them time to start growing again. Many trees and shrubs are extremely resilient and prone to recover when the environment stabilizes.

Flowering plants and edibles will likely need to be re-seeded. Clear the dead earth and lay fresh soil to encourage new growth. Resume your regular mulching and fertilizing schedule.

Tip: Landscape damage is typically not covered by standard homeowners insurance policies, but you may be able to request additional coverage. Speak to your insurance agent for more information.

Wildfire Recovery Landscape and Garden Checklist

The Home Depot Can Help

A Home Depot associate holding a plant

For help mending other parts of your home and property, like decks and fencing, reach out to The Home Depot Home Services team. Our professionals offer expert installation and repair services, so you can worry less about those major restoration details and focus getting your life back on track.

Got questions about this article or any other garden topic? Go here now to post your gardening ideas, questions, kudos or complaints. We have gardening experts standing by to help you!