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Fall a good time to work on defensible space

Posted 11/13/2008

Although the threat of wildfires has diminished with the arrival of autumn rain and snow, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension natural resources specialist Ed Smith says now is an excellent time for homeowners to create defensible space on their property.

"For some homeowners, there’s a sense that they’ve survived another fire season unscathed and can enjoy a pleasant respite from the wildfire threat until next May," Smith said. "In reality, the fall is an important time for managing the wildfire fuels on your property."

Smith suggests putting these defensible space tasks on your "to do" list:

Remove dead flowers. As perennial and annual flowers whither and turn brown, remove their top growth, particularly if the plant is within 30 feet of your house.

Cut dried grass. Mow or pull out dead grass from around your home and remove it. If you use a mulching blade on your mower, you can skip this step. Mow in the morning and keep a hose and shovel nearby in case you spark a fire. Remember to cut down cured ornamental grasses.

Remove fallen needles and leaves. Needles and leaves accumulate on the roof and in gutters, too, so clean them as well as your yard.

Control cheatgrass. The fall is a good time to use pre-emergent herbicides. Cheatgrass seeds germinate in late fall and early winter, so applying an herbicide now will reduce next year’s crop.

Replace fire-prone shrubs. This is a good time to replace ornamental junipers, arborvitae and big sagebrush growing near your home with less hazardous plants. Use low-growing deciduous shrubs, perennial flowers and ground covers, and deciduous trees. For specific plant suggestions, contact your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office for a copy of "Good Plant Choices for Nevada’s High Fire Hazard Areas" or go to Good Plant Choices

Plant fuel breaks. If you had sagebrush and other native shrubs removed for a fuel break, consider planting conservation grasses in the area this fall. These plants suppress cheatgrass and other weeds, control soil erosion, and beautify bare-ground fuel breaks. Crested wheatgrass is a good choice.

For more information on wildfire threat reduction, go to

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