Your Landscaping is Beautiful, but is it Safe?

By: Delores Gempel Lekowski.



The weekends are filled with the hum of lawn mowers. The smells of fresh cut grass, spring flowers and musty mulch fill the air. Signs of winter are fleeting, and now we are eager to make our yards look as if they belong in Better Homes and Gardens.

When we landscape around our homes and businesses, we focus on "curb appeal" - not the potential for our work to go up in smoke. Yet, everyday, the landscaping in front of businesses and homes literally do just that. Most people don't think about fire safety when landscaping, but there are some potential hazards that you should be aware of before you put on your gardening gloves or start up your lawnmower.

For example, I've seen many restaurants, businesses and private residences that have mulch spread too close to the building. This is particularly dangerous in designated "smoking areas," where a cigarette or match might be carelessly discarded. But cigarettes and matches aren't the only hazard. In rare cases, very dry mulch or plants may self-ignite by the heat of the sun.


Here are some tips to ensure that your landscaping doesn't go up in smoke:

   1. Use much in small areas, such as around trees and individual plants.
   2. Don't put garden lights near much.
   3. Shredded redwood bark is the most flammable and should not be used near a structure.
   4. Use rocks, gravel or stones instead of much next to homes or buildings.
   5. In dry weather, water mulch and vegetation frequently.
   6. Keep trees and bushes trimmed to reduce fuel potential in case of a fire, and trim tall trees 10 feet from the bottom to keep flames from using branches as a ladder.

All plants are flammable, but some are less flammable than others and will smolder for a longer time before flaring up. Ground cover is a good choice for landscaping close to a structure such as a home or building. Here is a short list of flammable foliage:

    Highly flammable plants: Scotch Bloom, Algerian Ivy, Bamboo, Pampas Grass, Eucalyptus, Juniper, Pine, upright Rosemary.
    Less flammable plants and trees: Ice Plant, Ivy Geranium, African Daisy, Periwinkle, traveling Rosemary (not upright Rosemary) Strawberry Tree, Saltbush, Western Red Bud, Tulip Tree and Weeping Willow.

Landowners also should be well acquainted with the potential hazards of lawnmowers, especially when it comes to fire safety.

    1. Fill the fuel tank before starting the engine to cut the lawn. Never refuel the mower when it is running or while the engine is hot.
    2. With an electric mower, organize your work so you first cut the area nearest the electrical outlet, and then gradually move away. This will minimize chances of your running over the power cord and causing a spark.
    3. Always check for frayed or cut wiring.

Use extra care in handling gasoline. It is flammable, and the vapors are explosive.

     1. Use only an approved container.
     2. Never remove the gas cap or add fuel with the engine running. Allow the engine to cool before refueling.
     3. Never refuel indoors.
     4. Never store the lawnmower or gasoline container inside the house where there is an open flame, such as a gas water heater.
     5. Always clean up spilled gasoline.