The hot and dry months of summer will force many homeowners to turn their attention to the season’s number one worry: fire. Whether it's a wildfire, an adjacent building alight, or just an accidental blaze in your backyard, there are a few things every homeowner can do to make their home less susceptible to catching fire. With that in mind, one easy way to protect a home against the destruction of summer fires is weed abatement.
Step 1 - Check Abatement Ordinances
Before you put on your gloves and start attacking those weeds, the first step you should take is to check your city’s municipal code. Each city has different weed abatement laws, and it's a good idea to learn what is and is not allowed within the city limits. This should also give you a starting point on what types of materials are a concern for your area of the country.
Step 2 - Identify Nuisances
What types of materials should be removed to help defend against fires? Weeds, dry grasses, dead trees, and shrubs — pretty much anything that is woody and dry — are all considered nuisance materials because they are more likely to combust than healthy plants. More often than not this comes in the form of weeds, but the same holds true for trees, shrubs, and any other vegetation that is combustible and close to the ground. After you determine which weeds are problems in your yard, the next step is to remove them.
Step 3 - Remove Weeds
Fortunately, there are many methods that can be used to remove unwanted weeds from around a property. Weeds can be pulled, cut, flailed, chopped, disked, etc. If the problem weeds are small in number and are contained within a limited area, then pulling them up or just cutting them down is a good way to prevent them from catching on fire later in the summer. You can use a mower to cut them down or a power-assisted weed trimmer to keep them from growing too high. Just make sure you periodically check on them to prevent additional growth.
Step 4 - Dig
However, if the weeds are abundant and spread throughout the property, then pulling them up might not be very practicable. In order to get rid of a larger amount of combustible materials, one option is to dig them up by turning over the soil. You can do this by hand with a shovel, but the preferred method is to use a gas-powered tiller or disc machine to make the job a little easier. The downside to this approach is it is hard work to accomplish the task, and it must be done every year to ensure the weeds do not return. Luckily, there is another option for removing large amounts of weeds.
Step 5 - Use Herbicide
If time is a factor and you don’t want to spend an enormous amount of effort removing large amounts of weeds and dry vegetation, then consider using herbicides to do the work for you. If the weeds are already up and growing, then make sure you select a post-emergent herbicide. Post-emergent herbicides work best on healthy plants and get the job done by stopping vital chemical processes the plant needs in order to grow. It's important to keep in mind that some herbicides kill on contact while others will kill all vegetation in a given area, so make sure you choose carefully when using herbicides.
Step 6 - Establish a Defensible Perimeter
Once the weeds have been removed, it's a good idea to go a step further and establish proper firebreaks throughout the property. Firebreaks are areas around the home where there are zero combustible materials. These areas can help diverge a fire away from a home because they lack any fuel for the fire to burn. Furthermore, they can also provide a place where firefighters can effectively fight a fire and establish a line of defense. The size of the firebreak depends on a number of variables, so be sure to check your city’s ordinances for advice on how large you should make your firebreak.
Step 7 - Continue to Check
After removing combustible materials such as dry weeds and grasses from around your home, it's important to make sure you check periodically throughout the summer to ensure the problem plants are not returning. If they do spring back up at any time, then simply use whatever method was used before to remove them. However, if you want to make sure they are gone for good, then consider using a pre-emergent herbicide. These herbicides prevent seed germination and stop the weeds before they start growing.