Fire Prevention in the Mid-Willamette Valley

As we near the end of fire season, fire prevention is definitely first and foremost in our minds and conversations. California had a tough season as well, which is a potential foreshadowing of what we can expect in coming years. And if we can learn anything from California’s recent fires, it’s that a fire can take a typical city neighborhood and reduce it to ashes it in just hours; as seen most recently in the Redding fire this year.

There are many different factors that impact fire season in our region, but one is the local people. The Willamette Valley is becoming more populated than ever, which can negatively impact fire risk – especially when some are ignorant of fire risks. We must keep basic fire prevention in mind, because the decision one neighbor makes can affect thousands of other community members.

Climate change is another important factor in fire seasons. Climate change is a very real issue to some and to others a hoax, and while we won’t weigh in we know one thing to be a fact: Oregon is in the middle of a severe drought. We aren’t in the business of debating political or environmental issues, but we need to stay aware of what we do every day that makes a good or bad impact on the environment around us – and do our best to limit the negative impacts.

aumsville oregonWhat can we do to prevent neighborhood wildfires? It starts in our own yard. Defensible Space (sometimes called “firescaping”) is a term relating to keeping your yard lean and green – and increases your home’s chance of surviving a wildfire. Defensible space is the buffer you create between a building on your property and the grass, trees, shrubs, or any wildland area that surround it. This defensible space reduces the risk that fire will spread from one area to another, or to a structure, and provides firefighters a safer access area from which to defend a threatened area. Firefighters sometimes do not attempt to protect structures without adequate defensible space, as it is less safe and less likely to succeed.

ReadyforWildfire.org does a fantastic job teaching how to “zone” your property and the basic rules of safety when it comes to fire prevention. This includes where to trim, prune, plant, remove plants, and even store firewood. They also provide diagrams of how to plant on slopes (vertical spacing vs. horizontal spacing) and share some fire-resistant plants.

firescaping

Luckily there are several steps we can take on our own property to greatly reduce the risk of fires in our neighborhoods. At Hart Property Maintenance, we believe that as a community we should always have a great respect for our environment, and that can start right in our own backyard.

Do you have other tips for fire prevention? Let us know in the comments!

lawn care

Lawn Care 101: Aeration vs. Dethatching

How do you know when it’s time to aerate or dethatch your lawn? Both are common procedures in lawn care, but the purpose of each is very different. We’ve got all the details below, so read on to become an expert in your own lawn’s health.

Why is Aeration Important for Lawn Care?
lawn aerationYour lawn’s surface can become hard and compacted over time, which compresses the roots and suffocates them. Aeration is important to give the root system air and nutrients to promote a healthy, deep-rooted lawn. This is done by removing small plugs of grass and soil to de-compact the soil, allowing it to receive air, water and nutrients.

Aeration is essentially punching holes in the ground to let the soil breathe. Once aeration is completed, the plugs of turf are left on the lawn to decompose, returning beneficial nutrients to the soil so your grass roots can grow and spread.

Why is Dethatching Important for Lawn Care?
Lawn DethatchingA lawn is made up of three layers: grass above ground, roots below the soil, and a middle layer of thatch composed of leaves, grass, clippings, etc. Thatch is healthy in moderation, but a thick layer can prevent air, water and nutrients from reaching the lawn’s roots; suffocating the roots and killing the grass.

Dethatching combs out the thatch layer, so it can be removed from the lawn. A dethatching machine with blades will tear away the thatch layer and bring organic matter to the surface, where it can be raked off the lawn.

How to Know if You Need to Aerate or Dethatch
Aeration is generally recommended once per year for most lawns, usually in the Spring or early Fall. If you have heavy levels of clay in your soil, twice per year may be recommended. Dethatching is done on an as-needed basis and can be avoided altogether if lawns are properly aerated and fed; which allows the thatch to break down naturally.

But the easiest way to know if your lawn needs help is to go outside and feel the ground.

If the ground feels hard, grab a screwdriver. If the screwdriver is difficult to push into the ground, it’s time to aerate your lawn.

If the ground feels spongey and bouncy to the touch, take a close look at your grass. You should see a layer of growth between the grass roots and shoots. If you can’t easily break through this layer with your finger, it’s time to dethatch your lawn because nutrients and air won’t be able to break through the thatch either. The thatch layer should never be thicker than three quarters of an inch.

At Hart Property Maintenance, we’re always happy to help you with lawn care services like these. If you need a little more help, please feel free to give us a call. But if you have aerated or dethatched on your own before, share your tips with others in the comments below!

bark dust application

How to Apply Bark Dust

Spring has sprung! Want to give your yard an instant facelift? Or are you looking for a way to suppress weeds in your already picture-perfect yard? Bark dust is the answer. Proper application of bark dust will not only give your property a crisp, clean, manicured look, but it will also drastically reduce the amount of time spent weeding, watering and fighting pests.
Here’s a simple checklist to help you prepare your yard and apply bark dust properly:

Tools you need:

  • Gloves
  • Leaf rake for fine tuning
  • Hard rake for spreading
  • Wide faced flat shovel
  • Wheelbarrow

Key to Success: Prep the Site

prepare landscapingSite prep is key to proper bark dust application. The first step is to fix irrigation problems, if you have any. Then trim trees, bushes and shrubs, remove any leftover debris from the area (trimmings, leaves, or roots), pull all weeds, and apply pre-emergent, like Double O SPC, to help prevent future weeds. Prepping the area is the most crucial step to ensure your bark dust looks great and lasts as long as possible.

Create an edge for the bark. Use your shovel to carefully dig around the area to create a smooth continuous line. You can also create an edge by lining up stones to divide the dust from your lawn. Lawn edges should be fresh and clean before applying bark.

Buying Bark Dust
Don’t buy cheap bark—you don’t want the finished product to look like dirt! Purchase and use good-quality product from a company you trust. For those living in Oregon’s Santiam Canyon, we recommend Siegmund Landscape Supply for any landscaping supply needs; they are the only company we use. Siegmund delivers locally.

When it comes to what type of bark dust to use, it’s up to your personal preference. Hemlock is browner, more expensive (due to supply), and most known for being sliver-free; you’ll notice a difference when working with it. Fir is more red and used commonly because of its color; however the red is only temporary and after several months will look like hemlock. Fir also has a signature bark dust smell for the first few weeks after application.

Purchase enough mulch to cover the area with 1 to 2 inches for reapplication, or 3 to 4 inches for new application (no existing bark). To determine how much bark dust you need to purchase for your space, you can use an online calculator like the one found here.

Tips and Tricks for Application
Hart Property MaintenanceWhen the bark dust is delivered, or when you bring it home, have it dumped on a solid surface or tarp. This will make clean-up much easier when the project is finished.

Move the bark dust to the desired area with wheelbarrow loads. Then use your hard rake to spread these smaller piles of bark over the area in an even layer. As you need more, pour more in the area with your shovel. When the area has the desired amount of bark dust, use the leaf rake for any final fine tuning.

And voila! Your yard has an instant facelift and is better protected from the elements. Do you have any other tips or tricks you swear by when applying bark dust? We’d love to hear what works for you—let us know in the comments below.