by David Salman

Bringing Your Yard Back to Life

fire restoration wildflower mix
Our Fire Restoration Wildflower Mix can help restore your damaged land.

A fire can bring devastation to your home and landscape. If this blog is relevant to your situation, let me offer my sympathies for your losses. Having been a forest firefighter in New Mexico during my college days, I have witnessed the destructive power of wildfires first hand. But hopefully, I can suggest some ideas and techniques that will help to bring your outdoor spaces back to life and help to get your world back on track.

In many ecosystems, fire is an essential element to the health and renewal of the region's flora and fauna. In North America, Western forests, chaparral (shrublands in California) and the prairies are all dependent on fire to renew the ecosystems. But fire suppression efforts, drought and the movement of residential developments into fire-prone areas have made fires especially catastrophic. And it's these high intensity fires that cause the most damage to plants and soil.

Hot Fires Destroy Life Below in the Soil and Prevent Water Absorption

Very hot fires are very damaging to the soil's microbial life upon which plants depend. And soil health must be restored for long term success in re-establishing a landscape. At the same time, the extreme heat also "glazes" the surface of the soil, literally melting the surface which causes the soil to repel water. The soil becomes hydrophobic.

yum yum mix

For replanting to be successful, the soil must be brought back to life through the use of compost, organic fertilizers (like Yum Yum Mix) and the re-introduction of beneficial mycorrhizal fungi. The process of putting organic materials back into the soil also is essential for breaking up the water shedding surface of the soil, so water from irrigation and rainfall will be absorbed.

Adding organic matter back into the soil and restoring the soil's underground ecology and vitality is essential to the rebuilding process.

There are several ways to do it:

  • Sheet mulching - This method restores the organic materials in the soil and limits weed growth. This is accomplished by layering corrugated cardboard, newspaper and shredding organic materials mixed with compost to create a 4-8 inch thick layer over the soil's surface. You let it sit and decompose for about 4 to 6 months, depending on how much rain falls to help moisten the layers and speed decomposition. Once the materials have broken down in the soil, gently dig or rototill the soil to make sure all the materials are well mixed. This prepares the soil to be ready for planting or seeding.
  • Rototilling - a quicker approach is to spread a 3-4 inch thick layer of compost mixed with organic fertilizers and mix it in to a depth of 6 inches using a rototiller. Irrigate the tilled soil periodically to provide the necessary moisture for the materials to break down and begin the process of bringing the soil back to life.

Reseeding

Planting damaged landscapes can be economically done by sowing seeds of annual and perennial flowers and grasses. But until the soil has been repaired by sheet mulching or rototilling, heat damaged soils (especially those that have been glazed and repel water), reseeding efforts won't be very successful. Creation of a "seed bed" by bringing life back to the soil and restoring the soil's ability to absorb water is key to successful reseeding.

  1. Yellow Coreopsis lanceolata Seeds, Coreopsis lanceolata, Lance Leaf Coreopsis Seeds

    A true staple to meadows across the country, Lance Leaf Coreopsis is a tough perennial that is native to North America. Perennial....

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    Lance Leaf Coreopsis Seeds Lance Leaf Coreopsis Seeds Coreopsis lanceolata
    As low as $11.95
    Per 1/4 Pound
    A true staple to meadows across the country, Lance Leaf Coreopsis is a tough perennial that is native to North America. Perennial.
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  2. Red Linum grandiflorum rubrum Seeds, Linum grandiflorum rubrum, Scarlet Flax Seeds

    Create a dramatic look in your mid-season meadow Scarlet Flax’s deep, red blooms edged in black. This variety prefers loose soil. Annual....

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    Scarlet Flax Seeds (Linum) Scarlet Flax Seeds Linum grandiflorum rubrum
    As low as $9.95
    Per 1/4 Pound
    Create a dramatic look in your mid-season meadow Scarlet Flax’s deep, red blooms edged in black. This variety prefers loose soil. Annual.
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  3. Blue Cynoglossum amabile Seeds, Cynoglossum amabile, Chinese Forget Me Not Seeds

    The annual variety of the famous Forget me Not, Chinese Forget Me Nots are extremely easy to grow and often the first blooms to ignite the spring meadow. Annual....

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    Chinese Forget Me Not Seeds Chinese Forget Me Not Seeds Cynoglossum amabile
    As low as $5.95
    Per 1/4 Pound
    The annual variety of the famous Forget me Not, Chinese Forget Me Nots are extremely easy to grow and often the first blooms to ignite the spring meadow. Annual.
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  4. Zinnia elegans Seeds, Customer Photo Nancy Rakich

    Ignite your meadow all season long with easy-to-grow Zinnias. The rainbow of blooms last midsummer until frost and add a burst of color both in the garden and cut for bouquets. Annua...

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    Zinnia Seeds Zinnia Seeds Zinnia elegans
    As low as $9.95
    Per 1/4 Pound
    Ignite your meadow all season long with easy-to-grow Zinnias. The rainbow of blooms last midsummer until frost and add a burst of color both in the garden and cut for bouquets. Annual.
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  5. High Country Meadow Mix Native Wildflower Seed

    This mix is the perfect blend of wildflowers to create a High Country meadow.This hardy, drought resistant mix contains over 20 native species that will thrive with little maintenanc...

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    High Country Meadow Native Wildflower Seed Mix High Country Native Meadow Wildflower Seed Mix
    As low as $19.95 Sale $15.96
    Per 1/4 Pound
    This mix is the perfect blend of wildflowers to create a High Country meadow.This hardy, drought resistant mix contains over 20 native species that will thrive with little maintenance and are great for attracting pollinators. Flowers will begin quickly with annual favorites such as Gaillardia puchella (Annual Indian Blanket), Gilia tricolor (Bird’s Eye). You'll get years of blooms with a large selection of native wildflowers, including: Liatris spicata (Gayfeather), Coreopsis lanceolata (Lance-Leaved Coreopsis), Penstemon strictus (Rocky Mountain Penstemon), Salvia farinacea (Blue Sage), Ratibida pinnata (Grey-Headed Coneflower), Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern Columbine), Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Milkweed) and Rudbeckia hirta (Black-Eyed Susan), to name a few.
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  6. Dry Area Wildflower Seed Mix

    A customer favorite for over 25 years, this special blend of wildflowers will do very well in dry, well-drained soils. Popular in coastal areas or sandy soil conditions, this mix con...

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    Dry Area Wildflower Seed Mix Dry Area Wildflower Seed Mix
    As low as $9.95 Sale $7.96
    Per 1/4 Pound
    A customer favorite for over 25 years, this special blend of wildflowers will do very well in dry, well-drained soils. Popular in coastal areas or sandy soil conditions, this mix contains 25 hardy wildflower varieties. Flowers from the annual wildflowers will begin in around just 6 weeks and last all season long with 14 annual species for first-year blooms and 11 perennial varieties for lasting flowers for years to come.
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  7. Beneficial Bug Wildflower Seed Mix

    This wildflower seed mix attracts beneficial bugs to your garden, which will help destroy harmful pests such as mites, thrips and aphids. Beneficial bugs include lady bugs, hover fli...

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    Beneficial Bug Wildflower Seed Mix Beneficial Bug Wildflower Seed Mix
    As low as $11.95
    Per 1/4 Pound

    This wildflower seed mix attracts beneficial bugs to your garden, which will help destroy harmful pests such as mites, thrips and aphids. Beneficial bugs include lady bugs, hover flies, parasitic wasps and lacewings.

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  8. Red and Yellow Coreopsis tinctoria Seeds, Coreopsis tinctoria, Plains Coreopsis Seeds

    Gorgeous, bi-colored blooms are native to the US and easy to grow, tolerating drought and dry conditions. Brings color in the first season, but often reseeds itself. Annual....

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    Plains Coreopsis Seeds Plains Coreopsis Seeds Coreopsis tinctoria
    As low as $8.95
    Per 1/4 Pound
    Gorgeous, bi-colored blooms are native to the US and easy to grow, tolerating drought and dry conditions. Brings color in the first season, but often reseeds itself. Annual.
    Learn More

Inoculating Plant Roots with Beneficial Mycorrhiza

After compost and organic fertilizers have been added to the soil and replanting begins, it is essential to inoculate the plant roots with beneficial mycorrhiza fungi. These fungi are symbiotic with plants and helps the roots increase their ability to absorb water and nutrients from the soil. In return the roots supply the fungi with nutrients. It's a "win-win" situation that is at the core of any natural ecosystem.

  • When planting potted or bare-root plants, mycorrhizal fungi can be added as granules into the planting hole or dissolved in water and applied when watering in the transplants.
  • When seeding, always mix the seeds with slightly damp playground sand and the mycorrhizal granuals. That way, as the seeds germinate, the fungi will attach themselves to the new roots and greatly enhance the germination percentage and invigorate the health and growth rate of the seedlings. Check our seed mixes for regionally suitable ones that will help bring your property back to life or our specially formulated fire restoration mix.

Prevent and Protect Against Erosion

Properties with hillsides and slopes must be protected from erosion before the rains arrive. It's very useful to contact erosion control specialists to familiarize yourself with the processes and materials used to get it done.

Erosion preventing materials can be used in conjunction with soil repairs. For example, soils can be enriched with compost and organic fertilizers by rototilling these materials into the soil and covering the area with erosion control matting. Chose erosion control methods that facilitate the reseeding areas of the property where native grasses and wildflowers would be desirable.

Let Older Trees and Shrubs Have a Chance to Re-Sprout

Before automatically removing burnt trees and shrubs, remember that many fire adapted species of woody plants and palms can be scorched and their foliage burnt off, but not be dead. So it can be worth watering, mulching and waiting for important trees, palms and shrubs to find out if they might come back to life. This may take 3 or 4 months, but sometimes patience will pay off.

Firescaping

Before you begin to re-plant your landscape, it's important to acquaint yourself with the principles of firescaping. This will make your new landscape more resistant to fire and help to protect your home in the process. (See my "Firescaping" blog here.)

Text and Photos by Founder and Chief Horticulturist David Salman.

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