Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Preventing Future Wildfires When Planting Trees in the Desert

Planting trees in the desert was always a tantalizing possibility that was usually right beyond reach, that is until the invention of the Groasis Waterboxx.  The Waterboxx is an intelligent plant incubator, a self refilling water battery for trees that allows trees to be established in areas without water or irrigation.  The Waterboxx, explained below, is available for purchase from Dew Harvest.


When planning to plant a large number of trees in the desert, however, one must plan to decrease the risk of future wildfire consuming your hard work and spreading to neighboring properties.

Fire is usually started by lightning in remote areas, and we can do little to control the frequency of such ignition sources.  However, we can, with careful planning, prevent spread of fires by careful placement and grooming of trees.

Planting Fire Resistant Trees
Some trees and shrubs, specifically deciduous (broadleaf) trees, have a relatively high moisture content and are therefore less likely to combust.  The resins produced by many conifers are  flammable.  Unfortunately, the conifers are generally more drought resistant than even the best broadleaf trees.  Therefore, if conifers need to be planted, the other principles must be followed.

Spacing
If planting trees on a flat surface, it is recommended that there be at least 10 feet between the outermost canopy of each tree to prevent flames from jumping from one tree to the next.  For trees planted on slight slopes (20-40%) 20 feet apart is recommended, and for steep slopes (greater than 40%), 30 feet between trees is recommended.  You may start with trees planted much closer than this, and then eventually cut down trees spaced too closely.

Pruning
Ensuring that there are no branches on mature trees for at least the bottom 6 feet of the tree is essential.  Fires are started and spread on the ground.  If these fires cannot spread up the tree, the fire is more likely to be extinguished.  Many of our recommended trees elsewhere on this blog do not regularly grow low branches.

If you have a large property, you may be well served by having animals graze periodically on your land.  It is very important these be steers or non-pregnant females as pine needles can cause abortions of new calfs. This will trim any grasses (which can be extremely flammable if fully grown and dried) and they will sometimes eat low lying branches.  There is also evidence that "holistic" grazing reduces desertification of your land as well.  You will want to wait until the Waterboxxes have been removed and are being used elsewhere before having cattle walk around your property to prevent damage to the Waterboxxes.

Ensuring Adequate Water
If trees are well supplied with water, they are much less likely to combust even with a significant spark.  For most trees, irrigation is out of the question due to cost and remoteness of planting site.  However, when trees are planted correctly with the Groasis Waterboxx, their roots are able to tap into the deeper capillary moisture in the soil.  Except in the most extreme of circumstances, this water is sufficient to keep trees alive and healthy.

Planting with the Waterboxx
When planting trees in extremely dry areas, we recommend pouring 10 gallons of water into the soil, and then planting the tree with the Waterboxx.  The Waterboxx is then filled with 4 gallons of water.  The Waterboxx should stay refilled with water from dew and occasional rainfall, and all of this water will eventually be funneled to the roots of the growing tree.  The Waterboxx can be removed when the tree is about to outgrow it, and reused.

Buy the Groasis Waterboxx here.  We would love to hear your comments below - to leave one, please click on "Comments".

You can see all our blog posts about planting trees with the Waterboxx here.

For further information, please visit:

http://www.kkl.org.il/eng/forestry-and-ecology/fire-prevention/forest-maintenance.aspx

http://anrcatalog.ucdavis.edu/pdf/8228.pdf

http://www.readyforwildfire.org/defensible_space/

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