We are well into fire season now. We haven’t had significant rain since last December (!) and the woods are getting decidedly crunchy. The redwoods and madrones are settling into their late summer coping mode of shedding leaves to limit transpiration water loss until relief comes in October with the first storms of the rainy season.
Despite it being late summer in a drought, the weather has been remarkably mild, with a heavy marine layer cooling us off each night and dispersing midmorning. This makes it an excellent time to spend part of the day pruning the growth around your buildings and roadsides.
We are in a fire ecology. The question isn’t if there will be a fire, it’s when and how damaging that fire be when it does arrive. Your goal is to protect your buildings and provide a safe access into and out of your land.
Since the middle of your road offers the best access to sunlight for understory trees, every last one of them will be sending their branches out into the road where they will obstruct your vision, scratch your car’s paint and slap away at your radio antenna. If you just let it go, your emergency exit won’t be there for you and the local fire departments won’t want to send their rigs up your road to help you.
It’s hard to overestimate the exuberance of redwoods, so be aggressive. Does that clump of trees really need all those sprouts abound its base?
If the crown is forty feet over your head, how much will the tree really suffer if you whack back everything fifteen feet and lower? If you just nibble at the tips, it will all be back there again next year, only bigger, so cut entire branches all the way back to the trunk if you can.
Don’t stop with pruning the big trees. Beat back the brush and vines that are trying to creep their way into the road. Cut down entirely the small trees that are doing poorly or will just grow to be a pain in the neck a few years down the road. It’s any easy way to get some firewood along the way, and chances are you won’t even have to split it.