How to Have Grasses on Your Colorado Property While Still Being Fire-Wise

Recently, there was a small grass fire north of Evergreen.

Thankfully, this fire was quickly contained but still prompted evacuation and pre-evacuation orders.

Grasses can be a ladder fuel for wildfires, yet we still encourage planting and maintaining some native grasses.

This article will review how you can have grasses on your property while still being fire-wise.

Tall ornamental grass grows near a building

Don’t plant grasses near buildings or other structures.

Create and Maintain your Defensible Space

What you want to avoid doing when it comes to using grasses in your Colorado landscape is to have a large area of dried, tall grass near your home or other building. Tall grasses, especially when dry, will quickly carry fire to your house. Grasses catch on fire quickly and burn rapidly.

Therefore, planting grasses or other fuel near a building should not be done.

Instead, create a defensible space around the buildings, which considers the zones. The closer to the building, the more defensible the area needs to be. There should be a non-flammable barrier within the first five feet of the structure. This could be rock, bare dirt, concrete, or flagstone. This is known as the home ignition zone or HIZ. Rather than tall grasses, keep any grass (or other fine plants) in zone 1 mowed close to the ground.

Water Grasses When Needed

When grasses are growing and green, they are not much of a concern regarding fire danger. Keep your grasses well-watered during the summer months, especially during periods of drought.

Consider Other Risks

When grasses dry out, you can mow or cut them down to prevent them from becoming a ladder fuel.

If there are shrubs or tree branches near tall grasses, have the trees and shrubs professionally pruned. Pruning lower branches prevents fire from jumping from grasses to the shrubs or trees.

It’s a good idea to plant grasses separately from trees, shrubs, or anything else that can catch fire.

When you plant grasses, trees, and other plants, try to space them apart. The space between plants will give the plants room to grow and prevent fire from leaping from one plant to the next.

5 photos of grasses considered noxious weeds in Colorado.

From left to right: cheatgrass, quackgrass, bulbous bluegrass, Johnsongrass, and wild-proso millet. All are grasses that are considered noxious weeds in Colorado and should be removed from your property.

Remove Noxious Weeds

If you have any grasses that are considered noxious weeds on your property, they should be removed immediately.

Below is a list of some of Colorado’s grasses considered noxious weeds. Noxious weeds and non-native invasive plants that easily spread, can sometimes cause harm to livestock or other plants, and, according to the Colorado Department of Agriculture, “pose an increased threat to communities from wildfire.”

To view all the current noxious weeds in Colorado, click here.

Three images show native Colorado grasses Junegrass, Indian rice grass, and little bluestem.

Junegrass, Indian rice grass, and little bluestem are three types of grass native to Colorado.

Plant Native Grasses

Once you understand the different zones around your buildings and have removed grasses that are noxious weeds, consider which grasses would work on your property. We always recommend planting native when possible.

According to the Colorado State University Extension, these native grasses work well in high altitudes in Colorado:

Master Gardener from the Colorado State University Extension also has a document on some native grasses to use in Colorado Landscapes. Before determining whether the grass would work on your property, note the planting elevation.

Flames billow from dried grass during a grass fire in Colorado.

Consult With Experts

Every property has different growing conditions, microclimates, and fire risks. Before making any large change to your landscape, we suggest consulting with professionals who understand how to grow native plants, trees, and grasses on your property while remaining fire-wise.

LAM Tree Service has been helping Colorado property owners make their land a defensible space for years while allowing native trees and plants to thrive.

Contact our office for more information. You can also check out this additional information on our website:

Wildfire Resources

Fire Mitigation

Firewise Landscaping

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