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San Diego

How to Deal With Smoke and Ash in Your Yard and Garden

Posted by San Diego Landscaper on Thursday, 15 June , 2023

Residents of southern California are certainly no strangers to wildfires and the damage that they can do, but have you thought about how your outdoor spaces respond to smoke, ash, and other pollutants caused by these fires, even when they do not do direct damage to your property?  Is there anything you can do to minimize the impact of wildfires on your landscape?

Smoke and Ash–The Impact

Smoke from wildfires, along with airborne ash, can pose a threat to humans and animals.  Recently, wildfires from Canada polluted the air in New York City so badly that many were forced to stay indoors for a time.  However, plants have no choice but to stay outside and deal with whatever is in the air.  This is certainly true for our outdoor landscapes in California, as well. 

Fortunately, plants have an incredible ability to rebound after a short-term disaster such as a few days of heavily polluted air.  Provided the smoke, ash and soot are blown away fairly quickly, most plants will regenerate if simply left alone.  However, if the smog lingers longer than a few days, or if the damage to the plants is greater, the healing process may not happen so quickly.  This is particularly true for tender or vulnerable plants such as non-native species that have been transplanted into a yard.  How can you keep these types of plants safe during a wildfire?

Tips for Wildfire-proofing Your Yard

Here are a few tips for keeping your yard healthy, even if your plants are exposed to wildfires:

  • Choose hardy, native species. One of the best things you can do is to choose the right plants for your yard to start with.  Native plants have been dealing with the effects of wildfires for many years and have adapted to this climate.  Therefore, choosing plants that routinely bounce back after wildfires is a good way to ensure that your yard will recover quickly.
  • Remember that soot blocks sunlight. Plants need sunlight to reach their pores, so if ash or soot covers your plants, they are literally suffocating.  As soon as possible, remove the soot and ash residue from your plants by rinsing them gently with a mild vinegar and water solution.  Scrubbing is not usually necessary, and additives such as soap could worsen the problem by creating a film that dries on the leaves.
  • Avoid fertilizers and chemicals. You do not want to add any fertilizers or chemicals to your plants until you see how they are responding after the wildfire residue has lifted.  Volatile organic compounds can be present in smoke that can affect plants, and adding more chemicals to that can harm your plants.  Give them a few weeks of “breathing room” to see if there are any after-effects before treating them with anything else.
  • Check soil pH levels. As ash settles, it can alter soil pH levels.  A few weeks after wildfires diminish, check your soil’s pH to see if it has been altered by ash deposits and adjust accordingly.

If you are looking for help managing your San Diego landscape, give Juniper Landscape Company a call.  We have been designing and maintaining beautiful San Diego home and business outdoor spaces for decades.  Call today to learn more about how we can help you design, build and maintain a healthy and relaxing outdoor area!

Juniper Landscape Company is a provider of professional landscaping services in San Diego, we strive to make San Diego a beautiful place by doing business with integrity and creativity.


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